Lessons Learned From Getting Lost in a Forest

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Last year, I went trekking up a mountain with my brother and a friend of ours, and we decided to come back down a different route just for the fun of it.

The route we took was unmarked i.e. we’d have to do a bit of “figure out your own way though this forest” type of thing.

If you have some time – I filmed a portion of our route from my GoPro. I used the footage in this YouTube video so go watch it:

You will frequently see me checking my watch. I was using the compass app to track our route.

What it’s like to be lost in a jungle

We took a few random turns trying to guess our route to the base village – and lo and behold – we got LOST.

We kept walking and getting tired but couldn’t figure out the way. The path we were walking on reached a dead end and then there was just dense forest. Fuck.

We had 1-2 hours to get out of the jungle before the sun set. If we didn’t, we’d have to sleep there and wait until the next day (you cannot traverse a jungle at night – it is extremely risky).

We had neither tents, flashlights, nor anything else to actually be able to spend the night there safely – so it was important to get out of the jungle as soon as possible.

We knew a river runs from the mountain in the monsoons, so if we could find the riverbed, we’d be able to get somewhere.

We went horizontally and found the riverbed. The sun was half down by this time.

We got in the river and kept walking.

We were lucky that the river was dry. If the river was flowing, we’d have to track the river while going through the trees.

After a bit of walking, we found that the river led to a 10 feet waterfall. We had to go back into the forest, climb down, and then go back to walk the riverbed.

After 30 more minutes of walking, my brother spots an electric tower in the distance.

Used the zoom feature on my S22 Ultra phone. The sun was setting so we had to walk fast to get there.

BINGO. We just need to make it to the electric towers, and then we can follow them back to civilization.

The sun was setting so we had to walk fast to get there.

This guy was a sight for sore eyes.

Eventually we get there, and find a lonely villager carrying some wood back to somewhere. The sun was about to disappear behind the trees so we were in very good luck. In 30 minutes, it’d get very dark.

We ask him for directions and after 1 more hour of walking we get to a village. It was dark by this time.

In the village, we finally get some network on our phone.

Oops. We’re on the other side of the mountain – 20 km away from where our car is.

I arranged some help from the locals (I speak the language).

One of them took me on his motorbike back to our car. It took 1 hour.

My brother and our friend stayed back and locked themselves inside a temple to save themselves of the barking dogs. Village dogs always bark at and sometimes attack outsiders.

Before I got in the car, I paid the guy who drove me 20 km on his bike $20 (he wouldn’t accept more).

He was delighted – that’s a week’s worth of income for him. I make more than a hundred times that a day thanks to WiFi money. Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am.

Side-note: If you want to start building a WiFi money business, the easiest way to do it is with The Art of Twitter. It works so well that I offer a 6 month money back guarantee on it – see the reviews for yourself.

He graciously offered me dinner in his house (“My wife will make you chicken”). I refused because it was getting too late and I had things I needed to do back home.

By the time I made it back to get my brother, it was pitch black at 9:30 PM.

I saw a snake on the way back, reminding me of how dangerous it would have been to stay the night in the jungle.

We drove back to the city and that was the end of it.

What I Learned From Getting Lost in a Jungle

Lesson 1: Never Enter an unknown jungle without a local to show you the way.

If you get lost, twist an ankle, or get bitten by a snake – you might die and no one will find you. Every year people who trek alone go missing.

If you are trekking a non-marked route – ALWAYS hire the locals to guide you. Marked hikes are safe to do solo.

In all cases, download the Google maps for the area so you can access it when you get out of cellular network area.

Lesson 2: Always carry a knife, flashlight, and a cigarette lighter before you enter a jungle.

  • Knife because it’s a versatile tool useful for many things from clearing thorns to defense. It also helps you mark your trail so you don’t end up going in circles.
  • Cigarette lighter because you will not be able to start a fire without it. I don’t care how many videos of people rubbing stones you’ve watched. You will not be able to start a fire without a lighter so just get it.
  • A flashlight because if you are forced to be in the forest after the sun sets, you will need it. Most people haven’t spent a night in the dark and have no idea what it’s like. You can’t see anything. You can’t see the ground you’re standing on. You can’t see your own hands. It is extremely dangerous to stay the night in a forest without a source of light.

Lesson 3: If you get lost, follow the river.

Water is a precious resource and civilizations tend to form around them. In most cases, if you walk down a river for some time, you will eventually find a few people living around it.

In most cases, you want to walk down the river (i.e. the direction it’s flowing in) and not up the river because walking down consumes much less energy. Conserving energy is important because you have no idea how much time you need to walk before you find humans.

Also – You cannot walk in circles if you are following a river. You will eventually get somewhere.

Most importantly – you have access to water if you run out.

Lesson 4: Inform your family where you’re going. If you get totally lost, stay put.

If you get lost and your phone is dead/uncontactable – your family will eventually miss your presence and try to look for you.

They might contact the police who will contact the rescue forces. These forces need to know where to look. If your family does not even know the name of the base village or the trek you went to – no rescue can take place.

In case rescue teams do get deployed, they are far more likely to find you if you are somewhere visible. If you are deep in the forest cover – chances of a rescue team finding you are slim to none.

If you get totally lost and lose all hope, put yourself somewhere visible and wait. Rescue is much more likely to find you if you are somewhere visible.

Try to attract attention like marking trees, hanging your belongings in visible places, lighting a fire (make sure you clear out inflammable stuff around your fire), etc.

Lesson 5: Other random tips

Note that I am not a survival expert or anything like that. All of this (along with everything else on this website) is stuff I’ve learned from my own experiences.

  • Don’t panic. It doesn’t help at all. Be calm because your life depends on it.
  • Don’t wear cotton. Cotton gets wet and stays wet. Wet clothes make your body lose heat fast. If you lose a lot of heat, you die. I once spent a night on top of a very windy mountain plateau (planned). If I wore cotton, I would have gotten hypothermia.
  • Have a compass and a map = have your phone with Google Maps for the area downloaded so you don’t need internet to use it. Carry a portable charger because your phone is a very useful tool you want to keep around.
  • Travel downhill. It’s much easier. Going uphill when you have no idea where you’re going is a horrible idea. You burn energy really fast when you climb.
  • Carry a whole bunch of protein bars because they are calorie dense and you can live a day or two off of them.
  • Don’t eat anything from the forest if you don’t know what it is. Especially mushrooms and berries.
  • If you must drink forest water, check ~100m from where you intend to drink. If you find a dead animal carcass in the water, drink from elsewhere. Always only drink the clearest and fastest flowing water you can find. If you can boil it – that’s perfect.

Hope this helps.

That’s all for today.

Until next time.

Your man,

Harsh Strongman

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