Meet Sur­vivor con­tes­tant Mark ‘Tarzan’ Her­laar


Style Magazine - - Contents - BY DAR­REN BUR­TON

The win-at-all-cost mind­set has been served up con­stantly through­out the re­cently fin­ished fourth sea­son of Aus­tralian Sur­vivor (filmed in Samoa) – as cast­aways shame­lessly con­nived, cheated and con­spired in a des­per­ate at­tempt to be the last one stand­ing. Ev­ery­one did it. Well, al­most ev­ery­one. It seems 51-year-old Ge­ham lime farmer and fan favourite Mark Her­laar didn’t get the memo.

More im­por­tantly, he prob­a­bly tore up the memo, be­cause Tarzan (as he was soon dubbed on the show) de­cided from the out­set he was go­ing to “play” the game the way he wanted to play it – do­ing the right thing by oth­ers and be­ing true to him­self.

Through mon­soonal rains and cy­clonic winds, he stood vig­i­lantly by the fire to en­sure it stayed alight for his tribe mates.

While oth­ers hud­dled freez­ing in their crude make-shift shel­ter (and de­spite his own hy­pother­mia), he hunted palm fronds in the dead of night and laid them on his fel­low contestants so they might beat the bit­ter con­di­tions.

“Ev­ery­body talks about de­vel­op­ing strate­gies and ma­noeu­vring to get an ad­van­tage in the game,” Mark said. “I just wanted to keep peo­ple warm.”

His con­cern for oth­ers even saw him self­lessly hand over an im­mu­nity idol to Tessa – leav­ing him com­pletely vul­ner­a­ble and out the door at the next tribal coun­cil.

He may have lost the chance at fi­nals glory, but he won a le­gion of fans across the world for his car­ing at­ti­tude and philo­soph­i­cal ap­proach to life.

Yet, he still copped a lam­bast­ing by in­ter­net Sur­vivor “ex­perts” who claimed his tac­tics were flawed, ill-con­ceived and counter-pro­duc­tive to win­ning the game. Mark takes the crit­i­cism on the chin. “They’re bloody right! I didn’t have a clue about what I should have been do­ing strate­gi­cally. I went on this show as a jour­ney of en­light­en­ment and I got to ex­pe­ri­ence so many amaz­ing things as a re­sult,” he said.

“Those 11 days will shape my fu­ture. I don’t know how – but they will.”

But what about the $500,000 first prize?

“I wouldn’t say no – es­pe­cially as we’re try­ing to grow the lime busi­ness – but money doesn’t mo­ti­vate me. There’s more to life than money.”

When you look at Mark shrug his big shoul­ders and wryly smile – you know he means ev­ery word.

Mark’s early de­par­ture from the show may have added weight to the long-stand­ing adage that “good guys fin­ish last” but he also proved why good guys get the tag in the first place.

“The mar­riage pro­pos­als have dropped off a bit now,” he laughs. “But, I’ve had peo­ple con­tact me from Ghana to Italy to the Nether­lands, you name it – it’s amaz­ing how many peo­ple want to talk to you and get your ad­vice and opin­ions.

"The best ad­vice I can give any­one is to be a salmon and swim against the cur­rent. Swim­ming with it is easy, but it’s nowhere near as fun."

So, how did the farmer who doesn’t like farm­ing get into the lime in­dus­try?

“You’ll think I’m mak­ing this up, but my son brought over a few beers one af­ter­noon and wanted me to try one with a lime in it,” he re­calls. “I’m not a drinker, but he in­sisted and it tasted pretty good. The prob­lem was he told me the limes were $2 each.

“So, I thought: ‘let’s put a tree in’. It didn’t die, so I thought how about we put in an­other 700 (just for fun) and then we put in an­other 3500 (just for fun) and the farm has gone from there.”

A deeply spir­i­tual man, Mark puts a lot of stock in fate and “what will be, will be” – it gets him out of bed ev­ery morn­ing be­cause he knows each new day brings an­other ad­ven­ture.

“Life’s what we make of it – never take any­thing for granted and en­joy ev­ery part of it be­cause we cre­ate our­selves along the way,” he said. Just as he did on Sur­vivor. No fire for days, no food to eat, the most ba­sic of shel­ter, hor­ren­dously ill-equipped to take on the wrath of Mother Na­ture – sounds a night­mare.

To Mark, it was par­adise: “For those 11 days, I wasn’t on a game show, I was liv­ing and I’ll carry that won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence to my grave.”

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