Expedition with Steve Backshall

Expedition with Steve Backshall (Dave)

In the depths of ‘the toughest jungle on the planet’ – South America’s Guiana Shield rainforest – Steve Backshall launched his new series of intrepid expeditions by setting out in search of ‘a Lost World where humans are still to set foot’. 

As travelogues go, then, this one’s a bit more ambitious than Michael Portillo catching the Transpennine Express. And it turns out the Conan Doyle, Lost World stuff was no exaggeration: I don't know what your definition of remote is, but here the nearest village was four months’ walk away. 

The team’s first challenge involved a perilous abseil down a 1.8 billion year-old rock face from which huge boulders kept detaching and whistling past their heads. At one point during Backshall’s descent, all the colours of the spectrum suddenly appeared in a magical arc beneath his feet. So while finding Eldorado, South America’s fabled lost city of gold, was probably a non-starter, he had, like Dorothy, at least succeeded in going over the rainbow.

In this ‘primeval landscape’ (‘scenery’ doesn’t quite cut it) wonders and terrors abound in equal measure. When Backshall took off his boot, a giant centipede crawled out, fat with deadly nerve toxin. Swimming in a river full of piranhas, meanwhile, he airily announced, ‘I think the next stage has to be to catch one’. No, Steve, I think the next stage is to get out of the goddam river. But they also met a friendly giant tapir who, having never encountered a human, simply didn’t know he was supposed to be afraid of them.

‘I want to find out whether the modern world is beginning to alter life, even here,’ said Backshall, paddling upriver to a remote settlement. ‘So I’m meeting the village chief.’ As the village chief was wearing an Armani t-shirt, I’m going to say: probably, a bit.

Elsewhere, though, we really were in uncharted territory, going where no human has left its footprint in a thousand years. Which was fairly gobsmacking, actually. Because I’m not sure I ever really expected to see the Lost World with my own eyes. And I sure as heck didn’t expect to see it on Dave.


TV extra:

 

Keeping Faith (BBC One)

The second series of this earthy Welsh thriller – a runaway word-of-mouth hit on iPlayer – picked up 18 months on, with lawyer Faith (a wonderfully relatable Eve Myles) still dealing with the fall-out of dodgy husband Evan’s disappearance and sudden return. The whole thing is filmed twice, once in Welsh and once in English – though, interestingly, whenever Faith swears (which she does like a navvy whenever Evan’s around) it’s always in English. Maybe the Welsh just aren’t as potty-mouthed.

 

How the Middle Classes Ruined Britain (BBC2)

Self-styled politically incorrect comedian Geoff Norcott was on pugnaciously chippy form in this broadside against Britain’s privileged elite – which he helpfully defined as ‘anyone who watches foreign films’. Despite some valid points on affordable housing and parents gaming the school system, it all felt a little scattershot and unfocused – though the bit where he performed a gig to a bunch of achingly woke students, sitting in appalled silence, was comedy gold.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, 25 July, 2019

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