By Darren Roberts
Whilst our new team mate Alex nailed a 160-mile rowing race around Lake Geneva -Tour du Léman à l'Aviron, Nick and I spent the weekend with Colin Towell, the survival expert. His job: to get us up to speed on the jungle and surviving in it - more specifically camp admin, hammock preparation, fire lighting and medical drills.
To say Colin is qualified is an understatement. He's trained the SAS, Navy Seals, Delta Force, Marine Commandos and pilots to name a few - and on top of that, put Richard Branson through his paces and worked alongside Ray Mears. Despite all that, Colin is very easy to get on with and comes across as a normal, switched-on bloke - although he did have that 'been through some shit' look in his eye.
We met him down in the New Forest, ensuring we were bang on time for our instructor. The training ground was in the woods as you would expect, and consisted of a HQ made from sheds and logs. He welcomed us with a cup of tea - or 'brew' in forces speak - and we spent the 1st hour sat around a well-established fire, introducing ourselves and talking about the Jungle Marathon safety and course.
After this we learnt 4 great knots - which were so damned good, I swore a little bit of wee came out in the excitement. Once they were mastered, we went through camp clearing and administration - then onto hammock setup using our new found knot skills.
The hammocks in question are made by a guy called Hennessy and as well as being amazingly designed with integrated fly sheet and mosy net, they are the choice of the Forces. Colin showed us how to fashion tent pegs from the wood around us, and before long we had successfully put a hammock up and dismantled it - a key skill at the end of a race in the midst of 100 other runners.
Colin's method for dealing with a 'No.2' in the field. "This is the way to wipe your backside with 1 sheet of tissue paper". (Photos: Tom Miles, www.photosmudger.co.uk)
Following that we ran through encountering dangerous creatures, and then covered foot and body administration. Rounding the day off with another brew, we bade farewell to Colin and his assistant 'Baldy Bob' (not an assistant in a skirt but a hard-as-nails ex-SAS soldier!). What a fantastic day. Colin was brilliant, and I look forward to the day when I can learn more from him. I just hope we can carry out our new found skills as well as he taught them to us. Bring on the jungle.
Colin has written a book. Click here to view:
The Survival Handbook
(in association with The Royal Marine Commandos)
Click to view a page from the book
All proceeds go to Help For Heroes.
Click here to see Colin Towell's website