Preface: Bear Grylls is the host of Discovery Channel's MAN VS. WILD. He strands himself in remote locations to demonstrate localized survival techniques.
In this installment, Bear Grylls drops into a muddy swamp in the Everglades.
The area is home to about a million alligators. But how many are just visiting? Grab a stick right away. It'll give you more reach to attempt keeping gators at bay.
It's hard to get your bearings in the swamp since everything looks the same. It's like going to a casting call for the role of a dumb blonde, and walking in to find a room full of blonde alligators. You'll need a better view to find dry land, so take your shoelaces, tie them between your feet, and use it to climb a 40 foot tree. Once at the top, look for pine trees, they'll be on dry ground. After descending and getting back in the water Bear trips on an alligator...
No, it's a log. There's plenty of things to trip over in the swamp.
Bear spots bubbles in the water. It might just be swamp gas, or it could be an alligator. I think it was alligator gas. He backs up and goes around. Make a lot of noise to let animals know you're coming, you don't want to surprise an alligator. Seriously, have you ever seen a children's book featuring alligators having a surprise birthday party. Imagine the carnage, on what should've been such a happy day.
During his travels Bear hits a channel of water and we get our first glimpse of cold-blooded alligators. A blurry glimpse. You'll need to cross, so look for a huge toppled tree. Cypress trees take years to rot so it should support your weight. Slither up the tree, and take a camera out to record yourself talking about how dangerous it would be to fall off since you're so high and a huge alligator is just below. Remember, this isn't the time to be screwing around.
If it gets late, find higher ground. Alligators like to eat at night. Look for a pop out tree with lots of limbs, it's a good spot for a branch bed. I was hoping for a spiderweb hammock. Place two beams, and lay thicker branches in between them to make a nice bed.
"This is one bed I don't want to roll out of."
What about soft bedding? Don't use Spanish moss! It's full of nasty little chiggers. They'll bite and you'll be scratching for days. Fronds of the cabbage palm, should do.
Bear recommends building a fire on top of your bed. Don't worry, the bed shouldn't catch fire as long as you lay mud down first. But what a story that would be, "I set my bed on fire in the Everglades! Then got bit by an alligator. Oh, no...I don't miss my arm at all." To get the fire going, you can use the gunk in the trunk of a cabbage palm. Be wary of ants, scorpions, and coral snakes. The fire should ward off predators and help dry out your clothes.
This would be a good time to reflect on trench foot. Trench foot occurs when your skin's cold and moist for over 12 hours. Eventually your skin will flake off and you won't be able to walk. Now I know why the flaky pastry known as a Toaster Strudel tastes like feet.
"Out here if you can't walk...you die."
Fish seem to get by fine.
Warning. The description of brief nudity below.
The next morning, Bear Grylls drops his pants to show mosquito bites on the side of his butt and all up and down his legs. He only had his trousers off for about ten minutes the night before to dry them. I hope he wasn't dangling his dingle over the water. There's alligators in there. Remember?
You'll probably be feeling thirsty by now. If only you had some Gatorade. Filter the debris out of the swamp water using the shirt you just spent the whole night drying. Even though the water looks clear, you should still boil it.
Keep heading west! The everglades run 50 miles North to South. To find west, tie the empty water bottle to a stick in the ground and wait to see which way the bottle floats. The slow current should pull it south and from there you can figure out west. Unless you're an idiot, but then you wouldn't have made it this far anyway.
Feeling hungry? Dead wood has lots of tiny animals packed with protein. Sour gritty ant larvae. Mmmm.
The water should be getting shallow, which will reveal sharp spikes of tree stumps. Don't fall on these. They could impale you. Bear spots pine trees ahead. But there's an off-roadblock. Thick sawgrass! Bear demonstrates the properties of sawgrass. Slide your arm up the sawgrass and you're fine. Slide your arm down and it cuts you. I hear Amish cutters use sawgrass. Bear cuts himself twice on purpose so you can see it bleed a little. Remember kids, a real saw will cut you both ways.
Roll your sleeves down and use a stick to lay the grass down in front of you as you pass through. It can feel 10 degrees hotter in sawgrass and it's very easy to get lost. It's a perfect spot to get disoriented and die of heat stroke. If you're looking for that sort of thing.
After the sawgrass, Bear hits a river. This is usually good, because you just follow the river south and find civilization, but in this case, you want to keep heading West. Bear spots an alligator lounging in the grass. Keep a distance of at least fifteen feet. Back up slowly and head around. If it hisses, back up further. If it starts talking to you; just give up, you're screwed. Alligators can run up to 30 mph for short distances. It could probably catch you in a car. If it has poor acceleration.
Bear tromps around in an old alligator's nest and in the next scene captures a baby alligator. The alligator utters techno music from its mouth. It's good to see little alligators, because big male gators usually eat them. Like you needed another reason to keep alligators away from playgrounds.
"This little fellow's protected. Shame, 'cause he'd be tasty."
Bear spots a shallow area of the river. It's a good place to cross. There's wide visibility and he'll be able to survey the area for a while to look for any sign of alligators. Big gators can stay underwater for up to 45 minutes. I can stay underwater with alligators for 45 milliseconds. Crossing a river in alligator country is always a last resort, and never do it during mating season, because the males are more aggressive. Unfortunately Bear doesn't tell us when mating season is, or how to get across the river if it is mating season.
"In 2006 Three women were killed in one week. One was swimming, the other two were dragged in from the water's edge."
It's mid-day so the alligator's aren't feeding, he's at a narrow part of the river, and kept an eye out for movement for over an hour. It's time to take a stab at crossing. Be quick. Alligators are inquisitive. They might also mistake you for a bird or turtle if you swim on the surface. Bear recommends swimming underwater as far as you can. We dive with him in almost zero visibility water. He emerges on the other side! Bear how do you feel after that extremely dangerous stunt?
"My heart's just thumping. I'll tell you I'm so pleased that's over. For some reason, I just had a really bad feeling about that."
Maybe because you just crossed a river full of alligators in the Everglades after telling us about how dangerous it is. And also because you probably swam it twice so you could get better footage.
Being wet zaps your energy and morale. Depressed people shouldn't take long baths. Thankfully, after two days, Bear finds dry ground.
Dry ground has new dangers, like snakes and black bears. It also has tree frogs. One of which Bear snags...in the grass. He should've been in a tree. Bear tells us about the frog, and you can tell he's just dying to bite its head off. It's safe to eat frogs in the Everglades because they're not poisonous. Bear chomps down on the frog.
"The first bite must kill it, otherwise it'll wriggle all the way down."
Bear follows some animal tracks and finds grapefruit. I figured animal tracks would lead to animal poop. Grapefruits are uncharacteristic of the area, so he deduces the location must have been an old Seminole camp. Bear makes an A Frame shelter, lights a fire, and goes to bed.
Morning arrives and its time to hunt for frogs or fish. Bear gives chase to something. Is he after a frog? No. It's a football-sized turtle. Poor guy was probably trying to run away. After cooking the entire turtle on the fire until the shell got brittle, Bear declares,
"Um, this is one of those times, when you can say, it really does taste quite like chicken."
I feel bad for the turtle.
Dry land can feel safer than the swamp, but it's bad to get complacent. Bear finds an eastern diamondback rattlesnake. It's the biggest, most venomous snake in all of North America. Back away, keep your eye on it, and take the wide way around. I'm surprised you don't see more rock bands with rattlesnakes. After the snake lesson, Bear finds a tree trunk with the almost too perfect paw print of a black bear, and then spots a flash of color under some leaves. He's very excited it could be a snake. Maybe a highly venomous coral snake? Hooray! Bear picks it up and investigates. It's either a coral snake, or the harmless scarlet king. How to tell?
"There's an expression, an old saying in the Everglades that says, red on yellow, kill a fellow, red on black, friend of Jack."
There's an old expression where I come from too, "Don't pick up snakes." This one happens to be a scarlet king, and since he looked happy where Bear found him, he lets him go. I guess the frog and turtle looked sad.
Bear comes upon some swamp mud. It can swallow entire small off-road vehicles. The trouble is the more you struggle the more it sucks you in. Normally you'd back away and go around, because that's what Bear recommends for everything. Like if you happened upon some bubbles, an alligator, a clearing with alligators, or a river of alligators.
Of course this is Bear Grylls, so he jumps in the swamp mud to show you how to get out. If you have a stick, you can place it out in front of you and use the greater surface area to try to wriggle your way forward on top of it and out of the mud. I wonder what he'd do with a whip and a fedora.
"Recently a guy was jogging out in the Everglades..."
"...and he ran into one of these sinkholes. He went right up to his chest...on the fourth day he was found alive, completely delirious and covered with bug bites."
I suppose some people can't run unless something's chasing them. Like alligators, rattlesnakes and black bears. I wonder if he has a caged gator behind his treadmill at home. Once you're on the surface, you can monkey crawl your way to the edge.
A short time after his swamp mud bath, Bear finds a drainage canal and a road.
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