Episode 2 Birds of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest


Episode 2

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner and explorer Benedict Allen journey through Papua New Guinea. As Frank gets close to realising his dream, old injuries return to haunt him.


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Transcript


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BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner has a little-known passion.

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It's beautiful. It's really lovely.

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I've been a keen bird-watcher now for probably more than 20 years.

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Whenever I go to somewhere really unusual

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I'll always bring binoculars.

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This is very geeky but I've kept a record of how many different species

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I've seen - 1,358.

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But there's one group of birds that's so far eluded him.

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The ultimate, the Holy Grail of exotic birds

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has always been birds-of-paradise.

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I've wanted to see birds-of-paradise since I was eight years old.

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And I want to see them in the wild.

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Almost all of these birds are found in one of the most spectacular and

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remote places in the world -

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Papua New Guinea.

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But events in 2004 ended Frank's chances of getting there.

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The reason I'm in a wheelchair is because we were filming

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on a BBC trip in Saudi Arabia and we got ambushed by terrorists,

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by Al-Qaeda.

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I lay in hospital thinking,

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"Why didn't I go to Papua New Guinea?

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"Why didn't I go and see these things when I could trek?"

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A meeting with renowned solo explorer Benedict Allen

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gave Frank new hope.

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When he told me his story, I said,

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"A-ha! I'm your man, because I used to live there 30 years ago."

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Now Benedict is returning to Papua New Guinea, taking Frank with him,

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in an attempt to fulfil Frank's dream.

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It's something we've cooked up between us, so if it's a disaster,

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the blame lies with us.

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-There are crocodiles here, Johnny?

-Yes!

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In the first part of their journey...

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Loving this.

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..Benedict reunited with the people he left behind as a young man...

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DRUMS BEAT

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It sends a shiver down my spine when I hear that noise.

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..and revealed to Frank the brutal initiation ceremony he endured.

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It's the sort of thing we were beaten with the first day.

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Guys, will you please keep your voices down?

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And Frank had just a fleeting glimpse of a bird-of-paradise.

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I saw it for a split-second.

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It's halfway through and the expedition is about to get tougher.

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We have to keep this chair absolutely stable.

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Straighten up. Straighten up!

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It is a big wound that will take you down fast.

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The idea of taking anyone in a wheelchair through Papua New Guinea

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is absolutely crazy.

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It's got everything you could possibly dream of and dread

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in a tropical environment.

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That is disgusting.

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What will Benedict find when he revisits his past?

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I can't make sense of this.

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It's as if there's a vacuum here.

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They've been forgotten.

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And will Frank finally get to see his birds-of-paradise?

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This is so much more than just going to see a bird, this is, in a way,

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a form of closure to my injuries.

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Friends Frank and Benedict are over halfway through their three-week

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journey to the highlands of Papua New Guinea

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to find birds-of-paradise.

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I'm feeling pretty good.

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Yesterday, I saw my first-ever bird-of-paradise.

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Great. Thanks. Well done.

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Very good, we got there.

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And I'm really keen to see more of them.

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I mean, I want to see proper displays, I want to see the males in

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all their finery, and the best ones are higher up in the hills.

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Really good. Good job.

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I have to say, Chambri Lakes,

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it sounds like some sort of executive spa retreat

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in the Home Counties, doesn't it?

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Yeah, this is going to be slightly cheaper and less fun.

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Up ahead, there's at least an eight-hour trek.

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It's going to be bad.

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Up through forest, then, carefully avoiding Murder Mountain,

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we go up to the Central Range and that is where

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I'm hoping to see birds-of-paradise.

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They're continuing to retrace the journey Benedict made 30 years ago,

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stopping at villages along the way.

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Their ultimate goal is the cloud forest, high in the mountains

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of the Central Range.

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Frank?

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Oh, no, already?

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OK, I'm sorry.

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What I'm scared of is letting down Frank.

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I'm someone who's used to doing his own thing.

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Looking after myself.

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But, I feel that he's decent and he deserves his chance.

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What counts is getting Frank to that moment when he's face-to-face

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with one of these birds.

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-Oh, we're here already?

-Yeah, yeah, yeah.

-Gosh.

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Frank and Benedict are stopping at the community of Mensuat to meet

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a local team who will carry Frank through the dense jungle tomorrow.

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Basically, lift up, turn around 180 and march out.

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Easy, easy, easy.

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Keep going, keep going. Just move.

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Good afternoon.

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-WOMAN:

-Good afternoon!

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Hello.

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OK, my name is Joe.

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I'm the ward councillor of, ah,

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this village here.

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Plywood? Balsa boy.

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I'd say mahogany at least.

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One of the hardest things about being physically disabled is that

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people often, you know, they see the wheelchair, not the person.

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Every now and then, newspaper articles will say,

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"He's confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life."

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That is so 1950s.

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Yeah, perfect.

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That's lovely.

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Back then, people really were confined.

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You didn't have a life.

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That, thank God, has changed completely.

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But in this community,

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Frank's disability is still regarded as a curiosity.

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OK.

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Do you want me to talk to them and you translate?

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-Yes.

-Come on, then.

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OK, let's turn around, then.

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About turn.

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I wasn't born in this wheelchair.

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12 years ago we were on

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a filming trip in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia.

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Do you want to translate?

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HE SPEAKS HIS OWN LANGUAGE

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Six criminals attacked us with guns.

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The first one said, "Peace be upon you."

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And as he said that, he was pulling out a gun.

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He fired once.

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Bang!

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And the bullet went straight through this shoulder.

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And they stood over me and fired many times into the body, here.

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You've got two choices.

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You can feel all depressed

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and sad or you can just get on with it and say,

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"Right, I'm going to deal with it and move on."

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Coming to Papua New Guinea makes it all worthwhile

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to survive and explore beautiful countries like this.

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OK?

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-LOCALS:

-Yes.

-OK.

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Thanks, Joe.

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When I was in hospital, they sent this brilliant Navy psychiatrist and

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he sat there at the end of my bed and he said,

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"Do you know what, Frank?

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"Don't dwell on the things that you can't do any more."

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He said, "Just concentrate on the things you CAN do, cos you'll find

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"there are so many more things you can still do than the things you can't."

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And that's really been my guiding principle.

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The heat of the day is just starting to subside,

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and it's a lovely thing just to sit here at the edge of the village,

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with this great expanse of green canopy forest behind,

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strange bird calls I've got no chance of identifying,

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and it's a really nice feeling.

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It's a really special moment, this.

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Frank has carried on enthusing all through this trip.

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He's savouring life all the time.

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I think he does it better than me.

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He's better at it than me.

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So, I don't think there's any one set definition of paradise.

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-I mean, for some people it's a beach, you know?

-Yeah.

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Others it's a really good ski run.

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Others it's a

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particularly memorable sexual exploit.

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-You know, it could be anything.

-Yeah, yeah.

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Different things, different places.

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But right now, at this moment...

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..it's here.

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The expedition is preparing to tackle the treacherous passage

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to reach the village of Yembiyembi.

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Today is actually the one day when I think it really is probably going

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to get quite tough.

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It's "the big trek". It's going to be pretty much the whole day.

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Benedict has trekked up to the mountains before

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and knows the challenges ahead.

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I hope this is going to be worth it,

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because he is putting himself through hell.

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He's got a metal rod in his right leg.

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Bullet fragments in his back.

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He has to deal with a colostomy bag.

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That's bad enough in any environment, but here,

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extra risk of infection.

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He's being jogged about all the time.

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And he will press on, because he's that sort of man.

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That sort of person.

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But we've got a long, long way to go.

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Frank's personal helper, Felix, is also anxious about the day ahead.

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Today, basically,

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is the first time we are doing a very long-distance trek,

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which, for all of the crew, is going to be quite challenging.

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I remember Frank saying to me that one of his worries was that he would

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simply be dropped and his legs shatter, and that word terrified me.

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Shatter?

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Yeah, his injuries are complicated and multiple.

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He cannot be dropped.

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The local team has no chance to practise carrying Frank

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on the steep paths before they head off.

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Thank you, Felix.

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Right, guys, a few things I just want to highlight.

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OK, you guys know this trail very well - we don't. All right?

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So we're relying on your local knowledge to guide us up

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to the boundary safely.

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We have to keep this chair absolutely stable.

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It cannot tilt, it cannot fall, it cannot slip.

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We have to protect it like the most precious thing in the world.

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OK, it has to be gentle all the way.

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Just give me a nod when you are ready, then.

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You need to turn the other way.

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Turn.

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If there is a drop, an added risk is an internal bleed.

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An internal bleed can become rapidly life-threatening.

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An immediate, priority-one casu-vac.

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That means calling in a helicopter.

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That would be game over.

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So, this day presents a massive amount of risk.

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Six years ago, sitting in London at a bar,

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Frank and I had this dream. We concocted this idea of coming to

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Papua New Guinea and see the birds-of-paradise.

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And now,

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here we are, walking through the forest,

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not two men but various members of several villages

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willing us along to make this dream a reality.

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This idea of having this huge, great big, long tail, as it were,

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of people and porters, this is...

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..this is totally alien to me.

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Frank doesn't want to be dependent on other people.

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I think a lot of that is survival mechanism.

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The sedan chair experience is a mixed blessing.

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There's something slightly uncomfortable about being carried

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like a, sort of, conquering hero.

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You know, I'm just an ordinary person.

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This is the stuff that is a bit iffy.

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We've got an incredibly narrow - literally about one,

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maybe, at the most two feet wide,

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this muddy path and it falls away steeply to one side.

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So, if any of these guys misses their footing...

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..we're going to a-tumble straight down the side there.

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They're being really professional, but I don't want to speak too soon.

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We're going over a huge fallen log here, which has fallen

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across the path and it's about to get steeper after this.

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It's so risky,

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and the guys on the side are piling in to support the forward carriers,

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which is great.

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Incredibly tough, all barefoot

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they're all talking to each other, swapping around regularly.

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What we can't do is relax.

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That's when accidents happen.

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Felix, how's it going?

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-FELIX:

-Not bad. I'm all right. I'm OK.

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Yeah? Still strong?

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Good, good.

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We've decided to take a rest, five minutes every hour.

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-They hooned up that hill, didn't they?

-Such strong legs.

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Very, very strong.

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I was just saying, I mean, it is quite a steep drop down here.

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Os would have a field day sorting us out if we fell down that.

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All right, same level of concentration.

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Very, very good.

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Let's keep it up.

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At four hours into the trek,

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a new challenge presents itself.

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We're just reaching the visible border between the land that belongs

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to the people that are carrying us with the next place we're going to,

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and we're supposed to be met there by porters from the other clan.

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If they don't turn up, then we're going to keep our ones and

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go through their land.

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I just hope it doesn't result in an ugly scene,

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because people are incredibly territorial here.

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These people are from

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the village here that's called Yembiyembi,

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which, I have to say, sounds suspiciously like Airbnb.

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My name is Greg.

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It's not ideal to be changing crews halfway, but we're now in a

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different clan's territory, so we have to. It's protocol.

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You've got to let a new lot of people carry me,

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so they've got to learn all over again.

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Bye.

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Thank you.

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The new crew's first test comes within minutes of setting off.

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My life-changing injuries just remind me how vulnerable my body is.

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I've been incredibly lucky to be back to the state that I'm in,

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but I'm not invincible.

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The human body is pretty vulnerable.

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Keep a very careful eye on this.

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We know it.

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-We know it.

-Good.

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That's a welcome sign.

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The outside world.

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This forest is very, very thick primary forest

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and that is Murder Mountain.

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I seem to remember deciding to avoid that for some reason.

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I think we're getting there, Frank.

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The expedition has almost arrived at today's destination,

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but, to reach Yembiyembi, the team has to cross

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a series of makeshift bridges,

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the first submerged in waist-high water.

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To suddenly find we have a long pole to get Frank along.

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That wasn't something I was expecting or any of us were expecting.

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Straighten up.

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Straighten up!

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Brilliant.

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Felix, well done, very good.

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No, no, no, you did really well.

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That was brilliant.

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Yep, we sweated buckets up there, but it doesn't matter,

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we're safely here.

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Another little leg in the journey completed.

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I trust my life and safety to you.

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You're really good.

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Thank you for sorting that out.

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Frank has woken up with a problem.

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The plan for today is to head further on towards the mountains,

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but he's asked to see Os, the expedition medic.

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Hi, Frank.

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Hi, Os.

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Look, I've got a little bit of a medical issue here,

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which I need to alert you to.

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Sure, please do.

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-I've got a pressure sore on the left cheek of my arse.

-Right.

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Not the first time I've had it, but it really hurts.

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-And it's from the trek we did yesterday.

-OK.

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Six hours jolting around in the chair and it has basically chafed it

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and I think it's broken the skin.

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For your delectation, I've taken a photograph.

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Right.

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How bad does that look to you?

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OK, that is quite serious.

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We have doctors online all the time.

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I would like to discuss it with them and follow their guidance on how we

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treat this and how we manage it going forward.

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Sure.

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But, for now, we need to stay put. This needs immediate attention.

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OK.

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Frank rarely gets pressure sores, but yesterday's carry has caused

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a ten-centimetre ulcer.

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I've inspected it this morning.

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There is an open canker, where the skin has opened up and it's probably

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two or three millimetres deep.

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Any infection can lead to blood poisoning and could kill

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within 48 hours.

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Yes, that is the bottom line.

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Do we proceed or do we have to call it quits now?

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I've got to be candid here, Frank, it is a big wound,

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it looks very distressed and very angry and the fact that the skin

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is broken is the key point.

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And that is just a conduit for infection

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and that will take you down fast.

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I just think we've got to slow it down, that's all.

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I mean, my intent here is to get this well enough

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that there's no question of cancelling, cos I want to get to

0:21:380:21:41

cloud forest and, obviously, I want to see these birds-of-paradise.

0:21:410:21:44

I caught one short glimpse of a very beautiful bird-of-paradise,

0:21:440:21:48

but if that's all I get to see after two weeks in PNG,

0:21:480:21:53

I'll feel a little short-changed.

0:21:530:21:54

We've already made the decision that today we're not going anywhere.

0:21:540:21:57

-Yeah.

-At all.

0:21:570:21:59

-FELIX:

-OK, let's go.

-BENEDICT:

-Right, let's go.

0:21:590:22:02

Benedict is looking to provide Frank with a distraction.

0:22:020:22:04

What Frank needs is something to fortify him.

0:22:060:22:10

Something mineral-rich, full of protein...

0:22:100:22:14

Sago grubs, surely.

0:22:150:22:17

Yeah, thank you.

0:22:270:22:28

His pressure sores are the hidden cost of that journey over the hill.

0:22:290:22:33

What he needs is to see his birds-of-paradise,

0:22:330:22:35

but, er, I just want to raise his morale, you know?

0:22:350:22:38

Deep down, he must be feeling desperately upset or worried.

0:22:390:22:45

Except he's not.

0:22:450:22:46

Frank refuses to believe he won't be back on the trail tomorrow.

0:22:460:22:50

Yeah, I've always been determined and quite stubborn.

0:22:510:22:53

I tend to think, if this is something I really want to do,

0:22:530:22:56

I'm going to do it. I mean, against all advice,

0:22:560:22:59

I left banking to go into news journalism at 33.

0:22:590:23:05

I still think like an able-bodied person.

0:23:070:23:09

I think, "Right, you know, I can get up, I can run around...

0:23:090:23:12

"Oh, wait, no, I can't."

0:23:120:23:14

So, I have to keep pinching myself and remind myself, even now,

0:23:140:23:18

there are so many things I can't do,

0:23:180:23:20

because I tend to be quite positive about it.

0:23:200:23:22

One's escaping.

0:23:230:23:25

-What do you think? Do you think Frank will like them?

-Yeah.

0:23:250:23:27

Frank will like them.

0:23:290:23:31

-Job is complete.

-Yes.

0:23:310:23:32

We have our sago grubs.

0:23:320:23:34

Good news, Frank.

0:23:360:23:38

Guess what.

0:23:380:23:39

Oh, my God!

0:23:390:23:40

You found your sago grubs.

0:23:400:23:42

Oh, that is vile! They're wriggling.

0:23:420:23:45

This very, very wise man, he says,

0:23:450:23:48

"Take three of those with a glass of water every quarter of an hour and

0:23:480:23:51

"you'll be as right as rain."

0:23:510:23:53

That is disgusting.

0:23:530:23:55

-Do you want to cuddle one?

-What do you think? They're maggots.

0:23:550:23:58

Well, they're sweet maggots,

0:23:580:24:00

and with a bit off to Tabasco sauce, quite creamy.

0:24:000:24:03

But, on a more serious note, how are things?

0:24:030:24:05

I'm so frustrated.

0:24:060:24:08

I never get pressure sores.

0:24:080:24:09

I mean, you know, I normally boast that I'm lucky enough,

0:24:090:24:14

that my skin's in good nick, I don't get pressure sores.

0:24:140:24:17

But the trek yesterday just did it for me.

0:24:170:24:21

I'm someone who has never wanted to travel with anyone

0:24:290:24:32

but there's something about Frank that makes me want to travel with him.

0:24:320:24:36

And it's certainly not pity.

0:24:360:24:37

There's something very honest about his objective.

0:24:380:24:42

I do wonder what's going to emerge on this journey.

0:24:420:24:44

It's early next morning and there's news on Frank's condition.

0:24:530:24:57

Os, are you able to give me any word?

0:25:000:25:02

It's very, very delicate.

0:25:020:25:04

I would say we are on a knife edge.

0:25:040:25:06

He's developed a second sore and expedition medic Os

0:25:070:25:11

has alerted the emergency medical team in New Zealand.

0:25:110:25:15

They are waiting for a call back.

0:25:150:25:16

It's worse than I was thinking. I thought, "We'll rest up a day,

0:25:210:25:24

-"rest up a couple of days."

-This is, from a...

0:25:240:25:26

PHONE RINGS

0:25:260:25:27

I've got to take this call.

0:25:270:25:29

Frank is patched through on the call.

0:25:310:25:33

It, it, it...

0:25:570:25:59

I'm going to resist that.

0:25:590:26:00

I am really not in that...that state.

0:26:000:26:04

You know, right now, I'm fit and well and perfectly fine,

0:26:040:26:07

except for this bloody pressure sore on my arse.

0:26:070:26:10

Mmm.

0:26:320:26:33

And there's nothing we can do to mitigate in the meantime?

0:26:330:26:35

Right.

0:26:380:26:40

This is unbelievably bad.

0:26:400:26:42

This is the end of the trip. That's it. It's over.

0:26:420:26:44

We're not going to get up to the mountains at all.

0:26:440:26:47

All because of this bloody pressure sore that I've got.

0:26:470:26:51

God! You know, I hate the way the curse of my injuries comes up

0:26:510:26:54

to dog me 12 years on.

0:26:540:26:57

It's so cruel.

0:27:030:27:04

It wasn't meant to be like this.

0:27:050:27:07

It wasn't meant to be like this at all.

0:27:120:27:13

I never expected to be leaving Papua New Guinea like this,

0:27:250:27:28

being medevacked out in a helicopter.

0:27:280:27:31

I also never expected to be leaving without Benedict.

0:27:310:27:33

I've yet to get a proper view of birds-of-paradise

0:27:340:27:37

in their environment, but you can't beat nature.

0:27:370:27:41

Sometimes these things are bigger than us and

0:27:410:27:42

we've just got to respect that.

0:27:420:27:44

I just feel Frank has suffered enough, you know,

0:27:460:27:48

and he deserved this.

0:27:480:27:49

Slowly, slowly.

0:27:560:27:57

Mind your head. Well done.

0:28:050:28:07

Beautifully done, guys.

0:28:070:28:08

Well done.

0:28:080:28:10

We'll meet again somewhere.

0:28:120:28:14

-We will.

-Some jungle.

0:28:140:28:15

Farewell in a jungle clearing on an airstrip.

0:28:150:28:18

See you in another jungle, somewhere.

0:28:180:28:21

Yeah, good trip. Felix, you've been...

0:28:210:28:23

-FELIX:

-Thank you very much for our trip.

0:28:230:28:25

-Thank you.

-Love you.

0:28:250:28:27

You're really good, you're my bro.

0:28:270:28:29

You're my bro, Felix, thank you.

0:28:290:28:30

So cruel.

0:28:510:28:52

The mountains are there.

0:28:550:28:56

They're visible, just about.

0:28:580:29:00

We were just so nearly there.

0:29:010:29:02

Maybe paradise, in the end, is simply unobtainable.

0:29:050:29:09

To reach the birds-of-paradise,

0:29:300:29:32

the expedition had planned to pass through a missionary station called

0:29:320:29:35

Bisorio, where Benedict spent some time 30 years ago.

0:29:350:29:39

He is heading upriver to let them know the change of plan.

0:29:400:29:43

I can see the silhouette of dozens and dozens of people,

0:29:460:29:50

who are coming out to greet us.

0:29:500:29:51

When I was here last time, there were three or four

0:29:520:29:55

American missionaries busy baptising them in this river,

0:29:550:29:59

telling them to believe in this alien god

0:29:590:30:02

and so, readily, that's what people were doing,

0:30:020:30:05

throwing off their feathers, their traditional ornamentation and

0:30:050:30:09

putting on their American T-shirts,

0:30:090:30:11

which they could buy cheap in the local store here.

0:30:110:30:14

I can't see any sign of missionaries here.

0:30:150:30:16

Let's go.

0:30:200:30:22

Hello.

0:30:220:30:24

Oh, thank you.

0:30:280:30:31

Thank you. Good to be here. Do you remember me?

0:30:310:30:34

You still remember me?

0:30:360:30:37

So who is your father?

0:30:410:30:42

What was his name?

0:30:450:30:47

Yeah. Benny.

0:30:470:30:49

-A great speaker.

-Yeah.

0:30:490:30:51

The missionaries here would wait and get him to say the right thing.

0:30:510:30:55

The missionaries have gone?

0:30:550:30:57

-You mean, they've just left you?

-Yeah.

0:31:020:31:04

-No-one? No help? So you are just left by yourselves?

-Yeah.

0:31:090:31:12

Before the missionaries arrived in the 1980s,

0:31:140:31:18

many of these people lived off the land in self-sufficient communities

0:31:180:31:21

deep in the jungle.

0:31:210:31:23

I can't make sense of this.

0:31:250:31:27

The missionaries created this place and now they are not here.

0:31:270:31:32

It's extraordinary.

0:31:320:31:33

It's as if there is a vacuum here.

0:31:330:31:35

This used to be a pristine lawn

0:31:380:31:40

and you'd imagine a picket fence around it.

0:31:400:31:44

It was like a little bit of American suburbia right here in the jungle.

0:31:440:31:49

It's all gone. There's a solitary bathtub over there.

0:31:500:31:53

Everything else...

0:31:550:31:57

it's as if it has evaporated.

0:31:570:32:00

Nothing.

0:32:000:32:01

Benedict encountered the Yaifo people in

0:32:030:32:06

the mountains above Bisorio 30 years ago.

0:32:060:32:09

Targeted for conversion to Christianity,

0:32:090:32:12

some of them abandoned their traditional way of life.

0:32:120:32:15

When I first came here,

0:32:170:32:19

I couldn't work out why the Yaifo would come out of their homes,

0:32:190:32:22

leave their gardens and camp down here in the mission station.

0:32:220:32:26

But then I saw this place and I thought,

0:32:260:32:28

"Why wouldn't they? It's amazing."

0:32:280:32:30

There are hibiscus plants over there,

0:32:300:32:33

there was a medical post over there

0:32:330:32:35

and the missionaries themselves looked so healthy.

0:32:350:32:37

I've got a photo of one of the missionaries here

0:32:370:32:40

and he's baptising someone in the river behind me.

0:32:400:32:43

He's a very enticing role model, really.

0:32:430:32:46

"You too can become like me,

0:32:460:32:48

"you too can become an American and have access to everything."

0:32:480:32:52

It seemed like a great offer.

0:32:530:32:55

Joseph, when the missionaries left here,

0:32:570:32:59

it must have been such a shock.

0:32:590:33:00

So there's no doctor here?

0:33:060:33:08

What is happening now?

0:33:090:33:10

Gradually people are going back into the forest?

0:33:100:33:12

So people have forgotten how to work the gardens,

0:33:240:33:26

-how to find food in the forest, so they are stuck?

-Yes.

0:33:260:33:31

Look what I've found. A dusty, old Bible.

0:33:390:33:42

This has not been read for quite a while.

0:33:420:33:45

It's in Bikaru, which is the local language here.

0:33:450:33:48

And a pair of missionary spectacles

0:33:480:33:51

with which to read the good news even closer.

0:33:510:33:54

That's interesting,

0:33:540:33:55

it looks like the Holy Bible in the local language is "goodee-be", goodbye.

0:33:550:34:00

And with that goodbye, off the missionaries went

0:34:000:34:03

to find a new lot of people to spread the good news to.

0:34:030:34:06

The children in Bisorio show signs of malnutrition,

0:34:110:34:14

and now that Benedict and Frank's journey is over,

0:34:140:34:17

the remaining supplies are donated.

0:34:170:34:19

The missionaries were doing the right thing, as far as they were concerned.

0:34:330:34:36

They were here in the service of God for the spreading of the good news.

0:34:360:34:42

But it seems that it wasn't totally good news

0:34:440:34:46

as far as the locals were concerned because...

0:34:460:34:49

Well, they don't look in that good a way, do they?

0:34:500:34:54

They've been forgotten.

0:34:540:34:57

Returning to Bisorio is bringing back the past for Benedict.

0:35:020:35:07

Looking back now,

0:35:070:35:08

I was an explorer in the last era of grand exploration,

0:35:080:35:13

in that classic sense, when there were still journeys to do,

0:35:130:35:16

remote peoples to discover,

0:35:160:35:18

'when you could just disappear off the map.'

0:35:180:35:21

This is very bewildering.

0:35:210:35:24

I did get to the point where life caught up on me.

0:35:240:35:27

My mum had died unexpectedly, my dad was left alone, heartbroken.

0:35:270:35:31

I thought, "I can't do this any more."

0:35:310:35:34

This is the beginning of the airstrip.

0:35:340:35:36

Grapefruit trees are growing up,

0:35:370:35:39

and even they are being dragged back into the forest.

0:35:390:35:42

You can see those vines.

0:35:420:35:43

This is going back into the jungle.

0:35:430:35:46

I thought, "I've got to stop,"

0:35:460:35:49

and that's when I settled down and started to have a family.

0:35:490:35:52

And it's glorious and it's frustrating.

0:35:540:35:57

I was going through my equipment just now

0:35:570:35:59

and I reached into my pocket and I found my daughter's sock.

0:35:590:36:02

What is this doing here?

0:36:020:36:05

So, erm... That is family life.

0:36:050:36:08

It has changed, but there still is that little bit inside me...

0:36:080:36:13

that hasn't gone.

0:36:130:36:15

It's sad that Frank isn't here.

0:36:200:36:21

And the plan was,

0:36:210:36:24

we were going to be doing this together right to the end,

0:36:240:36:28

so the mission feels a bit incomplete,

0:36:280:36:30

as far as I'm concerned, but...

0:36:300:36:32

if there's one thing I've learned from him is that

0:36:320:36:35

you just grab whatever you can out of life.

0:36:350:36:38

I feel I can be really grateful for what we DID have,

0:36:380:36:41

which was an extraordinary encounter with a place

0:36:410:36:45

that sometimes can be hell and other times be like paradise.

0:36:450:36:50

We are going back to Papua New Guinea.

0:37:070:37:09

Some people are going to be saying, "Well, you know what? Rather you than me, mate."

0:37:090:37:12

But I'm very, very lucky.

0:37:120:37:14

When Frank was examined in Australia,

0:37:140:37:16

he was found to have a grade three wound almost open down to the muscle.

0:37:160:37:20

He spent five days in hospital.

0:37:200:37:22

I am going to do things differently.

0:37:230:37:25

To be medevacked once from Papua New Guinea is acceptable,

0:37:250:37:29

to be medevacked twice, that's not going to look good on the resume.

0:37:290:37:33

Frank and Benedict have decided that continuing to follow

0:37:330:37:36

Benedict's previous route overland is too risky for Frank's health.

0:37:360:37:41

I'm very excited about this.

0:37:420:37:44

We are flying into Tari, right up in the highlands,

0:37:440:37:47

and into the heart of bird-of-paradise country.

0:37:470:37:51

Expedition support team members Casper and Felix

0:37:580:38:02

are waiting at the airport.

0:38:020:38:04

Good to see you.

0:38:150:38:17

They are heading to a nearby lodge to meet Joseph,

0:38:190:38:22

one of Papua New Guinea's leading bird experts.

0:38:220:38:25

I feel like there's some unfinished business.

0:38:270:38:29

I've yet to get a proper view of birds-of-paradise.

0:38:290:38:33

It is becoming almost an obsession. I've got to see them.

0:38:330:38:37

You've been taking people to look at the birds-of-paradise, yes?

0:38:370:38:41

Yes, I do take people to see birds-of-paradise in many places.

0:38:410:38:46

We are now high up in the hills.

0:38:460:38:49

This is the landscape,

0:38:490:38:51

the environment to find the elusive birds-of-paradise.

0:38:510:38:55

-So you think there is a good chance I can see them?

-Yeah.

0:38:550:38:57

Because, you know, this is my life's birding ambition is to see them.

0:38:570:39:01

'Joseph knows all about the nature, he knows about the moths,

0:39:010:39:05

'the butterflies, but most of all the birds-of-paradise.'

0:39:050:39:07

And when will you feel, Frank, that you've seen what you've come to see?

0:39:180:39:21

What will be that golden moment for me, I think,

0:39:210:39:24

is seeing one of them displaying, showing off,

0:39:240:39:27

fluttering its feathers, preening itself,

0:39:270:39:30

doing the whole peacock job up in the trees.

0:39:300:39:33

It will be really lovely if we can see that.

0:39:330:39:36

These birds are out there, we just have to uncover them.

0:39:360:39:39

OK, Casper, all set for the bush?

0:39:420:39:44

All set for the bush, yes.

0:39:440:39:46

Off we go to the high mountains, 3,000 metres.

0:39:460:39:49

To experience the best bird-watching,

0:39:500:39:53

the team needs to get further off the beaten track.

0:39:530:39:56

Joseph's preferred spot will take them along Papua New Guinea's Highlands Highway -

0:39:560:40:01

its major transport artery.

0:40:010:40:03

Built in the 1950s by hand,

0:40:080:40:10

the highway runs over 500 miles from

0:40:100:40:13

the east coast across the mountains.

0:40:130:40:15

We've come to the roadside because

0:40:170:40:19

Joseph recommends that this is one of the best places

0:40:190:40:21

to see birds-of-paradise feeding on fruit trees.

0:40:210:40:24

This once-remote region now thunders to the sound of over 100,000 trucks a year,

0:40:260:40:32

using the road for commercial transportation, including mining,

0:40:320:40:36

coffee and timber exports.

0:40:360:40:39

TRUCK HORN BEEPS

0:40:390:40:41

But there is no more visible example of how progress

0:40:480:40:52

and modernity is cutting right into their territory and, of course,

0:40:520:40:55

the more trucks there are, the more people there are here,

0:40:550:40:59

the more settlements that spring up,

0:40:590:41:01

the more the birds-of-paradise are going to be squeezed out of their land,

0:41:010:41:06

so it is a worry.

0:41:060:41:07

Further up the road, Benedict has met Thomas,

0:41:110:41:15

one of the three million people

0:41:150:41:17

who live along the length of the highway.

0:41:170:41:19

What was it like, Thomas, this road, in the old days?

0:41:190:41:22

It was just a footpath?

0:41:220:41:24

In your father's time,

0:41:510:41:52

he saw the first aeroplane go overhead

0:41:520:41:54

-and he thought that's a swarm of bees coming over?

-Yes.

0:41:540:41:57

Thomas, from your point of view,

0:42:010:42:03

-the road coming here has opened up the outside world.

-Yes.

0:42:030:42:06

There were no services, no schools, no hospitals,

0:42:060:42:09

-so these things have helped you?

-Yes, yes.

0:42:090:42:12

What's going to happen to the forest?

0:42:120:42:14

What's going to happen to the birds-of-paradise,

0:42:140:42:16

all the other wildlife here? It'll suffer, won't it?

0:42:160:42:20

For locals, there's no doubt about it, it's brought huge benefits.

0:42:400:42:45

Hospitals, schools, market.

0:42:450:42:47

It's brought everything - the outside world.

0:42:470:42:51

For the birds-of-paradise, not so good.

0:42:510:42:54

They've retreated further into the forest

0:42:540:42:57

and this road that snakes its way through the landscape

0:42:570:43:02

you could say is like a snake that's entered paradise.

0:43:020:43:07

TRUCK HORN BEEPS

0:43:150:43:17

That is the best possible way of driving away any birds.

0:43:200:43:24

You can't blame them, they are just being friendly,

0:43:240:43:28

but it is so annoying when they "beep, beep, beep".

0:43:280:43:30

I've got no chance of seeing them.

0:43:300:43:32

Joseph says the birds-of-paradise are not going to come.

0:43:320:43:36

I have to say, I'm not surprised.

0:43:360:43:38

Since we've been here, there has been a succession of lorries.

0:43:380:43:41

I think it has scared the birds off.

0:43:410:43:43

The expedition pushes on towards Joseph's highland bird-watching camp

0:43:530:43:57

as they need to arrive before dusk when birds-of-paradise are active.

0:43:570:44:01

We are pretty high up now.

0:44:030:44:05

To get there, Frank needs to take a short trek off-road

0:44:060:44:10

through the cloud forest.

0:44:100:44:12

HE CHUCKLES

0:44:160:44:19

I still feel like some sort of undeserving emperor being carried around,

0:44:190:44:23

but I promise you there is a practical purpose to this

0:44:230:44:26

because the track is very narrow.

0:44:260:44:28

I can see what they mean,

0:44:280:44:29

we are actually heading into some fairly thick undergrowth now.

0:44:290:44:33

THEY SPEAK OWN LANGUAGE

0:44:390:44:42

The trail is getting incredibly narrow here.

0:44:420:44:46

We are in this kind of dank, dripping cloud forest.

0:44:460:44:52

Everything is saturated with cloud moisture.

0:44:520:44:55

They arrive at the grasslands, where Joseph thinks there is

0:44:570:45:01

the best chance of seeing birds-of-paradise.

0:45:010:45:04

You know that bit in Jurassic Park, where you get whole herds of

0:45:040:45:07

herbivorous dinosaurs flocking across the grasslands?

0:45:070:45:10

That's what it's like.

0:45:100:45:12

Because the birds are active late in the day,

0:45:120:45:15

it will be too dark to carry Frank out afterwards,

0:45:150:45:18

so they must overnight.

0:45:180:45:20

Benedict wants Frank to experience traditional accommodation.

0:45:200:45:24

Well done.

0:45:240:45:26

But in terms of building a camp, it's looking good.

0:45:320:45:35

I'm expecting hot and cold running water, you know, a change of towels.

0:45:350:45:38

A change of towels...? I'm not sure.

0:45:380:45:40

I've got my survival kit. If it all goes wrong...

0:45:400:45:42

You will survive.

0:45:420:45:44

For me, this is just fantastic.

0:45:460:45:48

Getting up here to such a remote part of a remote country...

0:45:480:45:52

..and being on the verge of seeing these birds,

0:45:530:45:56

it's just really thrilling.

0:45:560:45:58

We're just waiting now for them to appear.

0:45:580:46:01

We're going to have to be patient.

0:46:010:46:03

The shelter needs to be finished before nightfall.

0:46:060:46:09

It's great being with people who know the woods,

0:46:130:46:18

they know the individual species, how they cut, how they bend.

0:46:180:46:22

It's a joy to be part of their operation.

0:46:220:46:25

What's on our mind, of course,

0:46:290:46:31

is that if you get wet, you feel the cold much more,

0:46:310:46:34

so that's what we are going to concentrate on,

0:46:340:46:36

getting that shelter up quickly.

0:46:360:46:38

We want to dry some grass to lay as a floor.

0:46:380:46:42

That will stop the damp rising up at night

0:46:420:46:44

when it really drops down in temperature.

0:46:440:46:47

I don't know if Frank looks at me and thinks,

0:47:000:47:03

"I could be doing what Benedict does."

0:47:030:47:05

But I think he does think,

0:47:050:47:07

"I should be out there in the world, I could have been."

0:47:070:47:11

When I walk off and I go bashing the trees, trying to make a shelter,

0:47:120:47:16

does that really, deep down, sort of niggle you because you think,

0:47:160:47:19

"I should be doing that, I used to do this"?

0:47:190:47:21

It probably would have done in my first year or two...

0:47:210:47:25

after injury. Our girls were still very small and they said,

0:47:250:47:29

"Daddy, you can help us build a shelter,"

0:47:290:47:31

and I did actually try in Richmond Park,

0:47:310:47:33

try and help them build a shelter,

0:47:330:47:35

and it's really difficult in a wheelchair.

0:47:350:47:37

I've had to learn what to prioritise.

0:47:370:47:40

I'm fine with that. You know,

0:47:400:47:43

it's good to see you indulging your atavistic tendencies,

0:47:430:47:45

bringing out the caveman in you.

0:47:450:47:48

I think probably if I'd met Benedict in my 20s,

0:47:490:47:52

I'm not sure I would have liked him actually

0:47:520:47:54

because I was starting to explore countries,

0:47:540:47:56

not as hardcore as the way he's doing it,

0:47:560:47:59

and I would probably have seen him as some sort of rival.

0:47:590:48:02

Good man, good man.

0:48:030:48:05

-Thank you.

-I would have thought, "Yes, but I've been to the

0:48:050:48:09

"hill tribes of the Philippines," and he would have probably been,

0:48:090:48:12

"Yes, but I went much further."

0:48:120:48:14

You know, we would probably have been in a little bit of competition.

0:48:140:48:17

We are so grown out of that now.

0:48:170:48:20

I'm fascinated in his stories, I genuinely respect what he's done,

0:48:210:48:25

big admiration.

0:48:250:48:27

Benedict, you did good.

0:48:270:48:29

We did it. So it's good.

0:48:290:48:31

I hope Frank will think it's acceptable.

0:48:310:48:34

So you've built your shelter, you've fulfilled your part of the deal,

0:48:350:48:40

I've yet to have the big epiphonal moment with the birds-of-paradise.

0:48:400:48:45

I feel for you. I wanted...

0:48:450:48:48

-Time-out, one second.

-Big tree.

0:48:480:48:50

That tree there.

0:48:500:48:52

On the right, there's a palm tree.

0:48:520:48:55

Wow! Isn't that beautiful?

0:48:550:48:57

It's really lovely.

0:48:570:48:59

Dazzling, iridescent blue.

0:49:010:49:04

Wonderful long streamers.

0:49:040:49:06

It's just fantastic.

0:49:060:49:07

It dropped down.

0:49:080:49:10

He flew down. I saw him for about a split second.

0:49:100:49:13

As dusk falls, the trees begin to fill with Frank's longed-for birds.

0:49:130:49:19

Yes.

0:49:200:49:21

Beautiful. Wow! Wow, wow, wow!

0:49:220:49:25

32 days, 225 miles, all for this one moment.

0:49:250:49:30

Finally, Frank Gardner is fulfilling his dream in Papua New Guinea.

0:49:310:49:36

I wonder whether there's a conscious connection between Frank

0:49:360:49:41

and these birds-of-paradise. There they are, free, up in the heavens.

0:49:410:49:45

Maybe he's looking to them as some sort of symbol of freedom,

0:49:450:49:51

some ethereal, unreachable quality.

0:49:510:49:55

Wow!

0:50:000:50:02

This is the female ribbon-tailed astrapia.

0:50:020:50:06

It's got these long, black, streaming tail feathers.

0:50:060:50:10

If the female is there, the male can't be far away.

0:50:100:50:13

To see the male, it would be amazing.

0:50:130:50:15

It's just this otherworld beast.

0:50:150:50:17

It flies, you think, "That can't be real."

0:50:170:50:20

It's an illusion.

0:50:200:50:22

-Hang on.

-That's a male and female there.

0:50:220:50:25

Yes, I see it. Yes, yes.

0:50:250:50:28

That's the male.

0:50:280:50:30

Yes, see the tail.

0:50:300:50:31

-Very long tail.

-Yeah.

0:50:310:50:34

Wow!

0:50:340:50:37

They are just so fabulous, these birds-of-paradise.

0:50:370:50:40

Fly, fly, fly.

0:50:400:50:42

That's fantastic.

0:50:420:50:44

Look at it. Isn't that beautiful?

0:50:440:50:46

It's gorgeous.

0:50:460:50:48

That is lovely.

0:50:500:50:51

There's another one. Two of them.

0:50:510:50:54

That is just such a beautiful bird. It's really lovely.

0:50:560:51:00

Its magnificent, white, streaming tail.

0:51:000:51:02

I really hope the new road doesn't shrink

0:51:040:51:07

the habitat of these beautiful birds

0:51:070:51:09

because it would be tragic for Papua New Guinea to lose them.

0:51:090:51:12

What's on your list now?

0:51:140:51:16

What are you most hoping to see?

0:51:160:51:18

I want to see, if I can, the King of Saxony.

0:51:180:51:21

I was so nearly thwarted

0:51:280:51:30

because I had to be medevacked out the first time.

0:51:300:51:33

It's been really worth coming back here to see them.

0:51:330:51:35

This is like a dream that goes back decades for me.

0:51:350:51:38

These are such creations of beauty,

0:51:380:51:40

this is exactly what I wanted to come and see.

0:51:400:51:43

I just feel incredibly privileged to have seen this.

0:51:430:51:46

Before this journey,

0:51:500:51:52

I knew Frank as someone

0:51:520:51:55

who kept his cards close to his chest.

0:51:550:51:58

And I was worried because I thought there could be an angry man here.

0:51:580:52:02

Quite rightly angry because of what's happened to him.

0:52:020:52:07

I didn't find that man.

0:52:070:52:09

This is really impressive, isn't it?

0:52:090:52:10

Do you think so?

0:52:100:52:12

Yes. This is brilliant.

0:52:120:52:15

Even as things were going wrong, he was steady.

0:52:150:52:17

He said, "Benedict,

0:52:170:52:19

"I was someone who almost died and I've been given back life."

0:52:190:52:24

I love this. It's the smell of wood smoke.

0:52:240:52:27

It's the smell of evening.

0:52:270:52:29

He said these words and they stayed with me, and they are with me now.

0:52:290:52:34

"Every day is a bonus."

0:52:340:52:37

Yes, I'm good.

0:52:370:52:38

That's it.

0:52:380:52:41

I'll come away with that truth.

0:52:410:52:43

You've done a lot of solo travelling

0:52:460:52:48

and yet somehow you seem to have made an exception

0:52:480:52:51

to bring me along with all the baggage that I come with -

0:52:510:52:54

the wheelchair and people to help lift me over things.

0:52:540:52:58

It must have slowed you down a bit, that.

0:52:580:53:00

That must be frustrating for you.

0:53:000:53:02

I don't know, I was worried at the beginning.

0:53:020:53:04

I thought, "What am I doing opening myself up,

0:53:040:53:06

"allowing someone else to come on a journey?"

0:53:060:53:09

But I think I've been proved right,

0:53:090:53:11

that you're a great person to travel with

0:53:110:53:14

because you have this ability to embrace what you do have,

0:53:140:53:18

which is life.

0:53:180:53:20

Has this journey changed your plans, do you think?

0:53:200:53:23

It's opened up a dilemma,

0:53:230:53:25

which is that I deliberately put my exploration...

0:53:250:53:29

..life behind me and now, Frank, you've gone and opened up this...

0:53:300:53:35

-Sorry about that.

-..this world of possibilities.

0:53:350:53:38

I do see it as positive.

0:53:380:53:40

I've tasted life again in a sense.

0:53:400:53:43

I've been woken up to the world that's around us here in New Guinea,

0:53:430:53:47

and you've been part of that.

0:53:470:53:49

And that is a very powerful feeling

0:53:490:53:51

and you can either treat it negatively and say,

0:53:510:53:54

"Well, I'm stuck in Britain and that's the end of my adventure life,"

0:53:540:53:58

or you can say,

0:53:580:54:01

"There must be a way," and that's what I'm thinking about now.

0:54:010:54:04

So, boiling it right down,

0:54:040:54:06

do you think that this expedition has actually left you a happier,

0:54:060:54:10

more contented person?

0:54:100:54:12

-Yeah.

-That's brilliant.

0:54:120:54:14

Morning, Frank.

0:54:260:54:28

-Morning.

-How are you doing?

-Good. Yes.

0:54:280:54:32

It's the last day

0:54:320:54:33

and Frank and Benedict are preparing to head back to the airport.

0:54:330:54:37

Look at this, this is brilliant.

0:54:370:54:40

This is just magical, isn't it?

0:54:400:54:42

Do you know what I heard? The first thing I heard...

0:54:440:54:47

Great to see you again. How are you?

0:54:470:54:50

I heard the King of Saxony. I heard him.

0:54:500:54:53

The King of Saxony somewhere around here.

0:54:530:54:55

It's just, he's just taunting us.

0:54:550:54:57

I didn't get to see the most amazing, kind of,

0:55:020:55:06

explosive display of feathers that I had dreamed of,

0:55:060:55:09

but that would probably take weeks

0:55:090:55:11

and to be at exactly the right place at the right time.

0:55:110:55:14

Birding is unpredictable, it takes a lot of patience.

0:55:140:55:17

People will cross the planet to come

0:55:170:55:20

and see the birds that I've seen, so I feel really lucky.

0:55:200:55:23

But an hour into the drive back, there's an unexpected sighting.

0:55:260:55:30

-Wow.

-This is the bird.

0:55:320:55:34

Is it OK to stop here? Go back a tiny bit.

0:55:370:55:40

Can you see him, Joseph?

0:55:400:55:42

This is just fantastic.

0:55:550:55:57

Listen to that.

0:55:580:55:59

BIRD CALLS

0:55:590:56:02

And we've found it, we've found the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise.

0:56:020:56:05

It's the last day and we've finally seen a bird-of-paradise displaying.

0:56:050:56:10

It's got these two amazing streamers coming out of his head and they are

0:56:100:56:15

flying up into the air, he's perched right at the top,

0:56:150:56:17

he's basically showing off, trying to attract a female.

0:56:170:56:21

He's puffing and preening himself up.

0:56:210:56:24

That's fantastic.

0:56:240:56:26

It's just an otherworldly bird.

0:56:260:56:28

It's suddenly jogged my memory,

0:56:300:56:32

my fascination with birds-of-paradise

0:56:320:56:35

goes right back to when I was nine,

0:56:350:56:38

and we were living in Holland and my dad was playing the piano beautifully,

0:56:380:56:41

he was a concert pianist in his time,

0:56:410:56:45

and I was playing with a friend, we were playing.

0:56:450:56:48

And the playing cards had all these birds-of-paradise on the back

0:56:480:56:52

and I associated...

0:56:520:56:54

what he was playing, I think it was Schumann,

0:56:540:56:58

with these mythical birds.

0:56:580:57:01

I remember saying, "Do they really exist?"

0:57:010:57:03

And my dad said, "Yes, one day we'll go and see them."

0:57:030:57:06

And now I'm seeing them.

0:57:060:57:08

Ever since I was pretty much on my dad's knee,

0:57:250:57:27

Papua New Guinea is a place that I've longed to go to.

0:57:270:57:30

We always thought we would go together.

0:57:320:57:34

We didn't go.

0:57:360:57:37

He isn't around any more.

0:57:380:57:40

So this, in a way, is a kind of tribute to him.

0:57:430:57:46

Finally, the last hour of the last day.

0:57:520:57:55

I'm in shock, actually. I never expected to see one of these things

0:57:550:57:59

displaying. I thought, "That's just like a dream."

0:57:590:58:02

-And there it is.

-Wow!

0:58:020:58:05

2,500 metres up in the highlands and we've found it.

0:58:050:58:08

We've found the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise.

0:58:080:58:11

It really is a paradise for them and for us.

0:58:110:58:14

BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner has dreamed of seeing birds of paradise since he was a young child. But that dream died in 2004 when he was shot by terrorists. A chance meeting with explorer Benedict Allen changed everything. Thirty years ago, Benedict lived in Papua New Guinea with the Niowra, a remote people. They thought he would live amongst them forever but he abandoned them. Intent on returning, Benedict pledges to take Frank with him. Together, they set out on an incredible journey through some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet, to make it up into the cloud forest where the birds live. Benedict is determined to get Frank there despite the wheelchair.

This time, the terrain is getting even tougher, and they must make an epic journey into the highlands, crossing through two tribal territories. But as Frank gets close to realising his dream, his old injuries return to haunt him and the expedition hangs on a knife edge.