Life2theLimit survival challenge

Posted by Joe Starke on 18 January 2010

I recently returned from a trip to India (my first). After six months of working in Pakistan with the humanitarian organisation Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF) also known as Doctors Without Borders, I was really in need of a break. India proved to be an excellent choice and I thoroughly enjoyed my time, the highlight being an all too brief 2-day trek in the foothills of the Himalayas.

I left the land of the holy cow with some great memories, a few worthwhile photos and lots of goodwill for the people I met (both locals and fellow travellers). Unfortunately, I also left with a brewing bout of dysentery – a not unexpected parting gift perhaps – which had the audacity to fully declare itself half way through a 3-day airport transit experience. Not cool! And, to top it all off, after spending time in six airports and contortioned into the inadequately sized seats of 5 planes…they lost my luggage. Seriously!

Well, thanks to some antibiotics and some very helpful people at the lost baggage counter at Johannesburg International, I am now parasite-free and once again in possession of several plastic bags full of dirty laundry, a number of sharp objects and a 200ml bottle of shampoo – quite a relief I can tell you.

The whole episode caused me to reflect for while: what exactly happened to my luggage? I mean it was clearly tagged with a barcode that was (supposedly?) scanned multiple times as it moved through the bowels of planes and airports on its wending way. And yet, there was a period of several days during which its location was, apparently, completely unknown. The great Douglas Adams, one of my literary heroes, conjured up (in his book “The hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy”) a special planet where all the lost BIC pens go…mmmm…perhaps there is something similar for lost luggage? Maybe, the bags slip through a wormhole, landing (atop a mountain of other luggage of course) on the surface of some distant moon on the other side of the universe. They then hang there for a few days, playing scrabble or whatever bored rucksacks, wheeled Samsonites and Cellinis like to play and then, …POOF!… they pop back through the wormhole into our reality, onto some darkened luggage carousel in Timbuktu, Casablanca or Reykjavik and are (finally!) picked up by the scanners. Well, maybe, but probably not. More likely my bag was, for a brief time, the footrest of a tired security guard or the doorstop in a busy loading bay. Guess I’ll never really know.

What with one thought leading to another, these thoughts about luggage led me to some other thoughts about a different kind of luggage. In April this year, myself and 9 other adventurers will be taking part in the 30-day Life2theLimit survival challenge. Part of the challenge is deciding what to include in the 5-litre dry bag that we are each allowed to bring as our only source of provisions. So, what would you take to a tropical island if you knew you had to use it to help you survive for 30 days?

This is the question on the minds of all the participants, and we need your help. I mean, would you take sunscreen or a hat or, try and squeeze both in? Would you include bug repellent or choose rather to keep space for water purification tablets or spare batteries for your head torch? To join the debate, visit our forum at: and give us your tips and advice.

While you’re there, check out the rest of our site which details all that we are busy with. Particularly, we are hoping to raise funds for a number of different charities and we need your help there too.

I have had, for some time, a tendency to pack heavy. This continues to be a source of much hilarity for my friends, until they need something that I’ve brought which they’ve left behind that is. Anyway, I will have to adopt a rather more austere approach if I am going to comply with this 5-litre limit. A luggage conundrum indeed!

That then is my challenge for the next few months, along with trying to build up a protective tan, learning how to make fishing traps out of bamboo and how to recognise edible roots and leaves. What fun! Catch you later.

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