Survival is part and parcel of the human condition. It is embedded in our DNA and whether we are conscious of it or not, even big city living requires us to go forth and do battle on a daily basis.
But while these “civilised society” skirmishes are more psychological and emotional in nature, there are those who feel the need to heed the call of their caveman genome and venture out into the wild.
I am not referring to people of the pseudo-bushwhacking variety who stage carefully choreographed scenes of themselves “roughing it up” for the sake of viewership ratings, before heading to the plush comfort of a luxury hotel when the camera crews call “cut”. (No names mentioned, Bear Grylls.)
Rather, it’s the men and women who willingly opt for the “back to basics” lifestyle of whom I speak. Those audacious little souls who are prepared to endure gruelling challenges, hunger, hazardous weather conditions, sleepless nights and endless whiffs of pungent body odour, so they may learn to appreciate the small things in life. And – who knows – maybe even score a cool million or secure a marketing deal in the process. (Not that this is their main motivation, of course; perish the thought.)
Some would say putting yourself forward for Survivor constitutes courage. I prefer to use a different descriptive term myself: sheer insanity!
While conflicting schedules (thankfully!) prevented me from joining the group of journos who headed off to experience Survivor island in all its hellish glory, my solo visit later down the line officially killed any residual childhood inclines to cutesy camp fires, or nights spent sleeping under star-dotted skies.
Between the monsoon-like rainfall, the suffocating humidity that left you feeling like you were in a perpetual steam room, the water lice, pussing skin sores courtesy of sandflies and the monstrous blood-suckers who brought new meaning to Eat, Pray, Love’s “mosquitoes so big, they could f*** a chicken standing up”, my tropical surroundings were more of a purgatory than a paradise.
And unlike the contestants, I was being fed and still had the comfort of an actual bed to return to each night!
Also, where the duplicitous nature of the game requires the contenders to always look for the undertone in each other’s words or actions (exhausting in itself), at least I could entertain myself by observing the social politicking among the production crew (themselves a somewhat suspicious bunch, particularly when they sniff a journalist in the midst), relaxed in the knowledge that I had absolutely nothing vested in the outcomes thereof.
And hey, if the going really got tough, I could always turn to my old friend, Mr G&T, to douse my reality TV overdose.
• Survivor South Africa: Champions starts Sunday at 5.30pm on M-Net.
LARA DE MATOS