21 DAYS SURVIVING THE AMAZON
I really wish words could describe my Naked and Afraid experience. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Mentally and physically the hardest thing I ever did? Absolutely. The most rewarding feeling of my life? Yes. The day after extraction when I got on the boat to leave that Amazon once and for all, my heart was filled with so much joy and it was honestly the happiest moment of my entire life. Our experience had so many setbacks so many challenges, but the triumphs and successes made everything worth it. I learned how to take the smallest things in life and appreciate them. The emotional journey I went on with my partner and the obstacles we faced together meant everything to me. This is something I will never forget. It was raw, it was primitive, and it was just me and another person trying to face one of the harshest environments in the world. And we did it together.
Arriving in Ecuador
Preparing for Extraction
As we got closer to the end of the challenge, we knew we would need a raft to navigate through the rivers that led to the extraction point. Buoyant trees were near nonexistent in the location and we were only able to locate two trees that had wood that was buoyant enough to make it down the river.
My body felt so weak at this point but my mind felt strong. We would have to leave a day early because the journey would be arduous. We would have to navigate over 7 miles of river and mangrove swamps.
The equatorial sun was brutal out there. We constructed a roof over our raft to shield us but we had to remove it when we were going through the thick parts of the mangrove swamps as it was getting stuck in the trees.
Towards the end of our extraction journey I had become so tired from paddling with our paddles (constructed from palm branches) that I lowered my body in the water to use my feet as a propeller. Caiman crocodiles and piranha were lurking beneath us, but there was nothing I wanted more at that point than to get to our campsite.
The big twist: meeting the other Survivalists
Our episode had a twist. As we were extracting on day 20 we ran into another group of survivalists. These were previous participants on the show who had been asked backed to do the 40 day challenge. None of us had any idea that this would happen. They shared the same river way that we we’re traveling on. Our reactions were completely authentic. After Chance and I met up with them and got settled in at their camp we were asked by production if we wanted to stay an additional 20 days and complete the 40 day XL challenge with the rest of the group. Chance stayed, but I had to return. My father-in-law was given one month left to live before I left for the challenge (terminal prostate cancer). I had to go home and be with my family. I had been gone for nearly a month and I went to bed each night wondering if he was going to be alive the next day.
What the experience meant for me
Surviving in the Amazon for three weeks taught me things that were so valuable. I learned about the many uses of the wide variety of plant species. I was able to locate tree resin to start our first fire, identify the best vines for cordage making, and forage spiny palm nuts and berries to sustain myself while I was out there. I caught 7 piranha with my fishing line, speared 2 dogfish, and made a funnel fish trap out of vine to catch bait fish. I used termite baiting techniques (and ate many termites as well since they are high in protein). I also hunted a 4 foot boa constrictor for a good meal towards our last few days. My partner and I constructed a primitive raft out of a buoyant tree closely related to bamboo to travel out in the lake. I made clothing, blankets, and rain shields for our fire to protect it from downpours. This was such an amazing experience and I hope to return someday soon.