First, don’t forget that there will be a new episode of Dual Survival on tonight at 9:00pm EST. The new one is titled “Twin Peaks” and the description says:
The hosts descend a muddy volcano in the Nicaraguan jungle.
[By the way, if you want to catch up on most of the season, they’re showing “On the Menu” at 5:00pm EST, followed by “Into the Frying Pan”, “Trouble in Paradise”, and then “The Green Hell”.]
And now, on to “The Green Hell”.
The scenario here has Cody and Joe take the places of two whitewater rafters who lost their raft coming down from the heights of the Andes into the Amazon River basin.
This was actually the best episode for cooperation and making sense, mostly. Of course, the narrator still has to build tension:
Tensions run high . . .
As teamwork breaks down . . .
Two guys with two completely opposing survival tactics . . .
Will show how to stay alive on the world’s deadliest river . . .
If they can keep from killing each other.
Actually, pretty quickly they figure out their strategy: they really don’t want to go bushwhacking through the Amazonian jungle if they can help it. (They literally would be whacking the bushes with their machetes.) So they’ll build a raft and see how far that takes them.
All they needed was wood and cordage, with Cody getting the wood and Joe getting the cordage.
I really enjoyed seeing the balsa trees, and just how easy a thick one was to cut down. But that does make sense, considering how light of a wood it is.
The raft went together fairly easily, all things considered. Here they are, doing their best Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn impressions.
Here’s what bothered me about their raft trip, though. Yes, they talk about the dangers and the power of the river. But they don’t raft down it like that matters. There is no discussion of strategies in case they do come across a problem.
They are right out in the middle of the river, which has two disadvantages. First, that’s right in the middle of the fastest current, which means less control. Second, if rapids or a waterfall come up, you may not have time to get to shore. If it were me, I’d work really hard at staying near a shore, even if it meant not going as fast.
And, of course, they go a round a bend in the river and just barely make it near shore, having to abandon the raft and swim, and losing their paddle at the same time. A little forethought (kind of important in survival situations) is rather useful that way.
That night, more good cooperation and Cody follows Joe’s lead in the kind of shelter they build (obviously well-researched before heading out there).
And then we get one of those barefooting moments, eating dinner (some fish Cody caught using a root toxin) by the fire.
J: Field hygiene here, real quick. I’ll put my socks right here.
C: Do you mind? Just put ’em on your side.
J: Doesn’t this smell good?
C: Thank you.
J: Being perpetually wet out here can be a real problem, especially having boots on.
C: How’re they looking? Ew, pretty wrinkly.
They sure are.
C: You know, all the native peoples here went barefoot, and they still do.
J: I know.
C: So, what do you say? Join me, Luke. Join me. Come to the dark side.
J: Heh, heh, heh. Not a chance, bro. Not a chance.
There’s a good reason the natives go barefoot. Under that kind of wetness and that heat, if Joe stayed shod for another couple of days, his feet would start having all sorts of fungal difficulties. But for this short time, he can manage.
In this sort of situation it’s also probably better for the perpetually shod not to suddenly try to go barefoot—their feet just aren’t built up for it. Even when soggy, Cody’s feet (or even my lesser ones) still have a thick callus protection. But baby-feet? It is to worry.
At this point they decide to go overland. Sure, it was part of the scenario (and probably what the producers planned in advance). But another choice wasn’t presented at all, a choice that I would hope that real survivors would consider: make another raft. It was easy enough to build the first one. So just build another one, and put it in below the whitewater. (With a little foresight, they’d even still have the paddle and be able to repair it.) After all, all of the advantages of the river over bushwhacking still held. They could keep building new rafts all the way down the river, if they wanted to.
But they, without any discussion, go overland.
The next scene really is a shod scene. Joe demonstrates a method of scaling high into a limbless tree to get some highly nutritious nuts.
This was really fun to watch and the technique is pretty cool.
But it is not something that anyone, even Cody I suspect, would want to do in bare feet. You really need a hard sole on those ropes to keep them from digging into your feet.
The thing to keep in mind is that those ropes are a tool for extending our capabilities. Shoes can, at times, also be a tool for extending our capabilities, and it would be silly to pretend otherwise. For this tree-climbing technique, Joe’s shoes are really part of the overall tool.
From there, they see some smoke and start heading for it, but come across water and a rather steep waterfall. Here they are heading under the overhang near the top of one part of the falls.
Again, they are cooperative in their discussion, with the choices being to rappel down or just to backtrack. Cody easily agrees.
C: Let’s explore the rope thing. If the rope thing doesn’t work out, we backtrack.
There is a bit of a gratuitous, and incorrect, slap at bare feet at this point from Joe.
J: Cody isn’t wearing shoes; he doesn’t have good footing. If something goes wrong, Cody’s going to fall. At a minimum, he’s going to break his legs and his back.
So I have got to lower him down slowly and smoothly.
Well, yes, he does have to lower Cody slowly and smoothly. But that has nothing to do with bare feet. It is slick there for any kind of footing, and as I’ve mentioned before, with a bare foot you can actually feel how good you footing may be. On that sort of surface, even lugged soles don’t provide much (and I’ve seen plenty of people land on their butts wearing lugged soles on some of my hikes).
I particularly enjoyed seeing the way Joe rigged the rope for lowing Cody.
The rope behind to the left is anchored to a rock, and Joe uses the carabiner and the looping of the rope around it to provide useful friction and control.
After Cody is safely down, Joe says
My plan to get down is simple. I’m going to rappel down and pull the rope down so we can bring it with us.
Here he is heading down.
Hmmm. He has plenty of rope to use a double rope, so that once he gets down he just pulls on one end to retrieve it. But he’s rappelling with a single rope. The only technique I know for that uses a knot that stays tight enough under tension and then releases when the tension lets up.
That always worries me, because what if the situation releases the tension early? Also, as he starts, it doesn’t look to me as if Joe is keeping the tension on. I guessing that in reality somebody just went back and got the rope.
In the end, the smoke leads them to a friendly (not always a given!) Amazon family, and another episode comes to an end.
As I said, I particularly liked this one. It’s a situation where bare feet are ideal (in some ways, the only sane choice), and Joe and Cody cooperated quite nicely, having discussions (not verbal fights) to figure out what to do, and then doing it.
And don’t forget “Twin Peaks” tonight.