In December last year his latest programme, Charley Boorman’s Extreme Frontiers, aired taking a deeper look at the adventures available in Canada. Aspire was lucky enough to catch up with the man for whom the act of travelling is far more important than where you’re going.
Do you have a stand-out memory from your travels? Mongolia. I hadn’t expected it to be so difficult. It is the size of Europe and has just 400 miles of tarmac. We went from west to east with no sign posts, no roads and very tricky conditions causing one disaster after another. The producer, who was in a truck behind us, had a huge crash, Claudio’s (cameraman) bike broke down, it rained when it wasn’t supposed to. But it was a highlight of the series as it has such lovely people and a unique landscape.
Is it the challenge that makes a programme? Challenges are everywhere. In Canada you can get into trouble if you go out into the wilderness without being prepared. When you take a small aircraft they talk you through the sleeping bags, the axe and the survival equipment – not just the seatbelts.
Your adventures on the back of a motorbike brought in huge audiences – why were people so enthralled? When we did Long Way Round (with Ewan McGregor), essentially it was a good idea. Two mates on motorcycles having an adventure. We got lucky as people were looking for something different just when the show came out.
Much of your travel isn’t particularly comfortable and yet you have the money to travel in comfort – why do it the hard way? Most of the places we go don’t have comfort. Mongolia doesn’t have hotels. But being in somewhere like Tanzania in the middle of nowhere, pitching a tent and looking out over a herd of elephants or wildebeest with a blood-red sun dropping on an African sky – that’s an extraordinary luxury.
If you were just going on holiday, where would you go and why? I love skiing and so do my girls and my wife – for an out and out holiday it is difficult to beat.
Favourite and least favourite hotels? I took my girls to the Masai Mara in Kenya on safari and we were only about 50 metres away from the river so you could lie in your bath and watch the hippos in their bath. In Ethiopia, down near the Kenyan border we pulled into this hotel, which was so disgusting that I put my tent up in the room and kept my shoes on.
Have you had any travel nightmares? We have had lots of things go wrong on our journeys. Being stopped in Papua New Guinea by a roadblock by a load of guys with machetes demanding money was pretty bad. Ewan and I had a gun pulled on us by this guy with gold teeth and I did think that I was a goner.
What about other hairy moments? I was climbing Mount Fable in Alberta and I had never ever done any proper cliff climbing before. It was fine until I got to the top and had to walk along the ridge of the mountain with thousands of feet drop either side. The guide was walking along as if he was strolling down Piccadilly, while I was on all fours crawling. He was leading me like he was taking his dog for a walk.
What have you not yet done that is top of the list? Pretty much all of South America – I would love to follow in the ‘motorcycle tracks’ of Che Guevara.
Do you use an agent? Yes, for flights. I like to shop around for a deal and if I don’t like what they say I ring the hotel up and do my own research.
Do you think people in the UK are becoming more adventurous? More people are looking for adventure, which is fantastic. An ideal holiday is a week adventure then a beach for five days, which you appreciate much more. Anyone can do it. People can be afraid of countries but most of the places I have been to are wonderful and 99% of the people in the world are nice.
What is the new programme about? The programme Extreme Frontiers: Canada is different because rather than pop through many countries, we focus on one and get under the skin. We explored the extreme fun options and the frontiers within Canada. Hopefully people will walk away with a very different and inspired idea of Canada. It was fascinating to go from the east, which looks a little bit like Scotland, across to Quebec, then you get into the middle and have the prairies, the flatlands and the forests. Then you come across past Calgary and the amazing Rocky Mountains appear.
● Charley Boorman’s Extreme Frontiers: Canada is available on book and DVD from Amazon.co.uk
● For more information on Canada’s West please visit britishcolumbia.travel and travelalberta.com
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