Surviving Survivor

2014-01-19 14:01

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Lesley Mofokeng lives to tell the gruelling tale of 48 hours of Media Survivor

It became clear that we were abandoned when the hunger pangs kicked in.

Surely they’ll bring a platter of calamari and prawns. Surely they won’t let us go to bed – not that we had beds – with empty, growling stomachs, I thought. I mean, come on, this is just TV.

How wrong I was...

So here we were, stuck like Robinson Crusoe on a deserted island somewhere between nowhere and the middle of nowhere. We were told we were off the coast of Malaysia in the South China Sea. Try finding that on a map.

The crew warned us about vicious, flesh-eating ants and some of the elements we’d have to endure for the 48 hours of this Media Survivor. We were the dress rehearsal before the real competition started on the island in a few days’ time, but the unsmiling crew warned us it would be as real as the real deal.

Reality hit when the security detail took our phones, sunscreen, sunglasses and whatever other creature comforts we thought would make our stay on the island more bearable.

But I was confident I would survive because, when given a choice to take clothes to the island, I had grabbed my jersey (in case it got nippy at night) and bought a contraption of a cap in Singapore en route to the island. The cap had secret shades and a minifan that blows precious cold air on your face.

The drama kicked off after we had to scramble for essential utensils such as pots, a rope, a tent, some coconuts and the like. We were then instructed to jump off a raft and swim about 200m to the shore. The only problem is I can’t swim to save my life.

I did manage to muscle my way in to grab a pot and a rope. I thought the organisers would remember that I couldn’t swim and help would soon be on the way. That was not to be.

Some rules were eventually bent when Dimakatso Motau of the Sowetan and I were handed life jackets to at least float.

Rules were bent further when a crew member was sent into the water so we could hold on to him as we paddled like toads in the water. We finally made it ashore, albeit 10 minutes late.

Host Nico Panagio welcomed us and so began the filming of the second part of the show.

I was determined to redeem myself by employing my athletic skills. My green team chose me for the first game of the show, a sprint to grab the baton and thus earn us first dibs at the loot of essentials collected. Yes, I beat Loren Pienaar of Huis Genoot, but she had high school colours in athletics so it felt good that I had proved myself indispensable to my team.

Then we were herded off to our home for the next gruelling 48?hours.

We had worked up a healthy appetite after the swimming and the first game, but there was no food in sight. At least we got rice, a pot and a flint. We finally got the fire going after two hours.

Basmati rice on the boil, we looked catered for. But when it was time to eat, the rice was tasteless and overcooked. We used water bottles cut in half as plates and small shells as spoons.

As night set in, we used the tents as blankets and went a few steps back in human evolution sleeping on the ground and on rocks like reptiles.

There were also the sounds of nocturnal creatures, reminding us that we were not alone.

I was first up at 4am, because Fanie Cronje from Sarie and Teresa Coetzee from Rapport were talking throughout the night. No amount of tossing and turning, and blocking my ears could stop their giggles and banter. However, I did manage to get some restless sleep.

So I went to stoke the fire we had started the day before to enjoy the warmth as the biting early morning wind blew.

The crew called us for our first challenge of the day at 6am. It involved swimming and building an image out of blades. The green team won once again and our reward was a platter of fruit. Orange never tasted so good.

But we were generous enough to share a few pieces of fruit with the red team?–?something that caused a little displeasure with some people in our team.

Our day had started in earnest. We sat around talking, taking a dip in the sea, and growing frustrated and more uneasy by the minute.

Like they say about Survivor, it is a psychological game.

I was glad that the crew had provided us with sunscreen which we applied too liberally as we sat under the blazing sun. Finally, we were given another game?–?an obstacle course?– which my team won. This meant a clean sweep for us and would ensure that we would be safe from elimination later in the day.

We returned to camp and again, time stood still and the rumbles in our tummies went unabated. Tempers flared and enemies were made over petty squabbles, even if for a short while.

As we sat in tribal council, Motau was the first to be voted off and Jaco Nel of Rapport was declared the winner. All I could think of was the seafood feast that awaited us. At this point, I just wanted everything to end.

Nothing could have prepared me for Survivor. I had become a doubting Thomas after hearing persistent rumours that the show was staged and shot in a West Hollywood studio. Now I could relate to what American Survivor winner Earl Cole said – that being on the show made him miss even the smallest things, like ice.

Vanessa Marawa, captain of the red team, said the contestants had shared a toothbrush when she competed in the first season of Survivor South Africa: Panama, which she had won. When it gets rough, it gets rough.

The deprivation and the discomfort I experienced convinced me once and for all that the show was not for me?– not even if I was given a million bucks to compete.

So as I sit down this evening to watch the show from the comfort of my couch and the guarantee of a warm and soft mattress, I will have a better understanding of what goes into Survivor. I understand that even though it’s a physical game, most of the battles take place in the mind.

The two tribes, led by sporting heroes Mark Fish and Corné Krige, will face hunger pangs, the elements, creepy-crawlies, and the game’s trademark plotting and scheming. Rather them than me.

Let the games begin!

»?Survivor South Africa Champions starts on M-Net today at 5.30pm

»?Mofokeng’s trip was sponsored by M-Net and Singapore Airlines

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