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Time is of the essence as writer Claire Dunn blows on a pre-prepared tinder bundle to get a fire going. Bushcrafts such as fire making and trap building were essential knowledge.
Eels are lured into this lawyer-cane trap by meat placed in the base. Unable to swim backwards, they find themselves trapped.
Claire relaxes by the fire to work on her coil basket. Making and keeping fires alight took up a lot of the day.
Claire plucks waterlilies from a nearby wetland for a bush tucker stir-fry. She spent a year in the wilderness without modern luxuries
Foraging for food – and knowing what’s edible – was a daily mission.
Participants prepare and cook in a camp kitchen together. Often cooking was done at the camp site.
Claire plucks waterlilies from a nearby wetland for a bush tucker stir-fry, served with a side of freshwater mussels gathered from Dundoo Creek. Most parts of the lily are edible, but the delicacy comes at a cost – several millilitres of blood, taxed by the pond’s voracious population of leeches.
Claire Dunnn gathers blady grass, which was dried, bundled and used as a thatching material.
Claire relaxes by the fire to work on her coil basket.
Claire Dunn spent a year on a 40ha bush block on the edge of Sherwood Nature Reserve, 25km south of Grafton, on the NSW north coast. She completed a program that combined survival and naturalist training.
“The majority of our food came from the local supermarket,” says Claire Dunn. “It’s l supplemented with bush food and produce from a communal garden.”
The wilderness program set few constraints, other than a limit of 30 days out of camp. The participants had the freedom to choosetheir own adventures.
Claire had to source and make many basic neccesities. Wattle bark, for example, is used to make string.
“I’m attuning to the rhythm of the forest, but my mind continues to resist, compiling to-do lists and planning my days,” said Claire. “My hammock swings unused, despite my intentions to let go. I do, however, grow resentful of things that tie me to the outside world.”
Claire usually escaped the weather on her wattle dowel slat bed; here, she’s sewing a kangaroo raw-hide pouch.
Some of the objects Claire created from natural resources around the camp.
With no matches or lighters, Claire had to start fires the traditional method – using sticks. It was hard work and left her with large blisters and calluses.
Nikki Brown climbs a palm tree to source material for making shelter.
“The days are gloriously still and fragile, and I wander the land with the curiosity of a child, allowing myself to be lured by a new bird call or a pattern of tracks,” says Claire. “This bush idyll is marred by my frustratingly consistent fear of getting lost or coming to some tragic end alone. I am dogged by the feeling that I am somehow failing. Every wandering seems neither far nor free enough. Every link to society becomes a guilt-ridden blight.“
“A slow courtship with the land ensues as I open up to the charms of bushland dominated by flowering banksia and bloodwood,” Claire says. “I begin to reap the rewards of patient hours spent atop the root ball of a large fallen tree on the edge of a gully. I come to know the clockwork routine of families of resident birds, mice and wallabies, as well as the thrill of drop-in predators such as the collared sparrowhawk.”
“Trying to make fire with a hand-drill becomes my greatest teacher at letting go,” says Claire. “Mastery of this traditional Aboriginal skill is something I want badly. The more I try, the harder it gets. Huge blood blisters form on both palms, hampering my efforts.”
Home Australian Geographic Adventure Adventure Gallery: Year in the wilderness
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