Quite by chance this month I’ve caught a couple of episodes of “Born Survivor” presented by Mr Nice Tough Guy, Bear Grylls. Yes. That’s his real name.
I’m hoping he has a kid brother called Radiator.
The premise is very simple. Bear Grylls, all round daredevil, adventurer, survivalist and, let’s not forget it, nice guy, is catapulted each week into some of the world worst hellholes there to survive on nothing but his wits and the Winnebago full of food that the film crew have brought along with them.
He’s yomped across desert, jungle and rough council estates; he’s captured and eaten raw lizards, scorpions, beetle larvae and KFC bargain buckets; he’s been up to his hips in quick sand, white water rapids and peat bogs... and last night saw him roughing it in the mountainous ice fields of Patagonia.
It was sterling stuff and no mistake. He dug an ice cave with his “bear” hands, urinated into his drink flask and used it as a hot water bottle, rapelled down a 150ft waterfall... all the while telling us what we should and shouldn’t do in these circumstances; leaving us in no doubt as to the amount of danger and peril that he was constantly in on our behalf.
And through it all I couldn’t help thinking: Ray Mears wouldn’t have done that; Ray Mears would have found a better way; Ray wouldn’t have taken such stupid risks in the first place...
Ray Mears you see is untouchable in the art of bush craft survival. Many try to encroach upon his domain but few can ever match him. I’m sure Mr Grylls’ survivalist credentials are absolutely impeccable but, unlike Ray’s programmes, there’s something just too unreal and contrived about Bear Grylls’ gritty offerings.
Suspended half way down a narrow glacial crevasse he shuddered at how far down he was, how terrifying it was to be stuck this far down a sheer ice wall... but my first thought was that the camera man was actually filming him from below and didn’t appear to be suffering from camera-shake at all. A little later he tried to build a raft out of drift wood to cross an ice cold lake... a few feet out it began to disintegrate and Bear had to bare his torso and swim back to shore before he lost all circulation in his feet and legs...
Gasp shock horror. Would he make it? Sadly, yes.
Now if that had been Ray he’d have chopped down a tree, hollowed out a canoe with his bush knife and woven a fully functional outboard motor out of nettle stems and crossed to the other side of the lake within the space of three hours with enough daylight left to shoot a moose with his homemade bow and arrow and have its kidney frying on a hot rock ready for the after filming party.
And Ray would have spent the entire night in his homemade camp with only his homemade campfire and his hand whittled camp equipment for company and nobody would have doubted it in the slightest. I can’t say the same for Bear. There are loads of reports that he frequently “roughed” it in hotels and glamorous Jacuzzis once the day’s filming was done.
Fair enough you might think. But to me it’s cheating. Don’t attempt to seize the mantle of hard-man wilderness survivor if you’re not prepared to sleep with the leeches and the tarantulas!
Bear, Ray would eat you for bloody breakfast.