A Close Shave

Ditchmonkey blows the fire
Somebody get this man a camera

The magnitude of the challenge ahead has really been sinking in over this past week. Now that I am focused on training and living in a new environment free from distractions, the jungle now looms large in my mind. Training and learning has taken on a new urgency and what time I spend on the internet has been researching and arranging professional training. Specifically; I have been trying to sharpen my knife to a razor’s edge and working out how best to learn about tropical medicine.

It’s amazing how much the threat of an exotic disease and bit’s falling off can focus the attention. On the advice of a doctor friend, I will be picking up a copy of a pocket size tome, The Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine, when I am next in the UK and will be memorising the relevant parts over the winter. I have also found someone who can teach me about tropical medicinal and edible plants and am in the process of arranging a one day tuition session covering travel and tropical medicine.


Quite why I decided it would be a good idea to attempt to shave with my knife I don’t know, perhaps it was to take my mind off the worries about snakes and diseases. In any event I’m not going to be carrying a year’s supply of disposable razors into the jungle so I need to find another solution. It’s something that I have tried to do on a number of occasions and failed and it is not surprising, try carving a piece of hardwood with a razor blade and you’ll see just how quickly it becomes unsuitable for shaving with.

Turning a blade that is used on a daily basis to cut everything from oak to garlic into a razor is quite a challenge but one that I’m pleased to say I succeeded at, kind of. Having five day’s growth and no soap or water didn’t help and I think the hairs were being pulled out more than cut, certainly by the time I was half way through I had to stop as the knife was to blunt to continue and my eyes were watering from stinging. Nevertheless the sense of achievement was immense and lasted all day. All I need to do now is learn how to get the knife just a little sharper and get used to the pain and I won’t need to worry about things living in my beard.

Shaving with a knife might well seem like an unnecessary activity as it is time consuming, painful and doesn’t give that good results (yet). However, I am coming to realise that the challenge ahead will require me to leave behind the trappings of comfort and luxury and become hardened to discomfort, pain, exhaustion and no doubt a number of other things that I have not even thought about yet. Over these next few months I will be preparing myself mentally and physically, I’m sure one of the keys to success is to be able to accept discomfort as the norm and get on with things. Then again, maybe I’m trying to look like Crocodile Dundee.

In retrospect I think it is best to try to learn things like trapping crayfish from someone who knows how its done, rather than by making it up as you go along. I shall continue to modify my technique but as yet there has been no success. This afternoon four of us are going out onto the river on a boat to go fishing and I know that one of our party has caught crayfish previously so I’ll be getting as much information as I can from him.

More later


One Response

  1. Hey Hugh! I love the new off-grid blog! Sounds quite painful, the shaving thing, but I can understand not wanting spiders and other insects living in it. Good thinking about filling your head with as much information as you can about local plant and animal species, since you’ll probably find yourself in a challenging situation where you’ll need to know immediately whether something is a safe or a hazard, i.e. is this safe to eat or should I be running like hell? Everything you learn now will be worth 10 times the effort when you’re out there – that should be a motivating thought.

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