On a chilly, early winter morning, 10 grown adults clustered around a bunch of twigs, a piece of steel wool and a jar of Vaseline to learn essential fire-making skills during Scott Heiman’s ‘Prepare-Respond-Prevail’ workshop, conducted at Vic Widman’s Great Divide Tours (GDT) Training Centre at Braidwood, 100km east of Canberra.
My husband Scott is a regular contributor to Camper Trailer Australia and 4x4 Australia magazines but I don’t always get see his bushcraft and survival skills in action during our day-to-day lives, so I jumped at the chance to tag along on his workshop.
Two 4WD tour leaders, a bushwalker planning to walk over Australia’s eight highest peaks, two dirt bike riders, a former member of the military, an insurance salesman, a baker, two blokes with camper trailers, and a family man preparing to travel with his young family for the first time were among the seasoned and would-be adventurers attending the course.
Those who’d encountered ‘close calls’ echoed the desire of other participants wanting to equip themselves with the skills that will see them through in the outdoors when things don’t go to plan.
Following introductions and a session on bush and astral navigation on the first night, the next morning saw participants considering basic elements of survival, what to do if you get lost/separated, survival kits and bug-out bags.
In the afternoon, participants got a feel for some of the 240 acres of 4WD facilities at GDT as they rounded several challenging driver-training features on their way to the water crossing. There Scott had set up improvised shelters for discussion, and demonstrated water purification and ground to air visual signals. Drinking gum-leaf infused water, captured overnight in transpiration bags taped to overhanging trees, was a ‘first’ for many.
The final activity ‘Strip your Car’ involved some pretty imaginative suggestions by participants of alternative survival uses for common vehicle parts.
Scott, an avid outdoor recreationalist, is a qualified environmental scientist with 21 years in the army and has also served a member of the Federal Police. So discussion was lively and engaging throughout the day.
Although improvised fire making was a big hit, workshop participant Zhivan Wasinski expressed a common view when he said: “To be honest, I learnt so much it’s hard to pinpoint one thing”.
Pat Cotterill, who’s a bushwalker, said the workshop had given him “a better understanding of the psychology of survival management”.
Alex Chau added, “I’ll 100 per cent spend more time preparing for my trips in future, and make better plans”.
Vic Widman, who runs GDT, has now attended Scott’s program twice and has put his whole team of guides and instructors through it. “We never think of what we would do if somehow we became lost or stranded in the bush or the outback. This is a brilliant course, a must for those who love our country and an even greater must for those travelling with loved ones,” Vic said.
Scott conducts his ‘Prepare-Respond-Prevail’ workshops periodically at the GDT facility at Braidwood and can tailor programs to meet specific group needs.
GREAT DIVIDE TOURS VALUE-ADD OPTIONS
Great Divide Tours hosts a range of programs for the outdoor recreationalist. When we arrived at the Braidwood training facility for Scott’s course, there was already a one-day ‘camp oven cooking’ course in full swing, with some pretty spectacular damper and camp-oven roasts being produced. Other available activities include:
- Two-day Introductory 4WD Driver Training
- One-day GPS use training
- Two-day Photography
- 4WD and Camper Trailer Towing Training
- Two-day Advanced 4WD Driver Training
And, of course, GDT conducts a range of specialist tours and extended safaris (up to 26 days) into regional and remote Australia.
HOW BUSH-READY ARE YOU?
There’s a lot to think about when preparing for remote area travel. Scott starts the conversation by posing the five following questions to each of his PRP workshop attendees: What do you think?
ARE YOU FIRST-AID QUALIFIED?
Whether or not Australia has 9 or 10 of the world’s top 10 venomous snakes is often a popular debate raised over campsite embers. The Australian Venom Research Unit says Australia hosts 20 out of the world’s top 25 most venomous snakes but, in reality, bee stings, dehydration and infection pose greater risk, so you never know when – or why – your first-aid skills will be needed.
DO YOU KNOW HOW TO SWIM?
The Royal Life Saving Society estimates that between 30-50 per cent of adults can’t swim 50m, while 33 per cent of all drownings involve people over the age of 55. And you might like to reflect on why 81 per cent of all drowning deaths in Australia are males. Whoever we are, many of us love to cool off with a ‘quick dip’. So check the depth and tell someone where you’re going.
ARE YOU BEING SERVED?
When was the last time you had your car serviced, or checked the wheel nuts yourself? How about the winch, chainsaw, first-aid kit, generator, caravan, camper or boat’s outboard motor? Failure to attend to these issues when you’re travelling remotely can soon leave you feeling as isolated as Burke and Wills.
HOW WELL ARE YOU CONNECTED?
Mobile phone coverage in Australia covers 90 per cent of the population not 90 per cent of the country! Did you know that more than 80 per cent of our population lives within 100 kilometres of the coast? Those two facts alone leave a lot of this country disconnected. So think about how you’ll ensure that your location is known if you get into trouble.
Have you left a travel itinerary that someone at home is aware of? What are they to do when you don’t call in on time?
DO YOU OWN A PLB?
And if you do, do you carry it on you or does it stay in the car? Is it registered with AMSA? Have you checked its batteries lately?
Check out the full feature in issue #93 October 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.