I’m Bear Grylls. My new book Spirit of the Jungle, for readers aged 9 and up – is out now.
Could you survive in the jungle? That’s what Mak, the main character in Spirit of the Jungle, is about to find out.
As a boy, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling was one of my favourite reads – full of adventure, on a backdrop of wildlife, nature and danger. It’s a classic adventure story and inspired me growing up as I learned about survival in the wild.
Writing a modern day Jungle Book Adventure felt like a great next adventure for me, and life has taught me that our survival instinct is still part of the human spirit even in a world of mobile phones, & the Internet. When you’re stripped bare, you have to think on your feet.
Mak is an eleven year old boy who finds himself stranded in the Indian Jungle after a flash flood. I knew he’d be in for quite the ride: the jungle can be full of danger – in this case Mak encounters poisonous snakes, cunning monkeys and desperate poachers – and every step he takes could be his last.
Mak finds help and friendship from other jungle creatures, but he will need all his skill and luck to survive and find his way back home.
Combining my own experiences of survival, and some crucial life lessons about friendship, family and natural instincts – Spirit of the Jungle was born. I hope you all love it – it is the ultimate childhood survival adventure.
A boom of thunder woke Mak with a jolt. His eyes snapped open and he was instantly aware of his surroundings. He didn’t know how long he’d been asleep, but the fading light indicated it had been for a couple of hours. Another volley of lightning flashed overhead, followed seconds later by thunder that sounded more aggressive than anything Mak could remember hearing before.
It was the size of a motorbike and would have killed him if he hadn’t been cowering under the fallen tree.
He knew standing under a tree in a lightning storm was the worst thing he could do – but in the middle of a jungle he had little choice. He couldn’t remember why it was dangerous – but that question was answered moments later as another flash of lightning struck overhead.
The bang was deafening. Then the half-rotted limb it had struck several storeys above him fell. It was the size of a motorbike and would have killed him if he hadn’t been cowering under the fallen tree. Instead, the branch smashed to the ground only metres from his shelter – accompanied by a horrific noise – and shattered into multiple splinters.
Then the gentle sound of rain resumed and all was calm once again. Except Mak, who was still clutching his legs and trembling in fear.
It was several long moments later when he realized that it would soon be dark. The thought filled him with fresh fears. He needed a fire. Rummaging through his pockets he produced his shiny coin and a plastic spoon he had absently pocketed in the hotel over breakfast the previous morning.
Along with his wet sock and single trainer, Mak probably had the worst survival kit in history.
He dabbed his palm over his clothes. They felt as wet now as they had when he’d first gained consciousness. He stripped his clothes off, still managing to feel embarrassed in case anyone suddenly came to his rescue and found him naked. Then he wrung them out as hard as he could and was amazed at the torrent of water he managed to expel. But still they were damp to the touch. He hung them on twigs and hoped they’d dry in the hot humid air.
His body was damp all over and, aware of the smell from his feet and armpits, Mak tore a handful of dried moss from under the log. Checking there were no bugs inside, he diligently wiped down his body. The moss was surprisingly absorbent and scrubbed away layers of filth.
Next he assembled a pile of twigs and leaves from the floor of his shelter. Miraculously they were dry. He made a small pyramid of twigs and placed the leaves inside. He found two sticks. Using the broad one as a base, he put the tip of the thinner twig against it and furiously rubbed his hands back and forth, rotating the twig just as he’d seen people do before in films.
He darted back to his shelter, convinced every rustle and faint crack of a twig was a big cat ready to pounce.
Nothing happened. With growing frustration, Mak rubbed the twig until his palms became bloody, yet there wasn’t even a hint of smoke.
‘Cavemen could do this, why can’t I?’ he roared.
Determined not to give up, Mak ventured beyond his shelter. The rain was just as heavy and the light was rapidly diminishing. He prodded around some likelylooking drier nooks for more kindling. He found some more dry moss and several interesting mushrooms the size of his hand. He considered eating them . . . but was convinced he’d probably die on the spot, so left them alone.
As he returned to his shelter he suddenly noticed something in the mud: paw prints. They looked the same as the ones Anil had excitedly shown them on the shore the day before. Mak suddenly felt his heart beating with fear. He hadn’t noticed the prints before; had he simply overlooked them, or were they freshly made, indicating there was a predator prowling around?
He darted back to his shelter, convinced every rustle and faint crack of a twig was a big cat ready to pounce. He dried himself off again then added the moss to his would-be fire and began rubbing the twig, building the friction heat between the wood.
Still nothing happened.
Silent tears of frustration ran down his cheeks as he pressed the sticks harder and faster until he eventually lashed out, scattering them in utter disgust. He couldn’t even create a fire, the basic building block of civilization. How was he supposed to survive another night in the wild?
Mak pressed himself into the shelter’s smallest space, and wrapped his arms around his legs. Despite the warm air, he shivered.
He took the coin and began rolling it through his fingers. It was such an ingrained activity for him that he wasn’t consciously aware he was doing it, yet it was something familiar and soothing.
He stared into space and wondered where his parents were and what they were thinking. He hadn’t heard the sound of any aircraft, but surely a search party must be under way. Perhaps they couldn’t fly in the storm? Yes, that must be it. They’d come tomorrow. He’d wake up and this nightmare would be over.
He suddenly became aware of a creature standing in the shadows watching him. But, strangely, Mak felt no fear.
How long it had been there, Mak couldn’t tell – yet the animal stood silently regarding him with piercing blue eyes.
It was a wolf, head bowed in the rain as it stared at him. Its mouth hung open revealing a range of deadly incisors that Mak had no doubt could effortless tear him apart, but even they failed to draw his attention. What did was the tiny bundle of fur hanging from the creature’s jaws.
A dead wolf pup.
Mak didn’t move. He didn’t even dare breathe . . .