I may be some time...
During the making of BIRDS OF PARADISE: THE ULTIMATE QUEST I made – by chance – an extraordinary discovery. The Yaifo, a band of people I made first outside contact with some 30 years ago, are still living in the remote Central Range of PNG. Furthermore, no outsider has made the journey to visit them since the rather perilous journey I made as a young man three decades ago. This would make them the remotest people in Papua New Guinea, and one of the last people on the entire planet who are out-of-contact with our interconnected world.
In October I'm hiring a helicopter to drop me off at the abandoned mission station, Bisorio – a forlorn place that was featured briefly on the BBC programme. If – and only if – it seems ethical, I'll try to assemble a small party, as I did all those years ago, and head off up-slope into the mists to visit the Yaifo in their remote abode. The aim is to create a brief record of their lives, if possible tracking down some of those, such as Fifi (pictured playing with a makeshift pig's bladder ball) who'd remember me. Last time (see The Proving Grounds), the Yaifo "greeted" me with a terrifying show of strength, an energetic dance featuring their bows and arrows.
On THIS occasion who knows if the Yaifo will do the same, or run off, or be wearing jeans and T shirts traded eons ago from the old mission station. But of course I may not even make it there – even aged 26 it was a very hard hike up through rather treacherous terrain.
Nor do I have an obvious means of returning to the Outside World, which is somewhat worrying, especially at my advanced age. Either I must paddle down river for a week or so – or enlist the help of the Yaifo, as I did last time; together we managed to achieve the only recorded crossing of the Central Range. So, if this website or my Twitter account falls more than usually silent – I'm due back mid. Nov – it's because I am still out there somewhere.
So, don't bother to call or text! Just like the good old days, I won't be taking a sat phone, GPS or companion. Or anything else much. Because this is how I do my journeys of exploration. I grow older but no wiser, it seems...
Two dates added to the RGS Tour!
Coming to Swindon soon!
Tues 2nd May, as part of the Swindon Festival of Literature, Wyvern Theatre
BENEDICT ALLEN – with an illustrated talk on Birds of Paradise: the Ultimate Quest, my recent BBC Two programme with Security Correspondent Frank Gardner
One man had a dream, to see Birds of Paradise in a remote cloud forest in Papua New Guinea. But before he had the opportunity to do so, he was shot by terrorists, and lost the use of his legs. By chance, he met another man, who not only had full use of his legs but also knew where the fabulous fabled birds were, because he'd been there, thirty years before. But getting to the birds, over inhospitable terrain and through wooded and mountainous tribal territories with a man in a wheelchair, was not going to be easy.
Tour of the UK!
Following the success of the two-part series BIRDS OF PARADISE: The Ultimate Quest (presently on BBC iPlayer) – I'm doing a series of lectures, as part of the RGS Regional Programme for 2017:
Adventures in Paradise:
With his usual good humour and enthusiasm, Benedict reveals the full story of his dramatic return to Papua New Guinea (recently featured in an inspiring BBC Two series) – through the swamps with wheelchair-bound Frank Gardner, the distinguished Security Correspondent, in search of the island's elusive birds of Paradise.
Please contact the above theatres for further details.
Special Stage Appearance with Frank Gardner
Special Stage Appearance with Frank Gardner: at the RGS on 1st October as part of the STEPPES TRAVEL FESTIVAL weekend.
Upcoming TV Series: Fresh off the press!!!!
Announcing the broadcast of the new telly series on BBC Two, 9pm on Friday 3rd and Friday 10th Feb:
Birds of Paradise:
the Ultimate Quest
Being the adventures and Frank Gardner and myself, as we together struggled through swamp, lake and forest to seek out Birds of Paradise in PNG. It wasn't easy! Hope you enjoy the two programmes...