Ever wondered what it's like for the everyday people who join the cast of TV phenomenon Survivor? Winner of the first New Zealand series, Avi Duckor-Jones, opens his diary from 40 days in Nicaragua.

Day 1

I write this from a small wooden table, overlooking the beach in San Juan Del Sur. I have a strong cup of coffee, some fruit and some toast. I hope this will be the last time I will be sitting here with such things for another 39 days.

I hope this journal becomes filled with notes on hunger, despair, joy, celebration, excitement, strategy, and an ever-growing excitement as I inch towards the end.

I can't pretend I am not nervous. However, what can I do but move forward as best I can and treat every day as its own small universe? Win challenges. Be kind. Treat people well. Don't hustle unless necessary.

Advertisement

Today, I am going to surround myself with friends, and ask that we support and help each other to the end.

As we head into the jungle, I have an overwhelming sensation of complete happiness with my life. Such adventures. I'm pretty sure that if and when I rest my weary head, I will be content with how I've chosen to spend my days.

Day 2

Last night was rough. Yesterday was rough. This whole thing, it seems, is going to be much rougher than I could have expected. It's only day two, and beyond all the scheming and the awful feeling of voting someone out, the actual survival element has reared its head already and we've barely dipped a toe into the game.

Last night a storm raged through. I feel dehydrated. I had a bite of squashed banana for dinner. We still have no shelter and no fire.

Last night as it rained, I lay out on the beach, soaking and shivering, simply waiting for daytime to arrive. Suddenly, it all felt extremely real.

Day 3

Everyone is still asleep. I've walked down the beach and now sit on the rocks reflecting on possible strategies.

It's starting to feel a little more like home here. The cliffs are more familiar, and the camp has started to take shape.

Pelicans are dive bombing out to sea, and I can imagine the shoals of fish swimming beneath it, frustratingly unattainable for now.

Avi and the Mogoton tribe walking to camp in Episode 1. Photo / TVNZ
Avi and the Mogoton tribe walking to camp in Episode 1. Photo / TVNZ

I don't want to lie. I believe there is a way I can forge ahead through this game by navigating the relatively murky waters one day at a time. My mind, though, is consumed with the game. I'm constantly evaluating possibilities, questioning allegiances, figuring out all the possible options.

Is it possible to enjoy this? I wonder if I can enjoy moments of simply being here, without the constant paranoia or strategy banging around in my head.

I want to look out at that small island, and those pelicans, and that long thin strip of misty headlands (which is potentially Costa Rica, if I have my geography right?) and truly be here.

Hopefully, in the coming weeks, I will be able to swim without the fear of hushed conversations, or roam around the rocks without fear of plots against me.

Day 11

Mornings are often the hardest here. Simply knowing there is an entire day ahead is an exhausting thought in itself.

The past few days have been scorching hot and a sort of lethargy has descended on us. My body is starting to feel unreliable and unfamiliar. Head rushes upon standing. Weakness in the legs.

This stretch of coast is getting smaller and smaller. I'm looking across the sea to Costa Rica and all I can think of is the freedom of movement.

Tourists over there have their surfboards in the back of a truck. They can stop at coves to check the swell, then drive back into town for a beer and plate of nachos before they decide where to sleep for the night.

Avi (in orange) competes in a challenge in episode 4. Photo / TVNZ
Avi (in orange) competes in a challenge in episode 4. Photo / TVNZ

Freedom of movement. It is something I haven't thought about before.

Day 13

I won an epic challenge against Lee, of all people, which is huge for me, since I consider him to be one of the strongest players in this game.

This was the moment I have been waiting for: a moment of triumph, where I left it all out there and gave it everything I had.

We came back to camp, had the coffee and chocolate reward, unfurled our new matresses, strung up the hammock, and all went swimming together.

I bodysurfed, laughing hard, feeling so happy, content, and proud. I also felt safe - something I know is dangerous in this game. For now, in the company of Nate, Barb and of course my main man, Sala, I feel protected.

However, I know that the looming merge will change all of that.

Day 16

It's early morning. I'm sitting by the small fire, heating up some water while the others sleep. Last night, I lay awake, my mind churning with thoughts of the game.

It is all-consuming some nights.

Most likely, immunity will be up for grabs today. I hope we win it to keep Shannon, but then if Mogaton wins, Shay is bound to be sent home, so there are no great options.
I'm feeling strangely happy.

I am no longer hungry, uncomfortable, or homesick. I've stopped missing things. There are no cravings. This is starting to feel like it is my life now.

Avi votes at tribal council in episode 6. Photo / TVNZ
Avi votes at tribal council in episode 6. Photo / TVNZ

Being hungry and paranoid is the norm, and what a strange place that is to live in.

Day 18

Our first morning waking up as a merged tribe. There is definitely a strange feeling in the air. A sort of tension or trepidation.

Scrambling has begun and I am anxious for the next tribal council just to get the ball rolling.

I have come out to the rocks to write and come up with my plan for the day. Talk to everyone. Make sure I am part of every single plan. Keep my name out of people's mouths. Connect.

Day 21

The days are moving. They must be. The tide goes out and comes in, and light shifts. Time must be moving.

Some days it feels as though it has stopped, and I am stuck in some strange freeze-frame. Three weeks. I'm not sure if I have given enough credence to how long that is. There are now eight people left in this game, which is half the amount we started with.

Perhaps someday I will come back to this beach. I wonder what emotion will be attached to it? Regret? A sort of nostalgic sadness?

We'll see.

I suppose all I have to do is to keep playing how I have been playing.

Just remember: treat people well. Be kind. Be present. Don't get ahead of yourself. Take each day as the challenge and accomplishment that it is. Most importantly, just be yourself.

That seems to be working so far, for some reason. Haha.

Day 23

This game is testing me in a way I never thought it would.

These long, empty days are weighing so heavily on me. I feel as though I am losing my patience so quickly, and getting increasingly frustrated at every small thing.

Today, I found myself actually pacing around camp. I will attempt to reconnect with the tribe in a light-hearted way today after my moody silence this morning.

The new merged Casar tribe in episode 9. Photo / TVNZ
The new merged Casar tribe in episode 9. Photo / TVNZ

Thank God for the well. It has become my place of solace and peace here. I can go here and simply breathe.

Today, when it all became a bit much I went to the well and there in the trees was the national bird of Nicaragua, with its long blue tail and a rusty blush on its downy chest. Its head and beak similar to a kingfisher.

We just stayed looking at each other and for some reason, I knew in that moment, that everything would be okay.

Day 25

I am so insanely mad. Sala got voted out last night in a complete blindside. I have been told that I'm next. I've never felt so betrayed. So lonely.

I have spent the day by myself, roaming around, soaking wet, keeping the fire going, collecting wood, searching rock pools for crayfish, fishing, anything to stay out of camp and away from these people.

I get it, too. I know Sala was a huge threat to win this. I just didn't expect to feel so betrayed and powerless. All I can do is fight with everything I have to stay alive in this game. It's not over yet.

Day 28

Four weeks. I have been out here four weeks. It is hard to believe there are only 12 days left until the end of the game. It is so close I can start to see it, although it remains hazy.

I know that all my cravings: nachos and beer, solace, showers and sheets, freedom of movement, books, are just around the corner, making me miss them less as a result.

Tom, Avi and Sala compete in a challenge. Photo / TVNZ
Tom, Avi and Sala compete in a challenge. Photo / TVNZ

Today I felt embarrassed, disappointed, desperate, nervous, resigned, anxious, frustrated, paranoid and a million other sub-emotions.

I am so hungry, and this strange, deceitful game is really taking its toll.

Everyone is scrambling as we prepare for tribal council. At the moment, no one trusts anyone and everyone is scrambling like crazy.

Even now I can see Nate talking with Shay and Shannon, and I have no idea what they are talking about, and if what they will relay back to me will be true.

Suddenly, a spot on the jury doesn't look too bad. But I know, I didn't come here for a holiday. All things will be available to me once I have made it to the final three and pleaded my case. I will not stop fighting, not until the end.

As all these conversations bubble away, I will make sure I am a part of everyone's plan. Here goes, we'll see what happens tonight.

Day 32

Last night was a terrible sleep.

It rained and we were all tangled up in the shelter, bamboo jutting into my ribs and hips.

Knowing that there are only eight days left, I have become hyper-aware of just how uncomfortable, dirty and hungry I am. My throat is sore, I have a million mouth ulcers, feeling filthy and unhygienic.

Malnourished, weak and tired. It's as if by simply knowing how close to the end I am, I can suddenly realise and acknowledge how I am actually feeling.

Avi and Tom (R) compete in a challenge in episode 16. Photo / TVNZ
Avi and Tom (R) compete in a challenge in episode 16. Photo / TVNZ

Perhaps I have been feeling these things for the entire game, but haven't allowed myself to acknowledge them until now.

Day 38

I won the final immunity challenge and have earned a spot in the final three. I will be going to the end of this game, and I haven't quite processed it all yet.

I won. And I didn't just win, but I had to dig deep and give it everything I had.

I fought with myself and worked through the pain.

Now I know what I am capable of and it is far more that I thought. Now I know I can win.

Day 39

It is the final day on Survivor and I have come as far as I can go in this game.

It is still early morning, the horizon still pink and hazy. There isn't a breath of wind and clean waves are rolling in as if in slow motion. The sand is still cool.

I am not sure what I feel. Relief. Shock. Happiness. Pride.

And then, of course, trepidation for tonight. I am just so happy to have made it and to have achieved this goal. What a dream, a dream fulfilled.