The real secret to lighting a fire (it’s not what Ray Mears would say)

‘It’s going to go out, it’s going to go out, it’s going to… Oh bugger It’s gone out.’ I slouch backwards and sigh.

Faye and I are sat outside our tents around our MSR Whisperlite stove willing it not to die on us. Our green soup cups are half-filled with dried mashed potato flakes, cold cut up sausages lay dormant on the upturned soup cup lids, and a slab of cheese has been delicately carved into chunks – patiently waiting to be plunged into a steaming pile of mashed potato.

Alas, there sits the water in the pan, cold still, over a flame that simply will not stay lit. We unscrew the red petrol canister and peer inside. There seems to be rather a lot of ‘black stuff’ and so we conclude that the fuel will filled up with in Coyhaique must been of a less than ideal quality.

‘Owwww. I REALLY fancied mashed potato tonight’ says Faye, sitting back and staring at the now redundant camping stove.

‘We could just eat cheese and crackers?’ I proffer. Faye’s face tells me all I need to know about what she thinks of that idea. ‘How about a fire? We could probably do a fire..?’ I suggest.

‘Yes!’ Faye shouts, immediately leaping to her feet to collect firewood from the surrounding area. Although a fire tonight seems a wonderful idea, we know that in even attempting it we are taking on a huge challenge. It rained heavily last night, and therefore much of the potential firewood is just too damp for the pile. Still, girls’ gotta eat so we set about gathering up wood of all shapes and sizes, and begin our inferno attempt.

After constructing the usual woody wigwam (to make sure we allow oxygen to the flames) we make three attempts at starting the fire, but to no avail. On each attempt, where we would wish there to be an abundance of bright orange flames, we instead find plumes of black smoke. Smoke which is carried by the breeze into our eyes, leaving us with tears streaming down our faces and our hair infused with smoke.

By this point it is 9pm. We have been up since 6am, ridden 10km to catch a ferry, taken a 7 hour glacier tour (on which I nearly vommed), cycled a further 15km uphill to cross the Chilean border and we are just a little bit exhausted. Perhaps it is time to accept defeat.

We both sigh and sit back (once again) from the pile of charred, moist wood. I look again at our soup cups and the scattered assortment of meat and dairy.

‘I have a tampon!’ I sit bolt upright and shout suddenly.

‘You have a what?!’ Faye asks, seemingly confused by my sanitary confession.

‘A tampon. Let’s dunk the tampon in the petrol and use that as a firelighter?’

‘You, Mcnuff are a genius!!’

And so two tampons, a lot of smoke, and some careful fire tending later, Faye and I at last manage to boil some water. We pour it over our potato flakes at 9.30pm, gleefully mixing in the cheese and sausages before spooning the steaming mass into our pie holes and grinning at one another.

Faye and Anna 1, Nature: zero.

2 thoughts on “The real secret to lighting a fire (it’s not what Ray Mears would say)

    • Anna McNuff says:

      In the words of Alica Keys: ‘That girl is on fireeeee! That girl is on fire-eeee-eeeee….!’ I shall be writing to Lilets shortly to be sure they put a hazard warning on all packs. Cheers Al 🙂 x

      Like

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