Fiennes: Return to the Wild (2024) s01e01 Episode Script

Hell or High Water


[Joseph] I know Ran is there
looking at this terrible form.
He'll be watching my every move.
[Ran] Go left, Joe, go left!
[Joseph] Amazing.
I can see why Ran is driven
and addicted to this.
[Ran] He's doing so well.
[Joseph] I'm Joseph Fiennes,
and I'm in Western Canada
for a unique adventure.
As an actor, I've helped bring
fascinating stories to life.
But I'm here with someone
whose real-life journey
is more awe-inspiring than
anything I've encountered,
Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
He's the world's greatest
living explorer,
and he's my cousin,
known to me as Ran.
For much of my life,
he's been away exploring,
from the peak of Mount Everest
to the South Pole.
[Reporter] Fiennes emerged from
the Antarctic after 97 days
more dead than alive.
[Joseph] Five years ago,
I was able to fulfill a dream
by joining Ran
on an incredible adventure.
Together we retraced
his daring 1969 journey
up the river Nile.
Should we do a bet
to who gets there first?
[Ran] Well, all I can say,
Joe, is good luck.
[Joseph] May the best team win.
[Ran] Yeah, and I would hope
to see you again at some point.
[Joseph] It was
an opportunity for Ran and I
to forge a close bond.
You know why Cleopatra needed
a psychiatrist, don't you?
Because she was
the Queen of Denial.
[Ran] Ha, Queen of Denial.
[Joseph] Now we want
to do it all again,
to spend time together, travel
through beautiful landscapes,
and meet incredible people,
but this time following
Ran's pioneering 1971 trip
through the Canadian wilderness.
I can't wait to learn more about
the man behind the adventurer.
[Ran] You're a maestro.
[Joseph] It runs
in the family, then.
[Ran] Time goes by,
doesn't it?
[Joseph] It really
does, doesn't it?
So join me as I take on
the wilderness of Canada
with my cousin Ran,
the world's greatest
living explorer.
To the edge
but not over the edge?
[Ran] I can't promise. [laughs]

[Joseph] We're in
the Northwest Territories.
It was from here
that my cousin Ran
began his Canadian adventure
half a century ago.
And this handsome chap
is him, aged just 27.
[Ran] Captain Sir Ranulph
Royal Scots Greys.
Live is very short.
An active life is even shorter,
and so I think one wants to go
to as many different places
by as many different methods
of travel as possible.
[Joseph] Now, some
50 years later, he's back,
with me in tow, to explore this
beautiful region once again.
Our journey will lead us
through the ancestral lands
of Canada's indigenous people,
the First Nations,
who have called this region home
for over 10,000 years.
To respect this heritage,
Ran and I sought their
permission for our journey.
[Leader] I know that
you've come to our land
and you were here before.
And so today we are doing
a sunrise ceremony
for help for you
on the rest of your journey.
So in order for you
to connect to your ancestors
for your journey, we offer you
this sage to cleanse you
and bring your ancestors
to you to help you.
[Ran] Thank you
very much for everything.
[Leader] Thank you.
[Joseph] Not only are
we granted permission,
Gilbert Cazon of the Déné tribe
has offered to lead
a sunrise ceremony
to give thanks
and bless our journey.
[Gilbert] We ask for protection
for the people that travel
on your waters, on your land.
[Joseph] It was a lovely way
to start the trip.
I feel that I've sort of
keyed in in a way,
which I wouldn't
have ordinarily.
But as you're surrounded
by the wilderness,
you're also surrounded
by the knowledge, the culture,
and the spirituality
of the people,
the First Nations people,
so that was a real gift.

I'm taking the raven flyover
as a good omen.

To begin our journey,
we, too, get airborne.

This is my first chance
to get a sense of the vastness
of the wilderness below.

So difficult to comprehend
coming from
a tiny little island.
The scale is
something I'm just
trying to compute.
I mean, from up here
it all looks rather idyllic
and manageable but
I can't imagine what it's like
on the ground then.
All that's exactly correct.
And then you're cold
and wet as well.
And as for the mosquitoes
and midges
Well, that's no help.
And we hadn't expected it
to be that bad.
[Joseph] Across five decades,
Ran has relentlessly pushed the
boundaries of human endeavor.
[camera shutter clicks]
He was the first person to
surface circumnavigate the globe
via both the North
and South Pole,
a mammoth three-year expedition
that has never been repeated.
To honor this achievement,
in 1984, the Guinness Book
of Records named him
the greatest living explorer.
But back in 1971, having only
just left active army service,
Ran was keen to establish
himself as an explorer
and record breaker.
He set his sights on leading
the first recorded expedition
to transnavigate the rugged
terrain of British Columbia
by river, a journey
of 2,400 kilometers,
battling nature all the way.
Ran led a team of three,
all soldiers
from his old army regiment,
the Royal Scots Greys.
[Ran] Three soldiers and me,
and there was a BBC film crew
gonna go the whole way,
and they had a Royal
National Lifeboat Institution
policeman with them.
We would need fuel in remote
parts of British Columbia.
So Ginny, my late wife, became
the supplier with a Land Rover
and a trailer full
of jerricans of petrol
and one or two boxes of whiskey.
[Joseph] But before
the journey began,
it was here
in the Northwest Territories
on the South Nahanni River
that Ran and his team trained
for the grueling task ahead.
Three weeks of running rapids
were rewarded
by one of nature's
most breathtaking spectacles
the Virginia Falls
which is exactly
where we're heading now.
We're coming in to land, Ran.
I better buckle up.
The Déné people who first
saw these waterfalls
named them Nailicho,
literally "big water falling,"
and they certainly
live up to their name.
They are nearly twice the height
of the more famous Niagara Falls
and a perfect place
to begin our adventure.

I was expecting a little
bit more of an abrupt hit.
That was so smooth.
I think he might have
done it before.
Do you think
he's done it before?

[Joseph] We've landed upriver
from the Virginia Falls,
where the calm waters belie
the turbulence just beyond.
On Ran's original journey
up the South Nahanni River,
he and his team only got as far
as the foot of the waterfall.
[Ran] We desperately wanted,
because we're humans,
to see what it was like
from the top.
And we had been told that
it was possible to clamber up
the entire height of the cliffs.
We tried so hard,
but no way could we get
to the top and look down.
So very sad indeed back then,
but very happy because now
we can have a good look
at what we missed
all those years before.
[Joseph] So, Ran, 52 years
later, second attempt,
and you're finally at
the Nailicho-Virginia Falls.
How does it feel?
[Ran] It feels good,
but I have to say,
now that I've seen close-up
what it's like,
if we had known the rivers
were this powerful,
we wouldn't have done
this training run at all.
It put the crew frightened
of the river thereafter.
[Joseph] Yeah.
[Ran] But I have got
a surprise for you right now,
which is that
the Nahanni National Reserve
are gonna take us in their canoe
to the very edge
of the waterfall top.
[Joseph] To the edge
but not over the edge?
[Ran] Yeah.
[Joseph] Promise?
[Ran] I can't promise. [laughs]
I've reached the stage
where wisdom has crept in.
The intention is to survive.
[Joseph] Yeah, okay, very good.
On our journey,
Ran is eager to show me
the forces of nature
he was up against,
and I'm up for anything if it
means traveling with my cousin,
while we still can.
The main thought was
connecting with Ran again.
It's been a number
of years since Egypt.
I was eager and anxious that
he was in the best of health
and had the energy
to do this again.
In fact, he's got just
as much energy as I have,
but it's no mean feat
at 79 going on 80
to take on such a colossal trip.
There is a fragility
that comes with age.
So, I am thrilled at the chance
to join my intrepid cousin
as, after half a century, he
is back on the Nahanni River.
And it's fair to say
that he's earned the right
to take it easy this time round.
Ran is leaving Aidan, a guide
in the Nahanni National Park,
and me, to get on
with the paddling.
This is like the still quiet
before the crazy storm.
300 meters of rapids
before you hit
the 90-odd meters of sheer fall.
[Ran] Yeah.
It's taken such a long time
to get up here.
[Joseph] How comfortable
are we being so close here?
[Ran] There's
little bits of white.
Must be the beginning of that
300 meters you're talking about.
[Joseph] Yeah. I'm just
feeling the pull here
might be something we won't
be able to escape from.
That pull is serious,
one million liters
of water per second
thundering over a drop
of 96 meters.
As the pull gets stronger,
Ran makes the call,
and we head for the shore.
[Ran] Aidan, thank you very much
for a very comfortable journey.
No, no worries at all.
My pleasure.
Happy you're on the river again.

[Joseph] Standing
next to the falls,
I get a perfect view of the
power Ran witnessed in 1971.
Humbling and mesmerizing.
I can't imagine what Ran was
thinking at the age of 20-odd,
with his team of even
younger army members.
Sheer Mother Earth power.

[Joseph] Ran's record-breaking
journey in 1971
saw him travel south,
from British Columbia's
northern border with the Yukon,
heading for Vancouver.
The goal was to achieve
the first recorded crossing
of British Columbia
via interconnecting waterways.
To achieve this, his team
would have to fight nature
all the way, through dense
forests and challenging rivers.
Having done it all before,
Ran knows the dangers,
and given his age
and my inexperience,
we agree on a less dangerous
mode of transport
to recreate his epic
2,400-kilometer journey,
allowing me
plenty of time with Ran
to hear his fascinating stories.
What's the longest you've
stayed alone by yourself
on an expedition?
Unaccompanied and unassisted?
[Ran] The true answer
is I don't know,
but probably two and a half
months in Antarctica.
[Joseph] Wow!
As Ran and I breeze
down the Canadian highways
towards the Rocky Mountains,
we are traveling on a road
that cuts through
the majestic wilderness
that Ran had to battle
50-odd years ago.
So this is about the time,
a sort of dusk,
when some of the wildlife
does come out.
So I have to keep
my eyes peeled here.
The roadsides are like
not only highways for humans,
but they're also highways
for animals in many ways.
So, a lot of the time
when you're driving,
you get to encounter
the beauty right next to you.
And that was pretty stunning.
What do you remember
from your trip 50 years ago?
Do you remember any wildlife
on your adventures?
[Ran] Yes. I remember moose,
goats, mountain goats,
which were pretty much only
that part of the Rockies.
And in the bush
when we were lost
what we described as brown
bears, not black bears.
[Joseph] So did you
see them up close,
or did you make enough noise
that they weren't interested?
[Ran] It was close,
200, 300 yards away
in bush country, yeah.
[Joseph] If you are
lost over days,
you must have felt
exposed, right?
[Ran] That's right.
[Joseph] And then,
as though on cue
Wait a minute. Look,
do you see that up there?
About 200 meters up there?
[Ran] Yeah,
could well be a bear.
We shouldn't really get nearer
than about 100 meters away.
[Joseph] Okay,
so let's gently move in
but not encroach on its space.
[Ran] Let's do that, agreed.

[Joseph] It's about there,
you see.
[Ran] Yeah.
Just behind that tree.
[Joseph] Behind that tree. Yeah.
Of course,
your first reaction is,
"Oh, my God, I want
to get on the buffalo
or talk with a bear,"
or you know.
And you have to sort of
hold yourself back
and remind yourself
you're not in a Disney movie,
you're in, you know,
the reality of the wilderness
and you're in their territory.
This is not your territory.
Ran's right; never get
closer than 100 meters.
I think that's good enough.
Won't go any further than that.
British Columbia has the highest
population of black bears
and grizzlies in Canada.
And seeing this bear
is a reminder
of just one of the dangers
the 1971 expedition faced,
exposed in the wild,
miles from civilization,
and without
modern communications.
That was incredible.
Quite a mellow bear.
Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

In 1971, the Rocky Mountains
presented the first great hurdle
to Ran's quest, having
to fight narrowing rivers
and pushing
against strong currents.
Ran has spared me the torture
of trying to paddle upstream.
Instead, we've decided to embark
on a different
Rocky Mountain adventure.
We're heading
to the Athabasca Glacier,
part of the largest ice field
in the Rockies.
This is my first ever glacier,
and I can't think of a better
partner to witness it with.
[Ran] You are
very kind saying that,
and I will try not
to let you down.
[Joseph] This is
familiar territory for Ran.
He has walked to both
the North and South Pole
and was the first person
to cross Antarctica
entirely on foot.

No wonder he wanted
to bring me here.
This is where
he is in his element.

The Athabasca Glacier extends
for about six kilometers,
and it being my first glacier,
looks truly remarkable.
But what makes the experience
even more enjoyable
is watching Ran, full of energy,
expertly maneuvering
the icy expanse.
[Ran] I very much enjoyed
being on a glacier there
and hadn't been on one
for certainly three years.
I do like ice very much.
[Joseph] As beautiful as it is,
Ran is quick to point out
the dangers of this environment.
[Ran] When I was doing
a solo expedition in the Arctic
and I set out and in the dark,
minus 48, and unfortunately,
my sledge fell 10 foot down
into the sea between two floes.
I then very, very quietly
and slowly and in the moonlight,
managed to get down,
very slowly,
down the slope of ice blocks
into the water to the sledge.
The great thing was I managed
to use my left hand
to pull the rope out.
[camera shutter clicks]
[Joseph] But there is a price
to pay for putting a hand
in the Arctic water
at minus 48 degrees Celsius.
[Ran] The fingers have all gone,
as you can see.
[Joseph] You had frostbite?
[Ran] Yeah, and I had to
cut them off two months later.
I did it with a fret saw.
I was getting very irritable
because the doctor wouldn't do
a proper amputation for
five months after the trauma.
[Joseph] How long did
that operation take?
[Ran] That one, which
I didn't do very well,
that middle one,
that took two hours.
[camera shutter clicks]
[Joseph] Yes,
you heard it correctly.
Ran actually cut off
his own fingertips,
with a saw, in his shed
because he didn't want
to wait for his operation.
[camera shutter clicks]
And he still has the tips!
[Ran] The physiology lady
in Bristol Royal Infirmary
said I'd done a good job.
[Joseph] Really?
[Ran] Yeah.
[Joseph] You must have been
in such excruciating pain
to go to those lengths.
I can't imagine it.
[Ran] Well, it sort of
puts you off the next one.
[Joseph] Yeah.
[Ran] And the motto really is
don't do anything by yourself,
because in those crevasses,
it's the most horrible death
that you can have, slowly.
You fall in, if you're
by yourself, you'll get wedged.
And as you go down,
it gets thinner,
and like an arrow,
you wedge yourself in there.
And I've heard it
from the mouth of somebody
who didn't quite die,
but by the time they managed
to get him out,
he could remember and
describe the nightmare time
he'd spent slowly, surely
dying down there.
[Joseph] And with those
encouraging words,
Ran sends me off
to jump down a crevasse.

[Joseph] The Athabasca Glacier
is scored with ravines
and gorges.
Ran thinks I can get a better
sense of this environment
by exploring their depths,
the same ones that he tells me
are notoriously difficult
to escape from.
A few years ago, Ran would
have lowered me down himself,
but instead, he's brought
local mountaineer
Max Darrah to be my guide.
[Max] Welcome
to the Athabasca Glacier.
[Joseph] What a pleasure
to be here.
I'm all geared up,
ready to go. Lead on.

[Max] So, 15 years ago,
we would have stepped
onto the glacier right here.
[Joseph] Wow. So, what rate
is the glacier receding,
do you think?
[Max] The most current estimates
are 10 to 15 centimeters
per month,
recession at the toe.
But it's not only that,
it's the volume of ice that's
being lost off the surface,
which is quite dramatic.
[Joseph] This meltwater cuts
deep gorges into the ice,
creating vast crevasses,
and I'm about
to explore one of them.

[Max] Okay. We're all set.
[Joseph] Okay.

This is a good day
for it, I guess.

This is the closest I've come
to getting a glimpse
of Ran's adventures
during his numerous journeys
to the Arctic
and Antarctic regions.

[water rushing]
Wow! This is the one place
Ran has been warning me
never to get stuck in.
This is beautiful, but imagine
on your own in the Arctic
for months on end.
This is the one place you want
to avoid, however beautiful.
I'm, uh, lost for words.

At the bottom,
six meters below the surface,
I'm surrounded by ice that
formed over 10,000 years ago.

I adjust my camera
but drop my glove into
the icy river alongside me.
My instinct is to run
and grab it,
but I slip and nearly end up
submerged in the freezing water.
I remember Ran's story
and let the glove go.
I realize just how quickly
things can turn
in places like these,
especially when I see
what's round the corner.
Okay, that was intense.
Suddenly it opens up into
a massive cascading waterfall.
My glove has been pulled
into a drainage channel
that flows into a river
underneath the glacier.
Being swept into that
doesn't bear thinking about.
Unbelievably beautiful.
It looks imperceptibly calm,
but it actually is,
is going at tremendous speed.
What looks beautiful
and enticing suddenly becomes
very, very dangerous.

With my fingers beginning
to feel the chill,
it's time to head
back to the surface
and catch up with Ran.
[Ran] Joe, how's it been?
[Joseph] Ran, good.
[Ran] I can't
take my gloves off.
Can't put them back on again.
[Joseph] Good to see you.
[Ran] You, too.
[Joseph] The crevasse
that I went down,
I lost my glove, Ran.
[Ran] No, your mitt.
[Joseph] These are new ones,
but, uh
[Ran] Did you get
quite cold at the time?
[Joseph] I did get a bit chilly,
and I immediately
thought of you,
and I'm standing right now,
and I've got a smile on my face,
which belies the truth of
my feet being absolutely frozen.
[Ran] Poor cousin Joe.
Get the towel out.
[Joseph] [laughs]
Yeah, my own fault.
I guess a pair of cold feet
was never gonna get
too much sympathy from Ran.
Although he never made it
to this glacier in 1971,
Ran got well-acquainted
with the Canadian Rockies.
When the rivers they traveled
on got too narrow and shallow,
they had no choice but to brave
the mountain wilderness by foot.
It is here that Ran
got terribly lost.
And after following the river
upstream for hours,
I wanted to know where we were
in relation to Ran's
original route.
Ran, I wanted to just
bring up the map
so I can get a better sense
of where we are.
When we last met, in Egypt,
I didn't need these,
and such is life that I'm
going downhill all the way,
and I'm gonna join you
with my specs now.
[Ran] Now, I have to tell you,
not only hair loss, but
[Joseph] Eye loss.
[Ran] eye loss
and deafness as well.
[Joseph] What did you say?
[Ran] Deaf
What I think I said.
[Joseph] Following nearly
three weeks of being lost,
Ran's team regrouped,
but spirits were low.
[Ran] I tried to keep
the team morale up,
not totally successfully
all the time,
when we ran out of river.
We're going up to Summit Lake,
the water gets less and less.
[Joseph] The team persevered
and eventually made it
to Summit Lake.
10 kilometers from there
was the Fraser.
This river flowed south
all the way to Vancouver.
It was all downhill
from here, literally.
But the only way to reach
the Fraser was by portage,
carrying their boats
across land.
So, after you'd walked
all those miles
onto the Fraser River
here behind me,
which looks wonderful, smooth,
and it must have been
a seeming blessing.
[Ran] Oh, it definitely was.
After the portage
of nine miles to get here,
and remember, all the water
goes from here,
the way we want to go,
to the Pacific Ocean,
whereas before it had been
heading north to the Arctic.
So when we get here and it's
lovely and smooth, beautiful,
we're very, very happy.
And then we soon got to realize
there would be a hell of a lot
of horrendous rapids.
[Joseph] For Ran,
reaching Vancouver
was anything but guaranteed.
[Joseph] After reaching
the mighty Fraser River,
Ran and his team had over 1,100
kilometers left to navigate.
They still faced one
of the biggest hurdles
to their successful
wild and perilous rapids.
But before we get to those,
I want to convince Ran
we should first enjoy
one of the calmer sections
of the Fraser River.
I know you might be wondering
about my head apparel.
[Ran] No, it's very suitable.
[Joseph] I'm wearing this
because I want to take you
on a little treat.
I thought, wouldn't it be nice
if we got onto the Fraser River
and went fishing?
[Ran] That would be great, yeah.
Don't think I've ever
fished in a big way.
But maybe when I was
about sort of 14, 15.
[Joseph] So, you just
did it for the "halibut"?
[Ran] We ate everything
that we caught.
[Joseph] Right, right.
So you didn't "krill" anything?
[Ran] Yeah,
we put everything back
except what we ate
for that particular day.
[Joseph] I'm doing
my awful puns.
[Ran] Oh, right.
So, I actually heard that one.
So there's no excuse
for not giving you full marks
on your "pun-ism."
Joe, I just love
traveling with him.
Just a wonderful bloke.
He's ultimately
totally friendly,
totally full of jokes,
and puns are his speciality.
[Joseph] So, I think we're
gonna be fishing for sturgeon.
I don't fish, I've never fished,
but here they do a conservation
program, catch and release.
They look prehistoric.
Some of them live up
to 100 years or 200 years.
[Ran] 200 years.
[Joseph] Would you like
to live to 200?
[Ran] I would love
to live to 200
to see how many,
many things work out.
[Joseph] Yeah, yeah.
And think how wise
one would be at 200.
[Ran] Should be.
[Joseph] Should be, yeah.
Yeah. Not always
a guarantee. True.
[Ran] Ah, look!
[Joseph] Look at that, Ran.
[Ran] 52 years
since the last time
I passed over that bit of river.
Time goes by, doesn't it?
[Joseph] It really does,
doesn't it?
Stops for no man.
[Ran] Look at
that beautiful river.
[Joseph] This mighty river is
the longest in British Columbia,
stretching for nearly
1,400 kilometers.
Taking us out on the water
is local guide John Beaty.
[John] Nice to meet you. John.
[Joseph] Thrilled
that you can take us out
and we can share
in your knowledge.
I guess we should call you
Sturgeon General.
[John laughs]
[Ran] I got that one. [laughs]
[Joseph] Okay. All aboard.
We're all suited and booted
and ready to go.
[John] Ready to go? Perfect.
[Joseph] Although the river
already had many names
in local First Nation languages,
it's named after
the fur trader Simon Fraser,
who explored the river in 1808.
Today it's known
for its salmon runs
and its huge sturgeon.
So, talk to us
about conservation.
[John] Well, here
on the Fraser River,
everything's catch and release.
Conservation is
the number-one issue at hand.
We're ensuring that
they're gonna be around
for years and years
to come, forever.
We got some rods going here.
Keep your rod nice and high.
If we get one on, we'll
have to chase it downriver and
[Joseph] How long
can a chase ensue for?
[John] Last couple trips
was out here,
they were large fish and it took
like an hour to get them in.
[Joseph] You up for fighting
for an hour, Ran?
I'll do half an hour,
you do half an hour.
[Ran] Yeah, sounds good.
[John] All right, perfect.
We'll get some bait on this one.
We'll throw them out here.
Just down here.
Put that out this side here.
[Joseph] Oh, wow.
And then we wait.

From our last trip together,
I know Ran likes a little wager.
Ran, let's take a bet.
Which rod is gonna
get chewed on first?
[Ran] I know for sure
it'll be not that one,
but the middle one. Five quid.
[Joseph] Five quid?
Okay. Five quid.
I'm saying it's this one here.
[Ran] Right,
and I'm in the middle.
[Joseph] But for
our wager to work,
something's got to bite.
[John] Yeah. So now
it's just patience.
I usually sit in the spot
for at least 25 minutes,
half an hour.
[Ran] Before you
give up that area?
[John] Before you move on.

[Joseph] Oh, something's
What was your rod?
The middle one, were you?
[Ran] Yeah, the middle.
[Joseph] I think something's
nibbling at yours.
It's very slight.
[Ran] That's five quid.
[Joseph] Well, nothing to get
too excited about yet, Ran.
I don't think nibbling
is five quid.
It's got to take the whole lot.
But whatever was nibbling
sadly lost interest.
And I'm losing patience.
[Ran] "Patience is a virtue.
Possess it if you can.
Seldom in a woman,
but always in a man."
[Joseph] That's the first time
I've heard that.
[Ran] My wife says it
the other way around.
[Joseph] Of course, she does.
Obviously, some angry bloke
made that up.
[Ran] Yeah, way back probably.
[Joseph] Yeah, yeah. To get
back at his wife or something.
[Ran laughs]
No doubt.
[Joseph] I, though,
am clearly without virtue.
I think I'm too impatient
a person
[Ran] to be a fisherman?
To be a fisherman.
[Ran] Yeah.
[Joseph] This might be
my toughest challenge yet.

[Joseph] Ran and I
are not having much luck
fishing for sturgeon.
After nearly an hour
of waiting for a bite,
Ran admits he prefers
more active hobbies.
[Ran] Until about the age of 73,
I used to do big races
like the Marathon des Sables.
[Joseph] Ran is leaving out
some key details here.
The Des Sables race
is no mere marathon,
it is a six-day
250-kilometer ultra-marathon
through 40-plus-degree desert.
And Ran completed it
in 2015, aged 71.
His drive and determination
never cease to amaze me.
And then what,
you just thought
[Ran] Then the run
became a shuffle.
[Joseph] And then
the shuffle became?
[Ran] The shuffle became a walk
with or without sticks.
Yeah, and so
[Joseph] Then the walk
became an armchair.
No, not yet.
[Ran] Not that one, not yet, no.

Three or four years ago,
I was seeing a doctor
about something else.
And during the tests,
which he did automatically,
one of them
must have been neuro.
And he said, "I think
you've got Parkinson's."
He then got it confirmed
that it was,
and so I started taking
the pills that he recommended,
which is now seven pills a day.
[Joseph] Seven pills a day. Wow.
[Ran] And a little bit
of exercise,
doing things like squats.
That's the physical side;
the mental side,
just forgetting,
which is very annoying,
I work on that very hard.
Because I, you know, I make
a living through lecturing,
forgetting what you're
about to say is very awkward.
[Joseph] How did you know
that something was up
in terms of memory,
and what did you do?
[Ran] I can't remember
the exact first symptoms,
but I would have been,
you know, mid-70s or whatever.
I've had this Parkinson's
diagnosed not very long.
With me, the problem is
balance sometimes, you know,
but I don't fall over yet.
I haven't, touch wood,
fallen over yet.
Balance and forgetfulness.
I don't shake much.
If it shakes, I can
look at it and say,
"Stop it,"
like you would to a dog.
So I don't get the shakes
at the moment, touch wood,
but I do get memory lapse
more than I already had.
[Joseph] I'm humbled
by Ran's strength and honesty
in light of
his new circumstances.
But then our conversation
is rudely interrupted.

Ran, I'm trying to lift it.
Ran, I think I owe you five
pounds. Bloody hell, this
[Ran] That's the middle one.
[Joseph] This one is big!
There he is, right below here.
[John] Hold on tight.
Hold on tight.
[Joseph] Woo!
[John laughs]
This is heavy. He's heavy, huh?
Well, it's going out.
[reel unspooling]
He's just taking it out.
[John] Yeah, he's just
taking a bunch of line.
[reel unspooling]
Oh, there we go.
Now he's running.
Keep your rod nice and high.
[reel unspooling]
[Joseph] Oh, no! That's it.
[John] He popped off.
[Joseph] It popped off.
He escaped.
[Ran] Ha ha, I'll forgive you.
[Joseph] Yeah. That was
a strange experience.
Very, veryit felt huge.
[Ran] All of a sudden,
after you've been relaxing.
[Joseph] Yeah, yeah.
I wanted to do you the honors.
It was your rod.
[Ran] It was my rod.
[Joseph] So, I'm sorry I don't
get to pay you five pounds.
I'm sorry about that.
It was just an excuse to get
on this marvelous-looking belt.
That's all it was.

We may not have had
much success with the fishing,
but that did mean that Ran and I
got to have a meaningful chat.
But now it's time to head
further down the Fraser River.

In 1971,
after nearly nine weeks,
Ran had led his team,
followed by a film crew,
down the Fraser River
toward Vancouver.
But to reach
their final destination,
they had a few more hurdles.
[Joseph] The deadly rapids
Ran and his team
faced on the Fraser River
had claimed the lives of many
who had tried before.
[Ran] I thought that it was very
unlikely that any rubber boat
would get through there
without overturning.
[Joseph] But with
no better option,
Ran decided to give it
a go anyway.
Their final hurdle was
the ominously named Hell's Gate.
Ran wants me to get a look
at these rapids up close,
which is a worry,
until he reveals that an aerial
tramway has been installed
since he was last here.
Very atmospheric
with the clouds.
[Ran] Yeah.
[Joseph] Should we
commandeer this gondola
and take a ride down?
[Ran] Yeah. What a good idea.
That's a brilliant idea.
[Joseph] Do you have
your gondolier license?
[Ran] Of course.
[Joseph] Okay, great.
[Ran] I hope you haven't
forgotten yours.
[Joseph] I failed mine twice,
but I'm still happy
to take us down.

As we get closer,
while Ran appears unruffled,
I am struck by the power
and the noise of the water below
as the huge Fraser River
squeezes through a gap
just 35 meters wide.
Wow, it's beautiful.
Ran, you were just paddling
down here just a moment ago.
[Ran] Just paddling, sunbathing.
[Joseph] I wonder what
that was like for you
as you heard the roar
of Hell's Gate.
[Ran] We could hear it
from about 15 miles away.
[Joseph] Wow.
[Ran] And by that time,
we got a bit more nervous
than earlier. Yeah.
Oh, look at that.
[Joseph] Isn't that great?
That's where you came?
[Ran] Yeah.
[Joseph] Look at that.
[Ran] Yeah, that's
the V shape there.
[Joseph] Yeah.
[Ran] That I remember
being very frightening.
[Joseph] So, Ran, I don't
have the guts to do this,
but I do have the guts
to get on the bridge
and have a look at it
from another perspective.
[Ran] Yes, let's do that.
Definitely do that.
[Joseph] When Simon Fraser
reached this point
during his expedition,
he chose to portage around it.
So, Simon Fraser, when
he passed by here in 1808,
he didn't dare go
through the rapids like you do.
[Ran] Right?
Well, very sensible.
[Joseph] If I remember right,
he wrote in his journal
that no human being
should venture past here,
he said, for these truly
are the gates of hell.
[Ran] He said those very words.
[Joseph] So that's why
they call it Hell's Gate.
I can imagine it was ferocious
at the time
you came through here
because it would have been
200 million gallons of water
moving through here.

But in 1971, Ran and his team
did what Fraser didn't.
You must have had
such sense of elation
as you came through here.
[Ran] After this particular one,
partly because
it's called Hell's Gate,
we felt very relieved indeed.
[Joseph] "Very relieved indeed."
Quite the understatement,
but I can picture Ran
all those years ago
just getting on
with the next thing.
Just as he is now,
taking on his next adventure.
I am aware that
the wear and tear of life
has made its visit upon Ran,
and at times,
it's made me nervous,
but also at times it's made me
hugely appreciative of him,
his effort,
and of the human spirit.

So, looking back, if you saw
young Ran passing here
and you could shout
something down to him,
what would you shout?
[Ran] Not to say,
"No, we can't do this,"
but to always ask myself
a question,
"Why can't we do this?
Why couldn't we do that?"
[Joseph] And you did it.
You did it, which is incredible.
[Ran] Well, I would then
go on to say, you know,
we had the luck of the devil.
[Joseph] I think
that's aptly put,
considering we're
at Hell's Gate.
I think before we get
absolutely sopping wet,
maybe we'll make our way back
on that cable car.
[Ran] Lead the way, cousin.
[Joseph] Okay.
Ran, I'm looking at this river.
It's like us, isn't it?
We're all just passing
through, aren't we?
[Ran] Very quickly.
[Joseph] Very quickly.

In the next part
of our Canadian adventure,
Ran gives me a climbing lesson.
[Ran] Well done, brilliant.
[Joseph] Although
a boat-navigating lesson
might have been more useful.
[Guide] Oh, Ran,
it's a pleasure.
[Joseph] We meet
inspirational people,
find out more
about First Nations
history and culture,
and we mark the end
of our journey
with an unforgettable experience.
Just stunning!
[Ran] Just incredible.
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