Manitoba man survives 78 days alone in wilderness to win game show, $500K prize

Juan Pablo Quiñonez spent 78 days alone in the wilderness to win half a million dollars as the last person standing on the game show “Alone.” As Mark Neufeld reports, the money will help Quiñonez build a new homestead with his fiancé.

By Mark Neufeld

Could you survive 78 days alone in the wilderness?

Well, that’s what one man from Manitoba did. And when he finally emerged from the forest, he stepped out of the woods half a million dollars richer.

“It was like jumping into the abyss, but it was one of the most exciting moments of my life for sure,” said Juan Pablo Quiñonez.

Quiñonez is an outdoor survival specialist and the most recent winner of the wilderness survival game show “Alone.” He was the last person standing out of 10 contestants, pitting their skills against nature in the rugged, harsh landscape of Northeastern Labrador.

“I wanted to test myself, to see how far I can take my mind and my body,” he said.

Manitoba survivalist Juan Pablo Quinonez. (Credit: Facebook/Juan Pablo Quinonez)

Quiñonez is the first Latino winner of “Alone.” He grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, but now lives in Pinawa, about 130 kilometres east of Winnipeg.

He says spending time alone in the forest during Manitoba’s hot summers and cold winters helped prepare him for some of the mental and physical obstacles he needed to overcome to outlast his competitors.

“I’m very lucky to live in Manitoba where we have access to really remote wilderness,” he said. “It’s quite accessible by canoe or you can sled in, so I’ve taken advantage of that, and I’ve had lots of outdoor experience here in Manitoba.”

Went 11 days without eating, lost 70 lbs.

Before the show, Quiñonez spent 100 days in the forest during wintertime catching fish and grouse, honing skills he put to use during the competition.

He also gained 60 pounds by drinking a gallon of milk and 350 millilitres of olive oil every day to build up his body’s fat reserves in case finding food in the wild became difficult.

Quiñonez in the end lost 70 pounds during his time in the bush.

“I know that having some fat is an advantage in the cold, just because it’s insulation, and also fat is energy so I know that it was advantageous for me to have some fat,” he said. “So I’m like you know what, I’m just going to gain as much as a I can.”

It ended up being part of the game-winning strategy says Quiñonez, who at one point during his time in the wild went 11 days without eating anything – drinking only water to survive.

‘Very rewarding’ experience, says Quiñonez

The survivalist says there were many bears in the wild with him, and his mind would flip back and forth between wanting to avoid the dangerous predators or seek them out to kill one and eat it. He never did shoot a bear with his bow and arrow.

Quiñonez says, unexpectedly, sleeping was one of the most difficult aspects of his time in nature. However, he was also surprised to discover true happiness in the depths of his struggle to survive.

“That was very interesting to me, to just have these peak flow moments and realize like, oh wow if you struggle hard and you’re really engaged it can be very rewarding,” he said.

After winning the show and becoming $500,000 richer, Quiñonez proposed to his long-time girlfriend and finished a new survival book called “Thrive,” drawing from his experiences in nature before and after the competition.

Quiñonez says he plans on building a new homestead with the money he won.

“I want to start a community and I want to live as close as possible to nature.”

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