I’d like to take my connection with nature to the next level and learn a few bush survival skills. My hunter-gatherer aspirations must be contagious because Little Eco also wants to “learn how to survive in the wild”. So I was pleased to discover Wildcraft Australia – a Hunter based wilderness survival school.
Little Eco and I met with Wildcraft Australia guides Sam New and Nikki Brown to find out more about their courses.
We were in bush crafting heaven. Within minutes, Little Eco was making body paint and having her face painted.
I admired hats, twine and tea sets - all made from natural materials. I was impressed with Sam’s bush tea set. He boils water in a bush billy made from a palm leaf, uses leaves from a native shrub as tea, and serves in cups made from coconut shells.
Nikki tells me their courses are "for anyone who has an interest in bush craft and wilderness survival skills. We help participants develop bush confidence, a stronger connection to nature and help break down any fears".
Each course varies, depending on its target audience. Their Wild 101 introductory bush skills weekend jumps in the deep end of wilderness survival and includes barefoot blindfolded bushwalking. Apparently walking barefoot and blindfolded will teach me to slow down and awaken all my senses.
Their family-friendly wildcraft kids camps treads more gently into wilderness survival with face painting, exploring, tree climbing and nature craft.
“All of our courses include learning how to find bush tucker and shelter building. Participants also get to have a go at making a fire without matches” says Nikki.
We got a tiny taste of what their courses include – literally. Nikki showed us how to eat March Flies - a survival skill that we’ll hopefully never need to depend on. I didn’t have the courage to try, but Little Eco tells me they “taste a little sweet”.
Sam and Nikki also demonstrated how to light a fire without matches – using the hand drill technique. Sam first made a tinder bundle from paperbark and the silky insides of a seed pod.
Then they worked together, spinning a spindle on a baseboard, swapping every few moments to maintain friction. There was smoke within minutes and then a spark.
They transferred the spark to the tinder bundle and blew on it until it ignited. They made it look easy.
We only spent around an hour with Nikki and Sam and learnt so much. I can’t imagine how much we would learn in a three day course. Little Eco was already applying her newfound knowledge on the drive home. She insisted I stop so that she could pick native hibiscus flowers to add to that night’s salad.
Wildcraft Australia are hosting a bush skills course for adults in Barrington Tops THIS WEEKEND (5th - 7th December). There will be fire starting, foraging, barefoot blindfolded bushwalking, shelter building, and the lucky winners of a “shelter lotto” get to sleep in a bark and stick tepee. Now that’s a lotto I would like to win.
Bookings for this weekend’s introductory bush skills course close Wednesday. Contact Nikki on 0412 216 485.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 1st December 2014.