I woke up the following morning to the constant ringing of the telephone by the side of the bed. The 'assistant' I had been assigned by the show was doing his best to get me up, and ready for the days commitments. By the time I had showered and dressed, he had already had the day planned out for me. More publicity shots, interviews for radio and television shows, and magazines. Suddenly, the 10 of us were big news. All the while, I was just hoping that I wouldn't look a tit in front of the camera. I got fed up of answering the same questions over and over again in the 'polite' way real quick, and was soon looking forward to the peace and quiet of the actual show to begin. It was bizarre, that suddenly people were very interested in my musical tastes, my choice of tattoo designs, my favourite foods. So called daytime TV 'psychologists' were analysing my mental state due to the fact that I had a massive dragon tattoo on my back, looking for some deep emotional meaning behind why I had done it. If anyone thought to ask, I would've told them the real reason was because I had always wanted a large back tattoo, and that when I had seen that design, I knew it would be the one for me. One 'quack' psycho-analyst peed me right off by saying that it was 'a cry from his inner emotional self, battling with his masculinity, trying to assert itself in an IN YOUR FACE expressionist way....' . What a complete load of bull. Made me wonder if people like them have nothing better to do than come up with crap like that to validate their fee to the TV stations.
The first real meeting that we 10 had, in a room with just the show staff, and no one else, was very interesting. We were told that we would have 3 weeks training in some basic survival and medical skills, we would have all our inoculations done, and we would sign our contracts to the production company. Any interviews we gave between now and our leaving date had to be sanctioned by the company. We would be allowed a single rucksack when we left for the island, and in it would be our clothing of our own choice. We would be issued survival equipment just before our arrival on the island. Over the following 3 weeks, we would learn to use the same type of survival gear to the best of our abilities. We would be allowed only one luxury item each to take with us, and we had until 2 days before departure to figure out what that item would be. What ever the item was, it could not be food, as when we reached the island, we had to survive on what we found. We were told to think carefully on it, as when the choice was made, it couldn't be changed. We were advised that we would have a resupply of toiletries once a month, loo roll, toothpaste and cleaning products etc, and for the girls, there would be the monthly products they needed as and when required. On the first day we were to arrive on the island, we would be issued ration packs that would last maybe 2 weeks, enough for 10 people. As we sat there, taking all this in, I looked around at the people I was going to be sharing this with. Everyone looked as nervous and excited as me. I caught the school teacher Kate looking around too, and we both nodded a quick hello and smiled, then went back to listening to the lecture.
"We understand that because of the timescale of this experiment, there will be a lot of legal issues in respect insurance policies of homes, household bills etc. Our legal team is on hand to take care of everything for you. We want you to go on this journey, and not worry about what is happening back home. If there are any questions, please feel free to ask them to us at the end..."
When the meeting ended, I wandered over to the head of the production team. I explained that I had a fair amount of debt in my name, and that seeing as I had handed in my notice, as requested when I had been accepted for the show, then there was a slight concern over what would happen next. I had been told that everything would be taken care of, but I wanted to know just what would be done. I was amazed at his answer. He told me to find out exactly how much I owed, and to let him know. The production company would pay off all my debts, and everything would be settled up when the show was over in one years time.
I brought in my own solicitor friend to make sure that the contract I was signing wasn't being done in such a way that I could possibly be conned out of any money I earned after we returned etc. Everything was watertight, and above bored. Before the training had even begun, I was debt free and already loving the fact that I had answered that advert I saw online.
The people who were to train us came us a real shock to me. I had watched Ray Mears on the television for years, and Bear Grylls too. We were introduced to them at a training centre in North Wales, that specialised in teaching the general public all about being able to live off the land. Over the next few weeks, we learnt from the most basic things, such as how to keep dry and start a fire, to advanced stuff like how to catch and kill wild game. Cammie, the student, refused to kill any wild animals, and because of her vegetarian beliefs, also refused to eat anything we offered her. When Bear showed us how to best prepare meat from a deer, and had decided to show that it could be eaten raw, I found myself stood between Cammie and GG being sick over a log....We were shown the different types of shelters we could build, using all the different materials we would have at our possession. We were also shown what sorts of plants we could use, for eating, and medicinal purposes. At the end of everyday, when I climbed into whatever would be my bed for the night, it seemed I would be asleep before my eyes were shut. Ray showed us how to make tools using the equipment we had, and the natural environment.
It was during this time we learnt our strengths, and weaknesses. Cammie was grateful that when I went fishing, I would make sure I caught enough for her too. In return, she made sure that she gathered some of my share of the firewood for the camp. Little things like that told me that we would get on. On the flip side, when Darren was caught eating meat that he hadn't caught, a fight was only just stopped by Father Flynn calming things down.
By the end of the 3 weeks, we were given a 'No-Bull' assessment by both Ray and Bear, and the training staff of the adventure centre. I was proud to be given an 'Outstanding' rating for overall effort and application. When Ray asked me if I had any plans for AFTER the show, in a years time, he told me that I should look up his company, and apply for a position.
The night before we needed to make our final decision about what our luxury item would be, I decided to get everyone together in my room and see if there was anything that we could agree on, that would benefit everyone.
Father Flynn wanted to take his Bible, no surprise there. Cammie had no idea yet. Darren wanted cigarettes, and so did Lilly. I wanted to take writing materials, pencils and paper etc, so I could start to write a journal, that I hoped would be the basis of a book. Kate wanted to take books. Casper wanted a music system. GG wanted a set of cooking pots and pans...Mary wanted to take her violin and Ash wanted to take a camera.
The following morning, we submitted our requests to the company, including Cammie's last minute inclusion of aromatherapy oils. Surprisingly, they agreed to everything, with some caveat's. Darren and Lilly couldn't be seen to be smoking on camera, and had to dispose of the remains of the cigarettes responsibly. Ash had to agree to not to take any 'inappropriate' pictures, and needed to pass everything via the company at the end of the show, and in return, she would be provided with batteries and memory cards once a month. I needed to do likewise. Anything I wrote, needed to be 'sanity checked' and proof read at the conclusion of the show too. We agreed to everything after having the solicitors do a final check of the contracts.
The night we flew out to our destination was the first time we actually found out where we would be going. It was to be a private Island, to the East of Papua New Guinea. We were told that the area itself was prone to earth quakes, and that as a safety precaution, if we felt one, no matter how small, we were to make our way to high ground immediately as it was possible that a tsunami could follow. We were shown pictures of what looked like heaven. Crystal blue waters, golden sandy beaches, lush green tropical jungle. I remembered talking to both Ray and Bear. You could survive anywhere if you just knew where to look. I had already spotted the tell tale signs of river-mouths, so at least there would be fresh water. Other photos showed waterfalls. Truly, it was an island paradise.
There was a final large press conference, where the obligatory teary farewells with family and friends were had. We boarded the plane for the long journey to the other side of the world. When we got there we were told, we would then have to fly from Northern Australia to Papua itself, then by seaplane to one of the outer islands, then small boat to 'our' island.
The next 48 hours passed in a blur. The long flight around the world was passed reading. I had brought books on survival hints and tips, what would be edible plants and animals, things to avoid... I didn't want anything to be a complete surprise to me. Using the photographs of the island that we were provided, i did my best to make a map of it. Darren and Lilly spent their journey doing their best to get as many drinks as they could, and finally fell asleep after having a rousing sing song of some choice R'n'B tunes.....When we arrived in Northern Australia, we were met by more press, then whisked away to the next stage of the journey. By this point, I had lost all concept of time, and just wanted to sleep. By the look of the rest of the group, I wasn't the only one feeling this, we all looked destroyed. Another plane ride, this time in a small seaplane, landing in a place that looked like something from a pirate film. Within 20 minutes of landing, we were all sat around in the harbour, the humidity and heat already making our clothing stick to our bodies, despite it only being a little after 9AM.
The same important guy from the production company from back in the UK met us, and told us that on the boat that was docking behind him, was some of the equipment that we were allowed to take, including our luxury items. The ever present camera crews that had followed us from day one, were suddenly replaced by 2 camera crews, thankfully people we already knew. They would be changed every month, so that they at least could have a rest from the enforced isolation. We were told that the area that we would be landed on had been being prepared months in advance. Cameras and sound equipment were dotted everywhere apparently. Anything that the 2 crew missed, would be picked up by the 'island-cams' as he called them. I suddenly realised that chances are, the world would watch me taking a dump by a tree at some point.
I watched as the harbour disappeared into the distance, and then turned when Kate pointed out the island appearing over the horizon. The noise of the engine chugging away, mixed with the rocking motion of the boat, and the heat and humidity, had suddenly made me yearn for sleep. I knew I couldn't, as the next hour would be possibly the most important hour yet.
When we had landed, we were met by a reception team, from the company. Our new home was literally the beach itself. We were told that there would be a beach hut a few hundred yards up the beach for the camera crews and their equipment only, and that in the event of a medical emergency, the crew could radio for help.
With all the equipment landed on the beach, the native crew pushed off, with the reception team aboard.
It was roughly midday. The sun was almost at its highest. Looking around at the rest of the group, I could see fear, excitement, wonder, exhilaration and despair etched on every-one's faces as the gravity of what we were doing actually hit home. Cammie started to cry, and was comforted by Father Flynn. Casper, Mary and Ash decided to go and walk the beach to around the headland, to see what was there. Darren and Lilly grabbed their gear, and immediately lit up cigarettes and walked off to the shade of the trees. I looked at Kate and GG, who were both looking ready to be sick.
"Well, I dunno about you two, but I'm gonna have a kip, and think about what I want to do later. Its too damn hot to stay here."
I picked up my gear, and found a spot under a palm tree just off the sand. Sitting with my back to the tree, I watched as GG and Kate wandered over to join me. I reached into my kit-bag, and pulled out a bottle of water. As they both sat down beside me, I offered them a toast.
"Here's to our new home for the next year. I just hope neither of you snore...."