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.
He begins in Libya - a country well off the tourist trail and torn apart by revolution, insurgents from the so-called Islamic State and western air strikes. Simon visits the Mediterranean city of Sirte, which has been the scene of heavy fighting. Here Simon witnesses some of the worst destruction he has ever seen, with entire neighbourhoods of the city completely flattened. He also visits the remains of Leptis Magna - one of the world's best-preserved Roman cities which many feared could fall into the hands of IS - and meets the young volunteers who risked their lives to protect it. Travelling west along north Africa's Mediterranean coast, Simon arrives in Tunisia, a country that - unlike its neighbour - has long been a tourist destination. He travels to the spectacular fortress village of Chenini, where houses were carved into the mountain by the Amazigh - better known as the Berbers. Today Berbers are a small minority in Tunisia, but Simon finds one man who is keeping the traditions alive by harnessing camel power to make olive oil and excavating rock by hand to build new Berber homes. From Tunisia, Simon boards the overnight ferry to the island famous as home to the mafia, Sicily. In recent years, a government crackdown and public rebellion has substantially weakened the mafia's grip on the island, but in the countryside there are worrying signs of a comeback. The mafia is trying to take advantage of rural Sicily's population decline, but Simon soon discovers that migrants and refugees who have traveled across the Mediterranean to Europe are finding new homes in Italy's emptying villages. Simon meets three inspiring sisters who - despite constant intimidation, including the skinning of their much-loved dog - are making a defiant stand against the mafia.
The seasoned traveller explores the South American country, beginning in the north-east - where Europeans first landed and grew rich on the profits from sugar and tobacco plantations run with slave labour. In Sao Luis, Michael finds out about a ceremony based on a 200-year-old tale before heading to the coastal lagoons of the Lencois Maranhenses National Park. Journeying inland, he gets a glimpse of the fast-disappearing world of old-style cowboys known as vaqueiros, has his fortune read by a Candomble priest and learns to drum with the Olodum cultural collective.
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.
Norway’s fjords are a little-known wilderness. Billions of herring darken the waters and orcas feast on the banquet. Salmon leap up waterfalls and colourful sea slugs glow in the deep. Diving below the surface, award-winning filmmaker Jan Haft reveals the extraordinary diversity of life hidden within the deep waters. It’s an intimate portrait of a unique landscape - in the dark, icy grip of winter, under the magical glow of the northern lights, and during the long polar nights of the midnight sun.
2018 • Travel
To really understand Rome, you must understand its people - or the mob, as they were known in ancient times. As Giorgio Locatelli and Andrew Graham-Dixon explore Italy's iconic capital, they are in search of the generations of ordinary Romans who have left their mark on the city's culture and gastronomy.
2018 • Travel
Joanna ends her 5,000 mile journey in the place where she was born, Srinagar in Kashmir. She starts off in the Ranthambhore National Park, where she hopes to spot a tiger in the wild. Meeting tiger conservationist Belinda Wright, Joanna witnesses the work of local NGO Tiger Watch, who are attempting to break a cycle of poaching and poverty through education. Home to over 18 million people, Delhi is a city of stark contrasts. The extreme differences are obvious when Joanna visits a homeless community - where 10,000 men live under a flyover - and visits the modern part of the city where she has a go at working in a hi-tech call centre. The final leg of her journey takes her north from Delhi to Dharamsala, where she is granted a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Joanna concludes her trip with a stay on a houseboat in Srinagar, as her parents did on honeymoon in 1941.