Currently I’m reading a book that I heartily recommend and will review in full at some future point. Eric Hanson’s Stranger in the Forest (on foot across Borneo) is remarkably good for many reasons.

One small one that I enjoyed is that I learned something, actually two things. First, that you can create fire from bamboo. Now I have seen on TV people using bamboo to make a “fire plough” but I have never seen, or even heard of making a fire using bamboo and flint. Flint?!

You don’t believe me? This is the excerpt.

“Bo ‘Hok showed me how fire was made before the Penan discovered Bic lighters. He cut a two foot length of green bamboo with his parang and from his tin tobacco box produced a smallish flake of flint. He called it batu api, the fire rock. Holding the flint and a thin mat of tinder between his thumb and first two finger-tips, Bo ‘Hok vigorously struck the smooth surface of the bamboo at an oblique angle. To my astonishment sparks appeared. The tinder soon glowed red in patches and was then placed into a prepared handful of dried fibrous sago bark mixed with ash from burned leaves. This mixture, he explained, was tidak takoot angin, not afraid of the wind. Bo ‘Hok added wood shavings, blew two or three times, and within seconds we had fire,”

As someone who manged to light a fire using flint and steel for the first time last year (that’s flint and STEEL! STEEL, not bamboo. And another thing – it wasn’t exactly simple) I find this astounding. I just can’t see how this works.

Using burned (or part burned) leaves as part of a tinder bundle is also something I’ve never come across either. It makes sense though. Fire dogs (part burned logs) are quick to take when lighting a fire and something we put at the centre of a new fire at home. When we go to a campsite that has fire pits one of the first jobs, once we’ve set the tent up is to go scavenging around old fires for any fire dogs.

Using leaves like this is something I plan to try out soon.