How to find your way in the forest


You have all heard stories of surviving in the jungle under horrible conditions.
There are some books that give you many surviving techniques which can more or less be applied. Make sure before you leave that the one you have does not give you only advice about the construction of an igloo and fishing from a frozen lake, or methods of saving water in desert zones…

Seriously, according to me, getting lost can only be the result of an accident. Your small plane crashes in the forest, you are unharmed but the pilot is killed. You have just flown for two hours over the rainforest, in an unknown direction. You have informed no one. The radio is broken, your latest GPS bought before leaving if flooded, the only equipment you have is your nail clipper. In short, you are in a fix. You now have to rely on insect larvae for breakfast and raw tadpoles for lunch. How delightful!

I must stop this easy irony. This kind of situation is truly exceptional. But nevertheless, know that one of the keys to survival in this type of situation is the ability to make yourself a shelter, especially during the rainy season. Fresh water is abundant, food also as long as you are not too choosy.

But if you cannot find dry shelter at night (nights are cool in the rainforest), you will soon get weak and despair will undermine your will to survive.
Do not listen to stories about people having disappeared forever after having stopped their car and gone 2 meters inside the forest to discreetly satisfy a natural need. They are ridiculous and are a part of the local mythology, like the attack by a 20 meter long anaconda.

You will NOT LOOSE yourself during an organized excursion or hike in the rainforest, but you can eventually GO ASTRAY, which is not the same thing.

Here is what can happen :

you are part of a group staggered behind the guide. You are at the tail end and you stop to take a picture of a gorgeous butterfly poised on a tree a few meters from the tail. Being meticulous, the operation lasts for a little while and you realize that the group selfishly continued on without you. You advance a few steps and loose the trail.
A cold sweat runs down your back. Lost, alone in the forest!!

The worst thing to do is to loose your head and start running in front of you. Sit down and think quietly. You are only a few meters from the trail. You are not lost! If the group has to pass again on the same trail, you can wait for it and call as soon as you hear it coming.
Otherwise, go towards the nearest large tree, go around it several times to make sure that you can recognize it from several angles.

Choose a direction leaving the tree behind you and keep sight of it. Make larger and larger concentric circles around the tree.
You will soon find your trail again. If not, choose several successive landmarks and renew the operation, making sure that you always find your original tree again. Don't hesitate to break off branches while you progress, to leave tracks of your passage.

In general, during hikes :

learn to take your bearings in space from an axis that you might come across again (river, road, etc…). If you are on one side of a large river that flows North/South for example, you cannot loose yourself.
From your starting point, walking either Eastward or Westward in relation to the axis, you will inevitably come across it again.

Note the hour of departure. This will allow you to calculate a distance approximately by estimating your walking speed. A compass is always useful but beware, hikes depending on the compass are not very reliable in the rainforest. The bearing points are too close from each other, it is often necessary to walk around obstacles, and one can soon make errors of a few degrees.
Orientation by the sun's position is difficult under the vegetation cover, especially when the sky is overcast. Be careful of GPS, the antenna of certain models allows you to take bearings only in open country.

Beware of the sensation of total security that a well organized tour often gives. Be aware, not passive. Your guide is not infallible!

How do Indians manage to orient themselves in the forest, often without a marked trail?
In fact, they use the extreme diversity of the vegetation. There are no two identical trees, even if they belong to the same specie…
Indians take their bearings in the vegetation, as you do in the presence of certain particular buildings.