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Man Vs. Wild Season 4: North Africa Recap

Posted on 02/17/2010 by Gina in Man Vs Wild

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by Vin Convertito


Bear Grylls takes on unforgiving desert heat in this week's episode of Man Vs. Wild. North Africa plays host as Bear travels to the western edge of the Sahara desert. Dubbed by many as "the mother of all deserts," this "vast-less" territory is 3.5 million square miles; the equivalent of the United States' mainland. Because this desert claims hundreds of lives every year, Bear will show us how to survive under the Sahara sun long enough to make our way back to civilization.

After jumping from the side of a traveling jeep, Bear rolls many times down the side of a sand dune and pronounces himself separated from the pack. With the clemency of the morning sun, Bear informs us that this is the best time to try and cover as much ground as possible. Our destination should be that of high ground. "Dehydration sets in immediately," says Bear of the desert life. Water is the key to survival. "Everything in the desert wants to suck you dry, but without exertion, there can be no progress. That is the ultimate challenge."

Bear recommends that we use small rocks to make markers that point in the direction of our travel for anyone that might be looking for us. Right now, Bear believes that heading towards the Atlantic is his best bet. With temperatures averaging 120degrees, the human body is pumping out two liters of sweat per hour! Having covered a fair amount of ground, Bear reminds us that the search for water is constant. "It doesn't matter how good, smart or clever you are; without water you're dead."


As good fortune would have it, Bear stumbles upon an abandoned well. After dropping rock down it and it taking two seconds to hit bottom, Bear deduces that it is 50 feet deep. Using a technique that involves as much strength as courage, a descent is made using two thick branches from a nearby tree. The branches were stripped down to resemble poles and together they were used to fit into the tiny crevices that make up the walls of the well and were used as ladder rungs ever so carefully and cleverly. This feat has to be one of Bear's finest and most technical. Guts and grace made for a safe flight down and a perilous return up the well. Sadly, however, once at the bottom, Bear found only enough wetness to soak his wadded shirt. Still he was able to get a few drips of murky water from it and afterwards, wearing the shirt certainly kept him cooler.


But beating the heat is more than finding water. Bear says in such a situation, you need to "recycle pee to help you survive." Yes, that's right. Recycle your pee. And Bear does just that. He shows us how to urinate onto a wadded shirt so that it absorbs as much of the urine as possible. Next one needs to ring or squeeze the pee from the shirt into the mouth. Bear tells us that the pee is not to be swallowed, but rather to wet the mouth. The shirt is then used to wipe and cool the face and finally it is used as a shirt to keep the body cool. Proof came in the form of creative camera work that switched to a thermal view that showed the legitimate cooling effects of the urine on the body. You may not like the thought, but you certainly cannot dismiss the evidence!


Once Bear has made it to the water's edge, he spies a shipwreck that should very well be a "magnet for sea life" as the stranded boat can't help but make "an artificial reef" of itself. As it turns out, this old and rusty fishing crawler has some treasure on board. Bear finds that the hold of the vessel has become a giant aquarium for sea life. And living fish tell Bear that this water is not polluted. He quickly dismisses the first crab he finds because it could have parasites only to score big a little later with an octopus. Bear digs-in immediately by severing the nerves with a fierce bite to its neck. As he chews on the tentacles, the suction power can still be seen as it clings to Bear's face and hand alike. "Raw octopus is very healthy" but to save some for later gives it time enough to grow bacteria that will render you very sick.


Having snacked, Bear leaves the dangerous waters and heads back on land where he stuffs his pockets with grass for his journey up the hillside towards high ground. The grass has enough moisture that it is worth eating. Atop the hill, Bear begins to set up camp. He will sleep in the trees tonight for several reasons, namely snakes, hyenas, leopards and scorpions. Using to parallel limbs, Bear lays several other branches across to make his bed and uses tall, dry grasses as his mattress. Using a homemade bow together with a spindle, Bear gets a fire going from a lone ember.


The fire serves many purposes. It cooks, it illuminates, and it even keeps the predators away. But most importantly it "boosts moral," says Bear. "It's like an old friend." Using his empty water bottle, Bear captures the "insects that come for the fire... like a moth to a lamp." Sure he is capturing bugs in a jar, but what he does in the morning will throw even the most creative viewer for a loop...
The "breakfast bug burger." That's right. Morning comes and Bear is hungry. He opens his container and takes a casual inventory of last night's captured: a beetle, a moth, a praying mantis, spiny-legged locus and several other insects. The best way, says Bear, to do this is to crumple them up, and to pack them into a little patty. "The cold, sandy taste" is one Bear never seems to welcome, but know it leads to survival. Still, he concludes, this is "truly a terrible way to start the day!"


On the move and full of bug patty protein, Bear tells us that our best chance of finding water will come when we shift from sandy ground to solid bedrock. And it proves true when he finds a small pool of water that had collected. "It's like striking gold. A pool of this size means survival for a desert traveler." But just because the water is fresh, does not mean it's clean to drink. Bear makes an organic filter to facilitate the process; "the sediment and sand is a fine filter... the second time around it is OK to drink."


After finding a deserted settlement, Bear hopes to at least discover some tire tracks; a sign of civilization. Upon further inspection, Bear has just enough time to find a deadly scorpion, disarm it by chopping off its stinger and eat it alive before the sweet sounds of a passing vehicle are heard. Bear is off and running in hot pursuit. A heroic leap forward secures his hold on the tailgate and Bear has been rescued. "The Sahara has claimed many lives and to go up against it is a formidable challenge. But with the right skills and attitude, it can be endured."


No pun intended, but Bear, you're an animal!



Man Vs. Wild airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Discovery.


(Image courtesy of Discovery)



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