The Tucker In Australia's Bush

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The Australian outback may test the survival skills of most Americans, but for one Australian, it is home - a friendly place in which to live, eat and sleep.

Known to almost all Australians as "the Bush Tucker Man," Les Hiddens has made his home there and spent a lifetime exploring the northern Australian wilderness as perhaps the ultimate survivor.

Like most folk heroes, he has symbols - his hat, his four-wheel drive and his music.

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"I look at myself as an educator, not an entertainer," says Hiddens, who has his own series on Australia's public TV. "I feel that what I'm doing is actually teaching Australians about Australia."

So what exactly is "Bush Tucker"?

Bush is what Aussies call the wilderness and tucker is slang term for food, so bush tucker is anything you can find to eat out there.

And is there a lot of tucker in the bush?

To the trained eye of an explorer, the Australian outback does provide a cornucopia of exotic goodies. Hiddens says that while "it's no Garden of Eden, I do see a lot of resources." Things like green ants, bush passion berries, tree bark and water lilies are all sources of protein for the hungry adventurer.

Much of what Hiddens knows comes from aboriginal teachings and personal experience as an army major who spent 10 years, searching and cataloguing items that would help soldiers in the field.

Vines make great rope and a bit of bait in twigs can help catch river prawns known as yabbies.

Much of what the "Bush Tucker Man" has learned comes from Australia s indigenous aboriginal people.

They're the ones who have thrived in the outback for centuries and they have passed down those survival tactics, from generation to generation. Over the years, Hiddens has gained their trust.

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"I'd visit this community here, then that one there, then that one..and I'd get a spread of information and ideas.. from the west to the Pacific coast," Hiddens says.

The key to their survival, he says, was a healthy respect for the land and its climate. While Survivor contestants struggle under the midday sun, the "Bush Tucker Man" rests - a simple energy-saving strategy.

"You' ve got to roll with the country. a lot of our early explorers didn't do that, and they quite often paid the ultimate price, too," Hiddens says of the dangers of ignoring messages of the the land.

Today, the "Bush Tucker Man" is a celebrity, because of his show, maps and books. And though he takes along a few more luxuries when exploring these days, Hiddens still prefers the quiet times in the wilderness he knows so well to the hustle and bustle of the city.

Survivor cast members, who are existing mainly on rice and water, would do well to follow the example of Hiddens and seek out what nature has to offer in the way of sustenance.

Like the aborigines, they could last a lifetime in the outback.

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