Off exploring again!! Sir Runulph Fiennes orders – and I obey
You might have noticed: I've been a recluse for a decade or more. But for a couple of years now, friends and fellow explorers have been telling me to stir my stumps and get out there again. Even my wife has been telling me to go and get lost somewhere! At the same time, there's been a welcome – if not exactly universal – swing back towards authentic adventure on the telly.
So, off to the jungle it is!
But which jungle exactly? Not the Amazon, actually, Sir Ranulph. Years ago, the BBC's Security Correspondent Frank Gardner told me that, having been shot in Saudi Arabia, one of his great regrets was that he'd never now see New Guinea's elusive Birds of Paradise. My mission, then: to help wheelchair-bound Frank through the swamps, thickets and formidable misty mountains to allow him to fulfil his goal.
But it's not as easy as it sounds!
I haven't been there for three decades. So the plan is that we track down the Niowra, the people on the Sepik who generously allowed me to go through their brutal "crocodile" initiation ceremony. My hope is that on my return the Niowra will help us through the lowlands and up to the Central Range, where – all those years ago – I made "first contact" with the Yaifo. At that time, the Yaifo were a small band of very agitated people – by way of a warning, they greeted me with a spectacularly colourful and scary dance. Actually, they turned out to be quite friendly – and really very kind to me, when you consider that their world was falling apart. At the time, there was a gold-rush in the region, and their lives – like so many lives of indigenous people – were falling apart. Thirty years on, I won't be a lone young "whiteman" but I'm hoping the Yaifo will help us find one or two of that most spectacular of creatures known as "Birds of Paradise"...
A frank Yaifo in his garden, 30 years ago
A Frank Gardner, today
We depart on 4th June – and the results will be shown in the Autumn on BBC Two.