Fiennes: Return to the Wild (2024) s01e02 Episode Script

River Deep Mountain High


[Joseph] Ran, what is it that
drives the intrepid adventurer
to come to these territories?
[Ran] It's impossible
to generalize over it.
It's in the DNA
of that particular person.
[Joseph] You could
step out here,
and you wouldn't
come across civilization
for hundreds of miles.
[Ran] Hundreds of miles.
You can go in an airplane
over this place
and for an hour,
you can see nothing.
It is so nice knowing
there is a place like this.

[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.
The Guinness Book of Records
named him the greatest
living explorer
after being the first person to
surface circumnavigate the globe
via both the North
and South Pole.
[Reporter] The expedition has
covered more than 100,000 miles
by land, sea, and ice.
[Joseph] He's also my cousin,
known to me as Ran.
Now I'm living the dream,
as I join him
on a new adventure of our own.
That was so smooth.
I think he might have
done it before.
Do you think
he's done it before?
In 1971, age just 27,
Ran led a team to attempt
the first recorded crossing
of British Columbia
via its waterways.
The expedition was captured
by a BBC film crew.
Now, some 50 years later,
we are retracing
the epic route across land.
So far, we've explored the
depths of ancient glaciers
I'm standing right now,
my feet being absolutely frozen.
[Ran] Poor cousin Joe,
let's get the towel out.
[Joseph] and witnessed
the awesome power of nature
that Ran faced five decades ago.
Ran, you were just paddling
down here just a moment ago.
[Ran] Just paddling, sunbathing.
[Joseph] Now we're
continuing our adventure,
traveling through
beautiful landscapes
and meeting incredible people
and most importantly,
spending time together.
[Ran] In those days,
we thought we could do anything.
[Joseph] 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] Ran and I
began our journey
with a Déné
First Nations blessing.
And we truly have been blessed
with natural beauty,
as we've traveled hundreds of
miles across this stunning land.
Just like Ran's team
five decades ago,
we've got the finish line,
Vancouver, in our sights.
And who needs a podcast
when you're traveling
with the world's greatest
living explorer,
who's got hundreds of stories
for each of his adventures.
[Ran] In the Arctic, we had
19 polar bears on that one trip.
It was because we found
that polar bears
would only follow
the rear person.
They'll always go
for the rear person.
[Joseph] To pick off
the most vulnerable?
[Ran] The rifle was
the only thing we had,
so we gave it to the rear man.
And on one occasion,
he heard something,
and the bear was only
about 20 yards behind him.
[Joseph] I would volunteer
to lead, if that was me.
[Ran] Ha ha!
[Joseph] But on the previous
leg of our journey,
Ran shared more than just tales
of his countless adventures,
as he also opened up about
the new challenges he's facing.
[Ran] I was seeing a doctor,
and he said, "I think
you've got Parkinson's."
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] It made me realize that
this might be our last chance
to travel together like this,
so I'm grateful Ran
was more than up
for joining me on this trip.
Ran is 79, knocking on
very closely to his 80th year,
and as much as I admired
hugely his determination
and his strength
and his sheer joy
and love of life
and walking and the wilderness,
I noticed this time around,
there were restrictions
within his movement.
And he was now embarking
on another adventure,
dealing with the condition
of Parkinson's.
And I think that has thrown
Ran, as it would anyone.
But he has such
an unstoppable energy.
Five decades ago,
the 27-year-old Ran
effortlessly scaled the
mountains of British Columbia
to gain a bird's-eye view of
the river they were navigating.
This vantage point allowed him
and his team to decide
on which fork
in the river to take.
Hoping to replicate
this experience,
Ran planned to lead me
up a mountain.
To do this, we've crossed
the border from British Columbia
to Alberta to Mount Norquay,
named after one of the first
indigenous provincial premiers.
Here they've installed
a via ferrata trail,
a climb equipped
with steel ropes and rungs
to assist novices like me.
However, this time,
given Ran's condition,
it was advised
he shouldn't climb.
[Ran] Well, I would have been
an instructor in ferrata
only 20 years previously,
sort of thing,
before I got Parkinson's.
And so I thought, what a shame,
I'd love to go back
and do a bit of ferrata work.

[Joseph] For Ran, via ferrata
was a walk in the park.
This is a man who,
at the age of 65,
climbed the highest peak.
In May 2009, Ran reached
the summit of Everest
on his third attempt.
With this achievement,
he became the first person
to cross both polar ice caps
and reach Everest's peak.
I would have loved
to climb via ferrata
with my legendary cousin,
but instead, I have to get
my tips in beforehand.
[Ran] First of all,
get your second carabiner
and fix that on the far side,
then undo your existing one.
If you always remember that,
it's 100% safe,
apart from rockfall from above.
[Joseph] Or bears or eagles.
[Ran] Bears and eagles
on ferrata, no.
[Joseph] No way.
Should we embark?
[Ran] Let's go.
[Joseph] Okay.
Luckily Ran can join me for
the first, more leisurely part
of the ascent.
This would make Everest
a bit easier, wouldn't it?
[Ran] It certainly would.

[Joseph] Seeing that Ran
can't lead me up,
he's organized
local guide Kevin Hjertaas
to show me the ropes
and get me kitted up.
How long do you estimate?
[Kevin] It usually takes
about six hours.
Bit of hiking,
bit of rock climbing.
[Joseph] Before I disappear,
there is that lesser-known sport
of spotting
the amateur climbing
[Ran laughs]
and hopefully not falling.
[Ran] Good luck.
[Joseph] Thank you
so much, thank you.
During the six-hour route,
I'll be ascending 360 meters,
climbing rock faces,
scaling ladders,
and navigating wire bridges
across sheer drops.
I know I've got Ran watching
on binoculars down below,
so he'll be watching
my every move,
so I've got to make sure.
[Kevin] He'll be criticizing.
[Joseph] He will,
so help me out with technique.
[Kevin] All right.
But he'll be thinking
back to Everest
and thinking we look
pretty weak up here.
[Joseph] Yeah, he will, yeah.

[Ran] Go left, Joe, go left.

[Joseph] This is the point Ran
stressed earliertransitions.
Unclip, move,
and reattach one carabiner,
and only then,
release the second.
Isn't that right, Ran?
[Ran] Yup, that's it.
Well done, brilliant.

Disappeared behind a rock.
Probably come out
to the left, I suppose.

[Joseph] What a view.

Is this the summit right ahead?
[Kevin] Yeah, that's
the summit block there.
[Joseph] Wow.
[Kevin] But to get there,
we have to swing around
and then cross this bridge.
[Joseph] Oh, wow. I see.
How much time would that
save us going across there?
[Kevin] Well, it's
the only way we have,
so that's gonna
save us all the day.
[Joseph] Okay, well,
I'll go with that, then.
Well, we've done ladders.
Why not do wire bridges?
It's got a wonderful
simplicity to it.
[Kevin] [laughs]
That's a great way to put it.
All right, the idea is you want
one lanyard on either cable,
and then it's just
a matter of balancing
and tightrope-walking
as you go.
[Joseph] Kevin leads the way
across the 10-meter-long wire.

If there's ever a time to ensure
you're securely clipped on,
below me is a sheer drop.

This is probably
the one section of the climb
Ran is happy to have missed.
[Ran] The vertigo, it's a phobia
from when I was small,
and I tried to get rid of it.
[Joseph] And the Ran way
to do that is confront it
in the most extreme
way possible.
[Ran] Everest didn't
really get rid of the vertigo
because when you look down
on Everest,
you just see a white slope,
not a sheer cliff.
After that, I climbed
the north face of the Eiger
on which many top
European climbers have died.
And that was at least
6,000 feet sheer.
[Explorer] So Ran's
basically hanging,
completely above the void.
[Ran] Not liking it one bit,
I'll tell you!
That worked.
I felt that I now don't
have it anymore, the vertigo.
But a couple of years
later at home,
our gutters on the third floor
are blocked up with leaves,
and they begun coming
all over the place, the water,
so I got the big ladder out
and I started climbing up it,
and about halfway up,
it wobbled like hell,
and it just came back.
The vertigo came back
in a very big way.
[Joseph] How you climb
to the top of Everest
when you're afraid
of heights is beyond me.
But wire bridge navigated,
I press on up the mountain.
[Ran] Well done, Joe.
[Joseph] I've only got
the final summit block to climb,
and I'm there.
[Joseph] From the top
of Mount Norquay,
I've been promised
a 360-degree view
of this beautiful
wild region of Canada.
Nearly there.
Last push to the summit.
What a joy.
What a great day at the office.

Well, thank you, Kevin.
And we're the only ones up here.
[Kevin] My pleasure.
Go enjoy it.
You got it all to yourself.

[Joseph] That's got to be
good for the lungs.
Pure mountain air.
I can see why Ran is driven
and addicted to this.
Just stunning.
The summit is just
under 2,500 meters high,
not quite the near
9,000 of Everest.
[Ran] We got to the top
of Everest 11 p.m. at night,
just beautiful.
You're looking down
from the highest place on Earth
towards the moon, really.
And you're looking down
on the clouds way below,
all of which
are the color of the moon,
you know, beautiful color.
And every now and again,
big peaks stick up black things
through the clouds.
[Joseph] On Mount Norquay,
my view is uninterrupted wilderness.
[Kevin] Everything back there
is, like, totally untouched.
That is wild country for
as far as you can see that way.
[Joseph] I could
sit here for hours,
picturing the 1971 expedition
navigating the rivers
and forests of the uncharted
wilderness beyond.
But I need to get back to Ran.

I'm intrigued
to know how he feels,
remembering himself here,
as a mere 27-year-old,
especially given it spawned
a remarkable 50-year legacy
of exploration across the globe.

I've got a hold of these,
and I wanted to take you
down memory lane.
So this is
"Headless Valley team. '71."
[Ran] '71, that's right. Yep.
[Joseph] All these
strapping army lads
doing this amazing expedition,
but they were backed up
by Ginny.
[Ran] Yeah,
my late wife of 36 years.
She was as tough
as the rest of them.
[Joseph] Yeah.
Here we go.
[Ran] Oh, Bothie. Oh, yeah.
He was given to us
as a wedding present.
He was the only dog ever
to have peed on both poles.
He was in the
Guinness Book of Records.
In Antarctica, 800 miles
from the nearest person,
and he could not smell
lampposts or grass,
couldn't smell any other dogs,
couldn't hear any other dogs.
And he used to go outside
and bark like hell
so that the echo would
come back off the mountains
like another dog.
[Joseph] Oh, good old Bothie.
[Ran] He was a wonderful,
wonderful dog.

[Joseph] You are now
just shy of 80.
We're looking at photographs
of you at the age
of anywhere between
25 and 30 years of age.
[Ran] Yeah, 25 and 30.
That's right.
[camera shutter clicks]
Now I think of that bloke,
me, back then
as someone totally different
because deaf, blind,
not blind, but going that way,
getting definitely into an age
where my runs become shuffles.
[Joseph] But do you, do you
what's your mental age?
What age do you think you are?
Do you think you are
the actual age you are?
[Ran] When I see
these photographs,
it sort of reminds me
of in those days,
we thought we could do anything.
[Joseph] And, Ran,
you're a hero to me.
Let me just put that out there.
I'm sort of interested now
to ask you a more personal
and pertinent question
about the next chapter
in your adventures,
with you dealing
with a condition
that affects so many people.
[Ran] Parkinson's.
[Joseph] Parkinson's.
[Ran] Yeah, no,
that is a battle,
which is mainly memory,
then the other one
is your balance.
You've got to concentrate
when you walk.
So balance, memory, and shaking.
Michael J. Fox, the actor, got
what they call Young Parkinson
when he was 29 years old,
and he's still going strong.
So there is hope.

[Joseph] It seems Ran
is facing his new challenge
with the same unwavering spirit
that made him
the legendary explorer he is.
Having gone down memory lane
with the photos,
I thought I'd give Ran
the sights and sounds
of that 1971 expedition for real
and get him
out on the water again.
On their quest to transnavigate
British Columbia
via its waterways,
Ran and his team traversed
nine rivers and lakes
in motor-powered dinghies.

[Ran] Ah, Jojo. Ha!
Hey, you've got
a proper boat there.
[Joseph] Here's another
chance to impress Ran.
Oh. No!
Blown it.
[Ran] Well done
getting the boat, eh?
[Joseph] I'm not
sure about that.
I think I need some practice
with you at the helm.
[Ran chuckles]
Just glad I didn't
hit the plane.
Wouldn't have been the greatest
way to start the day.

[Joseph] With our boat
luckily still afloat,
we can get out on the lake.
Mind your fingers,
the ones you have.
[Ran] And, and having witnessed
your expert acrobats,
I'm impressed.
[Joseph] Really,
you're not nervous?
[Ran] Nope, not at all.
[Joseph] I am. Okay,
I'm gonna push us off.
[Ran] Right, lovely.
[Joseph] Here we go.
Having traversed deadly rapids
crossing British Columbia,
I guess my erratic steering
is less of a worry for Ran.
[Ran] Ah, good to be away
with you, out in the wilds.
[Joseph] This is as close
as I'll get to the nine weeks
Ran spent navigating
the waterways of this region.
Back then, they had to motor
against strong currents,
so keeping those engines
in fine nick was essential.
[Ran] We took from the beginning
18 spare propellers,
and even that wasn't enough.
And because the river
was so strong
and there were
so many whirlpools,
you had a situation
where you couldn't avoid
going near the rocks
to get away from the whirlpools,
so it was nightmarish,
quite honestly.
[Joseph] And in a rock
versus propeller situation
rock usually wins.
So you got through 18
on your trip?
[Ran] That's right.
And round the fire in a wood,
we had to heat up the propellers
to bang them
into a different shape,
otherwise we wouldn't
have lasted.
[Joseph] Have I got
a bit of a shallow area there?
[Ran] Oh, I see
what you're talking about.
Yeah, that's not good.
[Joseph] I'm just gonna
maneuver out of there.
I don't want to break
We don't have 18 props.
We've only got one.
[Ran chuckles]
50 years ago, the boundless
wilderness of this region
was one of Ran's
first big challenges
as a fledgling explorer.
What is it that drives
the intrepid adventurer
to come to these territories,
do you think?
[Ran] It's impossible
to generalize over it.
It's in the DNA
of that particular person.
And in my case, my granddad
came out to be a miner
in 1885 up in the Klondike,
and he was not successful,
so he became a fur trapper.
[Joseph] Given
we share some DNA,
I love hearing
about our family history.
The stories of both
his grandfather and father
had a profound influence
on his life,
though he met neither.
Your father was killed
in what year was it? '40?
[Ran] Four months
before I got born.
[Joseph] Okay.
[Ran] So November '43.
[Joseph] '43.
[Ran] I was born in '44.
He was killed in '43.
[Joseph] And what happened
to your grandfather?
[Ran] He died a natural death
the same year
that Dad was killed.
[Joseph] Really?
[Ran] And his eldest son,
Uncle Johnny, had been killed
in another Scottish regiment
in the First World War.
[Joseph] So you grew up
surrounded by
[Ran] Women.
[Joseph] Women, and sadly
the ghosts and the death
of the men who were tragically
absent in your life.
[Ran] Yeah,
that's exactly right.
Totally. My sisters didn't
have a brother and no uncles.
They were all female.
I was spoiled rotten. [laughs]
[Joseph] I can imagine.
I can imagine.
[Ran] Yeah.
[Joseph] Whatever strand of DNA
drew Ran to come here,
I think I've got
a bit of it, too.
This place is breathtaking.
It's epic. It's huge.
You could step out here,
and you wouldn't
come across civilization
for hundreds of miles.
[Ran] Hundreds of miles.
You can go in an airplane
over this place,
and for an hour,
you can see nothing.
Not a single
little hut, nothing.
It is so nice knowing
there is a place like this.
[Joseph] Even here
in this pristine wilderness
of the Muskwa-Kechika,
humans have had
a profound impact.
We've arranged to meet
with local naturalist
Wayne Sawchuk to delve deeper
into the ecological history
of the region.
Hi, Wayne.
[Wayne] How's it going?
[Joseph] I've had
to pull the prop up.
It's very shallow.
And it's not my boat.
This time, with
a more cautious approach,
I nail the landing.

[Ran] Wayne, very good
to meet you, indeed.
[Wayne] A great pleasure,
at long last.
[Joseph] Safely on land,
and Wayne has a welcome
cup of coffee waiting.
I bet that pot
has a few tales to tell.
[Wayne] This pot has been on
the trail for a number of years.
Let me tell you.
[Ran] It's got history.
[Wayne] It's got
a lot of history.
Not as much as you,
Ran, but a lot.
[Ran] I could do
without the age.
[Wayne] Indeed.

[Joseph] During the hours
and hours on the open highways
of British Columbia,
Ran and I have spotted bears,
bighorn sheep,
and bison.
I'm keen to know more about
these North American icons.
[Wayne] Back in the day,
maybe 100, 150 years ago,
of course, all the bison
were shot out of this country.
There was a few
isolated herds still left.
And from those, they've been
bringing the bison back,
reintroducing them.
The bison are doing very well
wherever they've
been reintroduced
because predators are low,
and as long as
there's not too much hunting,
the bison do very well.
[Joseph] The North American
plains used to be home
to millions of bison,
but by the late 1800s,
those millions had been
reduced to a few hundred.
One of the reasons
for this slaughter
links to a dark chapter
in North American history.
[Wayne] No bison was hard
on the First Nations.
If the government
wanted to weaken
First Nations governments,
one way to do that
was to get rid of the bison.
[Ran] Right, right.
[Wayne] You know,
it's a sad colonial history
that we have here.
[Ran] Very, very sad.
[Wayne] And the bison
are part of that.
[Joseph] Wayne really
gave great insight
into that relationship
between man and land
and the history of really
the sort of ecosystem
and, and how it all works.

Our conversation with Wayne
was fascinating,
but it also touched
on some troubling aspects
of Canada's past.
And it's something Ran and I
are intrigued
to explore further.
[Joseph] During Ran's 1971 trip,
he witnessed
the harsh conditions
First Nation tribes
faced on reservations.
Now, 50 years on,
how have things changed?
We've arranged
to meet Matricia Bauer,
who runs an indigenous
cultural hub in Jasper
called Warrior Women.
[Matricia] Hi.
[Joseph] Hello, hi.
Thank you for meeting us.
Very nice to meet you.
[Ran] You, too.
[Joseph] Her story is emblematic
of what First Nations endured.
[Matricia] So back when you were
here originally in Canada,
I was three years old,
and I was still on the reserve.
[Joseph] But Matricia
was taken from the reserve
during the so-called Scoop,
an era when indigenous children
were forcibly removed
from their homes to be adopted
by White families,
a practice that lasted
from the 1950s to the 1980s
under the guise
of child welfare.
[Matricia] My mom was
a residential school survivor.
And it was like
a boarding school
where the children were
kidnapped and taken away,
so she was raised
in an environment
where it wasn't a loving one.
And I think that really,
as she became a parent,
was very difficult, and she
suffered a lot from alcoholism,
which is how a lot
of people at that time
soothed, you know,
those traumas.
So we were eventually removed
from the home as well.
And I have eight brothers
and sisters,
and we all went
to different foster homes.
[Joseph] No way.
[Ran] And are the others
also able to tell people
all about the truth?
[Matricia] I think that we're
all dealing with our trauma
in our own way.
For me, going back to ceremony,
embracing my culture,
practicing my culture,
adding drumming, adding singing,
is really what healed me
in order to raise my family
in a good way.
[Joseph] Canada is
gradually confronting
this dark period of its history,
taking steps to make amends
for past wrongs.
But by arriving here
on Highway 16,
I'm alerted to the
heartbreaking realities
that indigenous women
like Matricia
and her daughter Mackenzie
still face today.
[Matricia] Highway 16
is the home to what we call
missing and murdered
indigenous women.
And the reason why
that's so important is,
especially for a mother,
you know, my daughter,
just by being indigenous,
is seven times more likely
to go missing or murdered.
[Joseph] Over the decades,
more than 40 women,
most of them indigenous, have
been murdered or gone missing
along the 700-kilometer
stretch of highway.
Many had relied on hitchhiking
as their only means
of transportation.
A horrifying statistic
and one that everyone
should be cognizant
and aware of.
[Ran] Horrific,
horrific figures.
Has that improved
at all recently?
Just a couple of years ago,
we finally had
the National Inquiry
for Missing and Murdered
Indigenous Women
and some actions
that the federal government
really needs to take.
And so when we talk and when
we have these hard conversations
and we sit
in that uncomfortableness,
that is actually
so important for us to do
because it brings awareness,
it brings life,
and it puts, puts back
into perspective
that those are people.
[Joseph] Yeah.
Matricia and Mackenzie
are ambassadors
of their knowledge,
helping to educate and reveal to
people the resilience and beauty
of their Cree
First Nations culture.
Talk to me about your beliefs
in Cree culture.
[Matricia] In our culture,
we believe that we combine
body, mind, and spirit.
[Mackenzie] It's a lot
more holistic because
how your spirit is feeling
affects how your body's feeling,
which affects
how your mind is feeling.
And it's all this,
like, beautiful circle.
[Joseph] Ran, tell me,
if you're on an expedition,
how does mind, body,
and spirit play into you
if you're surviving for 90 days
alone on an ice floe
in the Arctic?
[Ran] Different,
it's not something
you can generalize over.
What you've got to do
is to beat this weak voice
that comes into your head
and tell it that you're gonna
keep going at least that day.
I developed my own battle
in my head,
which was that the people
I respected most,
my dad and my granddad,
the two of them were beside me
and they were
walking beside me.
And so I did not want to be
the first to give up.
[Matricia] That's very honorific
of how indigenous people
call on their ancestors as well
as part of ceremony.
In indigenous culture,
we believe that our connection
to our ancestors
are actually the connection
to the star world.
And so we call
the Northern Lights
cîpayak kâ-nîmihitocik,
and that translates to our
ancestors dancing in the sky,
because we believe that
everybody who's passed on
before us, you know, they're
back up in the star world.
But every once in a while,
they like to show up
and they like to do
a little dance to remind us
that they're still there,
they're still watching us.
[Ran] I never knew that.
That's really good. I like that.
Isn't that a good one?
[Ran] I'll know that
next time I see them.
[Mackenzie] Absolutely.
[Ran] Brilliant.
[Joseph] I found it fascinating,
inspiring, heartbreaking,
and poignant to hear
their stories
and the way that they welcomed
two European White guys
and really embrace them.
[Matricia] I think
it would be really important
for Mackenzie and I
to share a song with you.
[Ran] How lovely.
[singing in indigenous language]
[Joseph] It's fascinating
to hear Ran speak
about how he coped facing
treacherous conditions
by evoking the spirits
of his ancestors.
But I'll never quite
understand what drove him
to pursue challenges where
he'd stare death in the face.
[Reporter] He will pass
through mile after mile
of crevasse fields,
and on this expedition,
there will be no one there
to pull him out of danger.
Three years ago, Fiennes
emerged from the Antarctic
after 97 days
more dead than alive.
[Ran] It was a close-run thing,
a very, very close-run thing.
I had to try
to get back to land
because all the time,
the ice was breaking.
In the case of being
frightened of dying
because you don't know
what's going to happen
when you go into the other
world, if there is one.
I had a massive heart attack
and was on life support
for three days and nights.
[Joseph] Ironically, Ran's
heart attack in 2003 was not
during a grueling expedition,
but while boarding
a commercial flight.
So now do you have a fear
of death or no fear of death?
[Ran] No, I just know
that I was, quote, dead, unquote
for three days and nights.
[Joseph] And you don't
remember anything at all.
You were just in a sleep.
[Ran] Exactly.
There were no angels
or bright lights
or anything at all.
Nothing to be frightened of.
You know, there aren't gonna be
endless devils and pitchforks.
[Joseph] The rest is silence.
[Ran] A deathly nothingness.
[Joseph] My cousin,
the ultimate pragmatist.
I like our chats, Ran.
They're very good chats.
[Ran] Sorry not to be able
to come up with anything
remarkably wise.
Ha ha!
[Joseph] The wisest
man I knowRan.
After hundreds of miles
on the road, we are closing in
on our final destination
But en route are
the huge 300-horse stables
of the Banff Trail Riders,
set in the heart of the Rockies.
After endless hours in the car,
we can't resist the chance
to experience
this wilderness on horseback,
the way explorers of this region
did hundreds of years ago.
Erica, hi. Joe.
Lovely to meet you.
[Erica] Hi. Nice
to meet you as well.
[Joseph] How do you do?
My cousin Ran.
[Erica] Hi, nice to meet you.
All right, guys, do you want
to come on down here with me
and we'll see some horses?
[Joseph] Love to. Ran?
[Ran] Yeah, that'd be great.
[Joseph] Yeah, let's do that.
[Erica] I think your horse
is gonna come over
and say hi to us anyways.
[Joseph] They're all
coming to greet you, Ran.
[Ran] Aw!
[Erica] Yeah.
[Joseph] And once I've picked
my horse, time to saddle up.

Because of his Parkinson's,
Ran's been given
medical advice not to ride.
[Erica] All right, Joe,
if you want to hop on,
we'll go for a ride.
[Joseph] Can't think
of anything better.
Maybe we'll find Ran.
I don't know where he's got to.
But Ran being Ran,
he has other ideas.
[Julie] Hello, Ran.
[Ran] Hi, Julie.
[Julie] This horse is an
amazing horse called Big John.
[Ran] Oh, lovely Big John.
How old is he?
[Julie] He's about 15.
[Ran] Right?
That's quite a good age.
[Julie] It is a perfect age.
It means he's smart
and he's pretty worldly.
[Ran] What a lovely horse.
Because I had Parkinson's,
they thought he oughtn't
to get on a horse.
I fought the rules against it,
and they very kindly
let me go for a ride.
That goes in there?
[Julie] It does.
[Joseph] So Ran's cut a deal,
with a few extra
safety precautions.
[Ran] Hey, ah!
[Joseph] A huge, but very
composed Big John on a rein,
and Ran is on a horse.
[Ran] Much appreciated.
[Joseph] That famous
Fiennes tenacity.
[Ran laughs]
[Julie] Oh, you know what?
There you go.
[Ran] A lovely horse it was.
Big John took me back
to my riding days.
I am honored to be
on your back. Absolutely.
[Julie] Oh, I know that
he's honored to have you.
You're a bit of a legacy
out here, Ran.
[Ran] It's just wonderful.
[Joseph] So although
we didn't do much exploring,
we did both
end up on a horse.
And I'll take that as a win.
In October 1971,
after nine weeks
and 2,400 kilometers of rivers,
lake, and thick forest,
Ran and his team were
moments from success.
They reached the bridges
of Vancouver,
the largest city
in British Columbia.
But the expedition boats
shot past the metropolis.
Their goal had been to travel
from the northern border
of British Columbia
to its southern border
with the United States.
And this happens to be just
beyond Vancouver, out to sea.
So that's where
we're heading today.
And I've organized
something special for Ran
back out on the water.
We will be going whale watching,
something I've never done.
We'll go out on a Zodiac on one
of those rigid inflatables.
[Ran] And we are going
at the time
when they're most likely
to be there?
[Joseph] I believe so.
They've got a very good
schedule, I have to say.
They, they come here
when the weather's good,
and then when it gets bad,
they shift off to Hawaii.
I think it's
pretty clever of them.
[Ran] Yeah, yeah.
[Joseph] For our whale watching
trip to the American border,
we are being joined
by Martin Haulena,
the chief vet
from the Vancouver Aquarium.
He'll be able to give us
a little insight
into the amazing animals
we're hoping to see,
animals Ran would
have been hard-pressed
to find here in 1971.
[Martin] So, Ran,
when you were here before,
the whales were
exploited quite a bit,
and then after the big,
massive protections came in,
they worked, you know,
the whales have bounced back,
so now we have humpbacks
that are almost resident
right here
in downtown Vancouver.
[Joseph] So, the question is,
will any show themselves today?
[Joseph] After being hunted
to the brink of extinction,
nearly 400 individual
humpback whales
have been recorded
in the sea around Vancouver
a success story that has been
dubbed the "humpback comeback."
And today, we're in luck.
[Ran] What's that over there?
[Joseph] Oh, wow.
[Martin] They're at the surface,
they take a bit of rest,
so that deep dive.
And that breath holding
does come with a bit of a cost,
so they need
to blow off the CO2,
blow off the lactic acid
that they've built up
during their dive,
take a little bit of rest,
and then go do it again.
[whale blowing]
I love that, that breath noise.
That's my favorite thing.
You hear that big breath
go in and out.
That's a lot of air moving
in a big set of lungs.
[whales blowing]
[Ran] We saw
for maybe three hours,
whales coming up
and then huge [blows] snorters.
And then we tried to get
a little bit nearer to that,
and it was just wonderful.
I could have stayed there
for hours watching.

That's great to watch.
[Martin] There is
a big one. Wow.
[Joseph] Beautiful,
just stunning.

So, Ran, this is our last day.
It's a pretty nice way to end
our trip, don't you think?
[Ran] Wonderful.
Couldn't be better.
[Joseph] Yeah.
[Ran] Oh, look at that tail!
[Joseph] Don't you think the two
moving here in synchronicity
a bit like us
these last few weeks?
[Joseph] Yeah, moving together.
Edging towards
the finishing line.
[Ran] In a mellifluous manner.
In a mellifluous manner.
[Ran] Good one.

[Joseph] Sadly, it's time
to leave these impressive beasts
and head for our finish line,
heading for the same spot
Ran did five decades ago.
1971, when you
crossed the border,
what were your feelings?
[Ran] Huge relief
and thanks to the good Lord
and wonderful, wonderful
country, Canada,
you know, just incredible.
But, of course, here, where
is exactly the U.S. border?
I knew that it was at a place
called Point Roberts,
and I kept asking people, have
we got to Point Roberts yet?
And finally I got the yes,
big, big relief.
[Explorer] Where's the border?
That's it, Jack!
[Joseph] So, how did
you celebrate it then?
[Ran] You would think
I'm joking.
There was a bottle of champagne
lurking somewhere,
and we thought we'd attack it.
[Joseph] Well, Ran, as you've
made the trip a second time,
we have another bottle
of champagne here to celebrate
not only your extraordinary
expedition back in '71,
but also
the extraordinary journey
that you took me
back on this time.
So, with your permission,
could I open this bottle
and toast your good health?
[Ran] Cousin Joe,
it was wonderful
having you on it, really!
Ooh, well done.
[Joseph] Whoa. Sorry about that.
Nearly took your eye out.
Sorry about that.
[Ran] Yeah,
the best champagne ever.

[Joseph laughs]
[Joseph] Your good health, Ran.
Thank you so much. Bless you.
[Ran] Cheers.

[Joseph] As our journey
comes to an end,
I'm left with a profound sense
of gratitude and privilege,
having witnessed
breathtaking wilderness
alongside my extraordinary
cousin, Ran.
I remain in awe
of his boundless drive,
invincible spirit,
and unwavering optimism.
I'm rather liking
just shooting the breeze.
And I can only hope this won't
be our last adventure together.
[Ran] We'd done an expedition
together before,
but not one which involved
anything as wonderful
as this one.
[Joseph] What did you say?
[Ran] Deaf. What I think I said.
Doing it all with Joe
as my expedition companion
has been a great experience, and
I'd certainly go on another one.
[Joseph] You say the word,
Ran, and I'm there.

[Ran] All's well
[Joseph] that ends well.
[Ran] That ends well.
[Joseph] Very well put.
[Ran] Yeah.

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