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In their element
Alone Australia leaves 10 survivalists in the wilds of Western Tasmania/Iutruwita, isolated from the world and responsible for their own food, water, shelter and camera work. Gina and Jimmy, the series’ oldest and youngest participants, tell Siobhan Duck
FORAGING for food inthe forest, bathing in icy rivers and sleeping in the dirt as wild animals prowl around you. Sound like your idea of fun?
Probably not. But for Gina, 52, and Jimmy, 22, this sort of extreme experience is a dream come true.
“I really like feeling uncomfortable,” Gina says.
“I know that sounds odd but when I’m not comfortable, that’s when I’m learning.
“I stop learning as much when I’m comfortable. I’m much more likely to just rest where I am.
“And I really like learning new things in the discomfort, especially in the discomfort in nature. I’m stimulated to solve problems, to meet challenges and, also, to develop resilience. The more I can lean into those uncomfortable places, the more I get used to change in any form and in all aspects of my life.”
The pair are the oldest and youngest of 10 brave participants taking part in SBS’s new survival series, Alone Australia.
Based on the popular US format, Alone sees people from all walks of life give up all creature comforts and go bush. There, they will attempt to build shelter and live off the land for as long as possible without a single soul to talk to or assist in their endeavours.
The person who can survive for the longest pockets $250,000.
Of course, for Gina and Jimmy it’s not about the money, it’s about the personal challenge of surviving on their wits alone.
“It’s a great experience just to teach independence,” Jimmy enthuses.
“I think independence is really a dying skill, too many people just rely on others for everything.”
In addition to the personal challenge, Gina is also eager to “plant a flag in the sand for post-menopausal women” and show younger women and girls that age should not hold them back.
“I can remember my mum, when I was young, telling me that after menopause, women become invisible,” she shrugs.
“And I’m here now. I’m post-menopausal and I feel like that [attitude] is absolutely changing.
“I love that I get to be a role model. Not to women our age, but also for the young girls who are watching shows like this and seeing women of all ages and all sizes and all shapes and all races able to, you know, hold it just as well, if not better than anyone.
“I’m thrilled to pieces that I that I get to be the poster woman for that.”
Gina – who works as a “rewilding facilitator”, taking people on bare-bones camping trips – has spent most of her life barefoot in the bush.
“I love being outside,” she enthuses.
“I love not having walls. I love feeling what happens when there’s wind on my skin and being able to tell when weather is arriving, because I’m feeling the environment rather than having to watch it on TV to know that there’s rain coming.
“I can smell the rain.” Likewise Jimmy, a farmhand and engineering student, is also in his element in the great outdoors.
He is also completely comfortable in solitude and had no qualms about being away from his family and friends for an extended period of time.
“I like the feeling of just having to rely on yourself,” he offers.
“I wouldn’t say I want to just be a hermit and be completely by myself all my life but I do definitely like to get away from people.
“I have been in living in Adelaide for the past two years for uni and I take every opportunity I can get to get
out of the city and just try to get away from people.
“I think I just like having the space and the tranquillity.”
The greatest challenge for Jimmy was the food. Or rather, the lack of it.
Jimmy isn’t fussy about food and will eat anything that is put in front of him, laughing that he has “eaten some pretty questionable things” as a result.
“I eat anything. I don’t like tomatoes much, but I would even give those a roll if I got hungry enough,” he admits.
So, while the prospect of having to chow down on whatever he could find in the bush didn’t bother him, he struggled with not being able to graze on snacks throughout the day like he does when he’s at home.
“That would actually probably been one of the hardest things apart from the camera work,” he laughs of going hungry.
As such, the thing Jimmy most looked forward to after his Alone adventure drew to a close, wasn’t being reunited with his loved ones – it was sitting down to a decent meal.
“I remember getting in the car [to leave] and all the crew had dinner [waiting] and they had like roast lamb, pumpkin, gravy and potatoes. It was so good,” he says, lips smacking together with relish at the memory.
Despite hunger, the wildlife encounters and the unpredictable weather, Jimmy and Gina enjoyed their experiences and are looking forward to seeing how
everybody in the competition fared. The entire group met just once before setting off on their individual adventures on a “boot camp” to learn how to operate the camera and ensure their first aid skills were up-to-date.
“I wouldn’t say there was any fierce competition between us,” Jimmy says of the 10 participants.
“Most of us signed up because we thought it would be a fun experience. I am looking forward to watching it though to see how the others went.”
While the experience was a test of endurance, Jimmy would have no qualms about doing it all again.
He does, however, baulk at the idea of trying his luck on the spin-off format Naked & Alone, which sees competitors brave the wild sans clothing.
“I definitely won’t be doing that,” he laughs.
Alone Australia, premieres Wednesday, 7.30pm, SBS and SBS On Demand
Gina: “I love being outside. I love feeling what happens when there’s wind on my skin and being able to tell when weather is arriving, because I’m feeling the environment rather than having to watch it on TV.”