Tuesday 27 May, 9.30pm
Former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley has travelled the world but never in an intrepid fashion – until now.
Having retired from politics to live a quieter life, Shipley let her heart rather than her head make the call on whether to take up the travel challenge. “I did ask myself, ‘What on earth am I doing allowing cameras back into my world?’” But she decided that it was just too good an opportunity to miss. And once the decision to sign on was out of the way, she faced a more pressing concern. “The other dilemma for a person like me is trying to get my packing done. I’ve never been too good at this and Burton amused himself enormously watching me pack and re-pack and re-pack,” Shipley admits.
Since leaving political life, Shipley has made her physical fitness a priority and this Intrepid Journey, (Tuesday, 9.30pm on TV ONE) offered a sand dune hike to test even the most devoted gym bunny. The plan sounded easy: to tackle dune 45 in the Namib Desert. On paper, it is hard to comprehend that is the biggest mound of steep red sand imaginable. “It reminds you that people are insignificant and that landscape and beyond really have their own story,” says Shipley. “You feel small but special being there.” The dune climb was hard graft but Shipley says the time at the gym paid off. “There have been times in my history when I couldn’t have done this. It was my Everest,” she reveals.
As a keen photographer, Namibia offered many once-in a-life-time snapping opportunities. Trying to capture a favourite animal in the wild was a huge part of the attraction of this trip for Shipley and her trophy shot was hard fought and won. “I had a day-long truck journey into the wild part of Namibia, the Etosha National Park,” says Shipley. “At twenty per cent of the size of the North Island, Etosha is big, but not too big for me to find the herd of elephants I’d been longing to photograph.”
Braving rough roads to travel to the Angola border allowed Shipley to meet the women of the Himba tribe and see how they are struggling to hold on to their culture as modern life and fashions affect their children. “In their very poor setting yet with their very rich culture, for them a busy life was just getting by,” she says.
Shipley was able to stay with local families in the small villages along the way for her Intrepid Journey. This put the cultural and circumstantial differences between New Zealand and Africa in perspective. “It makes you realise that many people on this Earth live intense daily lives and the reality of simply surviving is what preoccupies them,” says Shipley.
Leaving behind diplomatic-style travel had its pluses and minuses for Shipley. She admits the rough roads, long travel days and incessant dust did sap her spirit but not for long. The chance to immerse in authentic life in Africa offered such a rich experience that there was little that could really detract from it. And there was another bonus too. “I was able to drop the title and the history of who I am and be an ordinary person with dust in my hair and stones in my shoes and enjoy every aspect of it as just Jenny,” she reveals. “I liked that very much.”