Intrepid Journeys

Friday 31 July, 7.30pm

With six years of global travel on its passport, TV ONE’s much loved series Intrepid Journeys is still discovering challenging destinations well off the beaten track that will surprise and enthral viewers (starting tonight at 7.30pm).

This new season sees some far-flung adventures with comedian Rhys Darby talking to the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda’s jungle; netball hot shot Temepara George discovers India’s Darjeeling region is full of sights, sounds and tastes that pack a hell of a punch; Judy Bailey ends up working as a farm-hand on her journey through Argentina and Brazil; Musician Anika Moa invites herself to a Guatemalan wedding; Dancing With The Stars judge, Brendan Cole, hot-foots it to Vanuatu where he finds the facilities and hygiene not at all to his liking; rugby league legend Ruben Wiki volunteers himself for landmine destruction duty in Laos; and the first Intrepid traveller off the block, Fair Go host Kevin Milne.

Kevin Milne explores the Ukraine – a destination not exactly at the top of most people’s ‘to visit’ list, but one which won him over. “I left the country in love with its people, overawed by its colossal white frozen landscape, chilled by its -15C degrees days, and pleased that the bear I’d met didn’t eat me,” explains Milne.

Despite some recent health scares, Milne accepted the challenge of his Intrepid Journey. Rather than staying holed up at home on the couch, he decided to make the most of every chilly moment. “You’ll be stunned, as I was, at the frozen beauty of Ukraine in mid-winter,” says Milne. “The only ugly scene is when I disrobe and dunk myself, three times, in the icy Dnieper River on the religious feast-day of Advent,” he explains – he cleared the activity with his cardiologist and was slightly disappointed to be given the all clear. “For this, my sins were forgiven. But the viewer may not forgive me not keeping my clothes on,” he laughs.

Milne’s trip also involved a stop off at Chernobyl, but it wasn’t his proximity to radiation that disturbed him. “As I expected, the highlight of the journey was my day at Chernobyl. I found myself surprisingly close to the plant’s wrecked Reactor No 4, covered by what is clearly an inadequate concrete sarcophagus.

“I wasn’t emotionally affected by this ugly monument to scientific folly. But I was moved to tears when we visited the empty school in the abandoned city of Pripyat next to it,” he says. “All the little chairs, the coat-hangers with their numbers just like our littlies’ schools. The kids got out but it was largely too late. What of the lives of those who didn’t die – and the lives of their children? So, so sad.”

There were cultural highlights that helped balance out the bleak. “In the little western town of Kolymia, I thought it appropriate to make a Pavlova for our delightful hosts, given the Russian connection,” Milne says. “Once I got the pronunciation right, emphasis on the pav not the lova, they jumped with excitement. ‘Ah Anna Pavlova. We know. New Zealand created a national dish after her.’ Australia was never mentioned,” he laughs.

Travelling off the beaten track in the Ukraine is much like a step back into a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, he says. “In the impoverished, snow-bound rural areas around the Carpethian Mountains, we were surrounded by a medieval, peasant way of life, of a type I’ve never witnessed elsewhere. Within it was a cultural wealth, a richness of spirit; I’ve never seen either. We literally waded through the snow and knocked on cottage doors in order to see life inside. The owners’ generosity and hospitality didn’t seem compromised by either our strangeness, the language barrier, or our constantly rolling camera.”

Watch Kevin Milne’s two weeks in the snow-clad Ukraine on tonight’s first episode of Intrepid Journeys at 7.30pm on TV ONE.

Saturday 24 January, 7pm

The second series of Intrepid Journeys screens on TVNZ Family with another batch of globetrotters ready to ride rough-shod around the developing world in search of real adventures.

This week on Intrepid Journeys, actor Danielle Cormack spends time with Bedouins on her journey through Syria and Jordan, getting quite a different perspective on the people of the Middle East. Highlights of Cormack’s trip include the natural wonders of the Dead Sea and the man-made spectacular of Petra, the ancient city carved out of stone. She also visits the ruins of ancient Greek cities and even an intact castle used during the Crusades. “I’ve always wanted to float in the Dead Sea,” says Cormack. “It was so salty, like a tin of anchovies in one hit.”

Saturday 17 January, 7pm on TV6

The second series of Intrepid Journeys starts on TVNZ Family with another batch of globetrotters ready to ride rough-shod around the developing world in search of real adventures.

This series of Intrepid Journeys joins broadcaster Kerre Woodham as she almost conquers her claustrophobia while scouring the ruins of Angkor Watt in Cambodia. Mayor Tim Shadbolt attempts mountaineering in Borneo, while political satirist Jon Gadsby ventures beyond Western sanctions into the relatively closed country of Myanmar.

Designer Donald Grant Sunderland finds plenty of colourful architecture in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Former music maven, Karen Hay, checks out Morocco’s bazaars. Westie comedian, Ewen Gilmore, goes over Peru’s Machu Picchu with a fine-tooth comb as only a former stonemason can. Tom Scott tackles Mongolia, while actors Danielle Cormack and Katie Wolfe get a taste for the exceptional experiences that wait on our back doorstep in Asia.

Tonight on Intrepid Journeys Glen Osbourne travels to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan…

Being a former All Black and self-confessed outdoors bloke, Glen Osbourne’s Intrepid Journey, Tuesday 9.30pm on ONE, needed to serve up something physically testing in a place off the rugby-touring track. So he was offered a ticket to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan: “Two countries I never knew existed,” admits Osbourne.

After figuring out that they were part of the former Soviet Union, the state of the food started to worry him. For a man who likes his kai, having to do without good food was a major concern. “What worried me the most was getting food poisoning,” says Osbourne. “My wife thinks I’m a bit of a sissy when I get sick. I think I’m pretty tough but that’s only one man’s opinion.”

When the Soviet Union split apart in 1991, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan went out on their own as independent countries but Russian is still the main language. The Russian tongue was one of Osbourne’s main hurdles although he boasts has a way with languages. “I speak a little bit of English, a little bit of Maori, a little bit of Fijian and Samoan and a little bit of Japanese,” quips Osbourne.

Through his trip, Osbourne gets to soak up some truly cultural experiences – traditional wrestling with a man in his 80s; shopping for three wives; eagle hunting; watching a sheep fight; and getting beaten with sticks in the name of good health. It wasn’t stepping up to the plate to participate that challenged Osbourne, it was the bits in between. “The travelling. I hate sitting in one place, I like to be moving all the time. I’ve got be active, I don’t like just to sit,” he explains. “Those van trips, those hard trips, they just made me hoha, especially travelling seven hours one way, getting up the next day, then another four hours. That is definitely not what I like to do,” he says, adding his road trip was also over the bumpiest roads imaginable.

Travelling in a predominantly Muslim country was a first-time experience for Osbourne and given the reaction of friends, he wasn’t sure what kind of reception a Catholic lad from Wanganui would get. “All I knew about the trip was that all my mates were telling me I was going to get shot,” he says. “But the homestays were the pinnacles of my trip. I’ve learnt so much in the way of their culture and the way that they cook. I know how to make dumplings now, just by watching! It was interesting to see what my culture has to offer compared to theirs.”

Despite having travelled extensively during his pro-rugby playing days, the personal experience his Intrepid Journey offered up, made Osbourne realise there is more than one way to travel. “I travelled to so many countries in my rugby career and I suppose, it disappoints me the way that I’ve missed that opportunity in my younger days to experience so many beautiful things that I could’ve experienced,” he admits.

Tuesday 3 June, 9.30pm

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.”

Tuesday 20 May, 9.30pm

Norm Hewitt tracks down some forgotten head-hunting tribes in this week’s episode of Intrepid Journeys.

Norm Hewitt’s Intrepid Journey takes him to one of the last places on Earth where you can truly go back in time – Sarawak, home of Borneo’s head-hunting tribes. But even an ex-All Black can have reservations about tackling such a trip. “I’ve never been in the jungle before, so I was a bit nervous about that,” Hewitt admits. “Before I left home I threw a few extras into my pack. Just a few bits and pieces that could come in handy. A bloke can never be too prepared.”
Being prepared to head into the jungle delivered the kind of rewards most people only see in wildlife shows – like getting up close to the organ-utans only found in Borneo and Sumatra. “Just up to my right was a mother and a baby feeding. Over to my left the big plate-head male came down,” Hewitt recalls. “There are 50,000 orang-utans living wild in Borneo’s jungles, but they’re under pressure as they’re being squeezed out of their habitat by logging, mining and forest fires. It’s a real treat to see them without having to look through the bars of a cage. It’s just amazing to watch. A very, very cool experience.”

The wildlife certainly rolled out the welcome mat for Hewitt. He also enjoyed the company of the Probocus monkey, which is a rare experience indeed. “You won’t see any of these guys in any zoo around the world. For some reason they cannot survive in captivity, which made this experience even more special for me,” he says. “So cool, seeing them in their own environment.”

Getting to be so close to these kinds of animals gets the blood pumping but not nearly as much as the legends and legacy of Borneo’s head-hunter tribes. “Iban warfare was brutal and bloody – to the point of ethnic cleansing,” Hewitt explains. “They were fearless, and many extinct tribes were wiped out at the hands of the Iban. Thankfully, that was a long time ago.”

Given the bloody stories about their forebears, being told part of the trip involves staying in an Iban longhouse – the way the tribes now live – might seem like a scary prospect. But for Hewitt it was anything but that. He slotted into the daily routine and was keen to really help out. “It is their way of life, and to be able to have a small part of that experience is something that has touched me deeply.”

Tuesday 13 May, 9.30pm

Intrepid Journeys likes to serve up challenging travel – and since broadcaster Paul Holmes is at home dissecting the happenings in war zones and political hot spots, his trip called for another level of challenge. Sending him to Yemen certainly delivered.

Trouble at the border; trying to export a goat called Nigel back to New Zealand; and a mad drive through Al Qaeda country were just some of the moments in a trip that Holmes describes as a ‘revelation’.
Choosing such an edgy destination was a personal risk for Holmes, but – for viewers as well as the intrepid man himself – it allowed the chance to see Yemen’s stunning landscape, cultural routines and a different side of a country suffering from a serious image problem. “People said to me, ‘Where are you going to go?’ I’d say ‘Yemen’ and people go, ‘Oh gosh, are you going to be alright? The last tourists killed here were killed just a few months ago’,” points out Holmes.

Yemen is in the Middle East on the Arabian Peninsula and is one of the oldest centres of civilisation. It is an Islamic state so all laws are based on the Qur’an. “We think Al Qaeda, we think 9/11, and we think the USS Cole. My mother was very worried,” Holmes admits. “She sent me an email saying, ‘My God you’re going to be killed, be careful, be so careful!’ But the amazing thing is I cannot recall ever going to a friendlier country than this. Even people who are taken hostage, and a lot of people are taken hostage here, report that they’re treated beautifully by the people who have taken them hostage. So they’re welcoming even when they’re holding you prisoner. Fantastic.”

During his time on the ground, Holmes packs in a diverse itinerary. He befriends a goat called Nigel and decides to try and adopt him, suffers through several nights of uncomfortable camping, and even goes undercover to get a sense of daily life for the women in this culture. “You rarely see women, you never see their faces. You either see the fully covered head or you see just the eyes,” he says. “You never see men talking to women in the street.”

Holmes admits the travel wasn’t always easy, comfortable or smooth. Having missed a connecting flight back to the capital San’a, he had to brave a road trip across the Ma’rib desert. “They call it the empty quarter and it’s dangerous,” Holmes explains. Travel advisories put this area on the same warning level as Baghdad in terms of security risk so it is a road trip not to be taken lightly.

This Middle East adventure also had a serious brush with the law. The crew’s equipment was confiscated on arrival (a first for the Intrepid Journeys production team). “I’m thinking what a great start, I’ve been here half an hour and the camera has been confiscated,” Holmes says, “Welcome to Yemen.” His journey airs this week, Tuesday 9.30pm on ONE, thanks to his diplomatic negotiating to retrieve the equipment.

Tuesday 6 May, 9.30pm

In this week’s episode of Intrepid Journeys, Stephanie Tauevihi almost meets her match in a serious mountain adventure in Ladakh. In fact, she walks to such lengths she develops a blister with a personality of its own.

Ladakh is part of the Indian region of Jammu and Kashmir and only opened up to tourists in the mid 1970s making it something of an unspoilt gem for travellers. To get there, Tauevihi had to first brave Delhi, an extreme experience for someone who had never travelled beyond the Pacific. “Never travelled and bang I am in Delhi. I was completely overwhelmed,” she admits. “It’s an assault in every sense of the word, the smell, the heat, the people, the energy, it’s just huge.”

Tuesday 29 April, 9.30pm

Sri Lanka was once known as the island of ‘Serendipity’, a nice irony for Shane Cortese as that is what led to his Intrepid Journey there.

Cortese had to decide if he would travel to Sri Lanka in exactly 20 minutes. The crew were checking in at Auckland Airport when they got word their Intrepid traveller, Dominic Bowden, wouldn’t be able to make it. So a call went out to Cortese and he answered. “I had no time to think about it at all,” he admits, “and this is out of my comfort zone. Even though I have done a little bit of travelling in my time, I am a total luxury traveller.”
Cortese caught the next flight to meet the crew in Sri Lanka but leaving so quickly meant no time to prepare, mentally or physically. “Being away from my partner Nerida and new-born son Kees was a challenge for me, so a power adapter for the cell phone was first on my shopping list, closely followed by a mosquito net to keep out God-knows-what that might bite.”

Sri Lanka, a small island off the tip of Southern India, is about half the size of the South Island. It has had more than its share of tragedy, sadness and turmoil. The tsunami in 2005 left a trail of destruction down the South Coast and the Tamil Tigers use frequent suicide bombings on buses and trains to keep a strangle-hold on the population. Knowing little about the country’s history meant Cortese was initially quite unnerved. “From the moment we left the airport there was a really strong military presence,” he says. “They’re all standing on the side of the road with sub machine guns and everything like that.”

The military hardware didn’t stop Cortese from soaking up the sights, tastes and experiences on hand like helping with the tea harvest, holding a deadly snake and braving hot, hot spicy food. Strangely, it was upon meeting his favourite animal – the Asian elephant – in its natural habitat that things became touch and go. Unfortunately, the elephants weren’t as pleased to see Cortese as he was to see them – charging his vehicle several times. “If she’d taken another three steps I could have touched her trunk, she was that close,” marvels Cortese. “That is just the closest I’ve ever been to an elephant.”

Surviving several elephant charges wasn’t the only thing to be celebrated. Cortese had his birthday while on the trip and he marked it with 16km hike and some very suspect beverages. “Of course, the thing about walking 16 kilometres into a valley is that you have to walk 16ks out of the valley,” Cortese points out. “On the way I came to a village that was on day three of a Hindu festival. The party fuel was illegal Arak. It’s a moonshine alcohol made from coconuts, barbed wire and rusty nails,” Cortese laughs.

Having survived and even enjoyed two weeks of confronting travel and culture clash, Cortese admits this travel affected him in ways he didn’t expect. “I’ve been away for months at a time and it hasn’t really worried me at all, but this time it was different,” he admits. “My heart’s different, my stomach’s different, because I’ve never had to leave a child at home before. But it was the most incredible experience and it’s going to make fantastic stories to tell Kees one day.”

Tuesday 22 April, 9.30pm

New Zealand’s most-loved and longest-running travel programme, Intrepid Journeys returns with a fresh crop of prominent Kiwis and out-of-the-way destinations.

“We’ve been to some amazing places with this series,” says series producer Dean Cornish. “From the depths of the ‘forbidden quarter’ in Yemen’s Marib Desert, to the heights of a volcanic cone in the Colombian jungle, our presenters have experienced the lot. There have been some stunning moments, some real challenges and a few tears – and what we’ve come back with is a series that will show our viewers some truly unique parts of the world. You’ll also see new sides of some well-known New Zealand personalities.”
Veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes straps on a backpack for this series of Intrepid Journeys, along with All Blacks Norm Hewitt and Glen Osborne, as well as former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley.

“We’d always wanted to get a prime minister on the programme,” says Cornish, “and after quite a few coffees and conversations we managed to convince Jenny to come along. She didn’t quite get to sport the full backpack, she had one of those wheelie bags… but it was great that she joined us in Namibia, and she had a wonderful time. It’s an amazing country.”

Namibia, although an exotic destination, is at the tamer end of the scale for Intrepid Journeys this season. The programme has travelled to some of the world’s real hot spots. Parts of Yemen where Paul Holmes travelled have the same security rating as Baghdad. Yemeni, Sri Lankan and Colombian citizens live with the daily threat of mayhem and terrorism, and so did Intrepid Journeys crews and presenters during the filming of this series.

“We don’t purposely go out and find dangerous places,” says Cornish, “but we do purposely try and find places that haven’t been seen on television a lot – if at all. As Intrepid Journeys is in its fifth series, some of the destinations are getting edgier – and it’s great that our presenters and crew are prepared to go along with some of the suggestions. The episodes in this series are true adventures.”

In the first episode, Pam Corkery is shot at point-blank range with a 9mm pistol – a real first for the series. The gunman was a high-fashion bulletproof jacket-maker from Bogota – although Pam still sported a mighty bruise. “The series starts with a lot of crazy things happening to Pam in Colombia,” says Cornish, “and it rollicks on from there.”