Simon travels the length of California. He climbs to the top of one of the world's tallest trees, and meets the fire crews tasked with tackling the ever-present danger of wildfires, a growing threat given the state's changing climate and chronic shortage of water. He also meets street doctors providing much-needed medical support to people living in extreme poverty and visits a city on the desert for Americans who have dropped out of the rat race entirely.
This special episode sees Michael revisit his fifth travel series – Himalaya. For Michael, this epic journey across the world’s highest mountain range is the fulfilment of boyhood dreams inspired by the 1953 ascent of Everest by Hillary and Tensing. Beginning in the famous Khyber Pass, he travels through Pakistan and India and ascends into Nepal and Tibet to reach Everest base camp itself, before venturing into the mountain kingdom of Bhutan. But Michael’s journey isn’t all about scaling peaks – it’s also about finding out what life is like for the people who live in some of the harshest environments on Earth. He is curious to see countries that were cut off by the mountains for centuries and that have developed their own distinct cultures and ways of survival, to discover the different ways that religion influences society here, and to meet the hardy inhabitants of the mountains.
2020 • Travel
The final leg of Ade's tour of Africa sees him travelling from the beaches of Mozambique, through South Africa, before ending his entire trip in Zimbabwe. He begins on the golden sand beaches of Mozambique's Bazaruto Archipelago, one of Africa's highlights. At Paradise Island, he finds an abandoned hotel, a visual reminder of Mozambique's recent history - this place was once a high-end tourist destination, but 25 years of colonial and then civil war put a stop to development. But the local wildlife has benefited from the fact that so few tourists now come here, and Ade is able to snorkel with one of the world's most elusive sea creatures - a dugong. Since the wars, Mozambique has struggled to develop, and Ade meets someone for whom life is especially hard – a wheelchair user like himself. In a country where disability is viewed with fear and superstition – and believed by many to be contagious – even catching a bus proves impossible for Castigo. The best thing in his life is exactly the same thing that turned Ade's life around - wheelchair basketball - and Ade can't help getting carried away in a game. Along the coast, at one of Mozambique's largest ports, Ade finds out that China is investing a huge amount in Mozambique – and elsewhere across Africa. The money often comes with strings attached, but a poor country like Mozambique needs financial help, which has to come from somewhere. Ade's next stop is South Africa. The country is famous for its wildlife but Ade hears how Chinese influence is having a dramatic impact here – the country's rhino population has been decimated by poachers, driven by a demand for rhino horn in Chinese medicine. Ade follows rangers with a surprising way of tackling the problem - by cutting off the rhino horn themselves, they hope to deter poachers. Ade travels to Johannesburg to see how the country is faring 25 years after apartheid ended. On a tour of the city, he is upset to discover that although the black population now have voting rights, they are living in an economic form of apartheid, with 25% unemployed and many squatting on whatever land they can find. In an emotional scene, Ade visits a squatted piece of land, moments after the police have destroyed people's houses, to hear claims that Mandela's legacy has been forgotten. Land reform is the big political issue here today, with many calling for a redistribution of land from rich white farmers to the black population. The final stop on Ade's African adventure is Zimbabwe – where land reform has already happened, with disastrous results. Ade finds a country still struggling economically. His first stop is the Kariba dam, and a hair-raising boat ride on the vast and stunning Lake Kariba. Ade finds that locals are worried about the stability of the Kariba dam and work has begun to stabilize undermined foundations. The worrying decay of this crucial dam is a sign of how much this country suffered under the rule of Robert Mugabe. As Ade has seen so often on his trip around Africa, Zimbabwe is a country that should be rich. It has huge quantities of gold – enough, in theory, for the entire population to be a millionaire. But there isn't the infrastructure of investment to get at it - in a country dogged by poverty and corruption. But the departure of dictator Robert Mugabe brought a new optimism, and Ade meets gold miners who are willing to risk daily exposure to toxic mercury for every scrap of gold they can get and an entrepreneur who believes the industry can be transformed. Despite the return of violence and repression in Zimbabwe, Ade ends his journey on a high, visiting a remote hut that has been turned into the set of a music video. He joins UK indie musician Shingai Shoniwa as she shoots the video for her forthcoming debut single, Coming Home, in a country that she believes is on the up, and deserves a fresh chance.
He explores how the artistic life of three Japanese cities shaped the country's attitudes to past and present, east and west, and helped forge the very idea of Japan itself. In Kyoto, James reveals how the flowering of classical culture produced many treasures of Japanese art, including The Tale of Genji, considered to be the first novel ever written. In Edo, where Tokyo now stands, a very different art form emerged, in the wood block prints of artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. James meets the artisans still creating these prints today, and discovers original works by a great master, Utamaro, who documented the so-called 'floating world'. In contemporary Tokyo, James discovers the darker side of Japan's urbanisation through the photographs of Daido Moriyama, and meets a founder of the Studio Ghibli, Isao Takahata, whose film Grave of the Fireflies helped establish anime as a powerful and serious art form.
The third leg of the adventurer's journey takes him from the south of Kenya to the Horn of Africa. Along the way he joins a Ugandan peace-keeping force in Mogadishu, the capital of war-torn Somalia, which turns out to be the most dangerous leg of his journey as he ends up under fire on the front line. In contrast, he finds neighbouring Somaliland a stable and democratic home to thousands of Somalis fleeing fighting and famine. In Kenya's Tana Delta, he meets villagers facing eviction from an area that the government is turning over to sugar cane production for bio-fuels.