Africa: High and Wild

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General Information

Culture, Nature Documentary published by TLC in 1996 - English narration

Cover

Image: Africa-High-and-Wild-Cover.jpg

Information

In 1991, Australian travellers Sorrel Wilby and Chris Ciantar became the first people in the world to trek the entire length of the Himalaya. The endeavour whet, rather than satiated, their appetite for adventure, their love of high places, and in 1993 they set forth on a second journey together to climb the highest peaks of Africa.

There they found a daunting range of mountain scapes - an unexpected, little known world of primeval forests, vast deserts, active volcanoes and virgin snowfields. They also found - in the heart of those extraordinary, often hostile realms, people. Well beyond the reach of developers and promoters of mass tourism, many of the nomads, warriors and highlanders Wilby and Ciantar met continue to live in harmony with their environment. Their life-styles are substantially traditional, their culture and history alive.

With their expedition acting as a preparatory survey, Wilby, photojournalist and experienced adventurer, and Ciantar, a television cameraman, have joined with Beyond Productions to make a documentary series about their adventure. Their story is not about the physical achievement of their trek, great as it is. Moreover, it is an adventure story where the journey - the people, places and experience shared - becomes tantamount to the mountaineering feats fulfilled. The series will comprise three by one commercial hour documentaries that take us to the best of Africa's high, inaccessible locations and introduces us to the most remote and traditional peoples encountered therein.

Breath of Mist, Jaws of Fire

A forest of leaping ochred legs, sweat streaming, voices calling, drums beating; we are in the very heart of Africa now. In Kenya's remote Loita Hills - sacred home to the Laibon (spiritual leaders of the Maasai clan) tribal elder, Menya Le Kenya is celebrating his final rite of passage. An ox has just been slaughtered and warriors are drinking the blood straight from its glistening carcass.

Wilby and Ciantar join Menya Le Kenya's celebration, then leave with him and brother Illumpala to trek down to the shores of Lake Natron towards Tanzania's awesome "Avenue of the Volcanoes" - an unspoiled landscape lying between the Rift Valley and Serengeti Plains. Walking between dust devils, parting a red sea of flamingos, chasing giraffe, wildebeest and zebra, they finally reach the manyatta (mud and twig homestead) of a distant relative at the foot of Ol Doniyo Le Engai - "The Mountain of God".

The ground is rumbling, the sulfuric smell of escaping gases burns their nostrils. A recent eruption and subsequent lava flow necessitates the use of ropes. Camped inside the crater, on the thin soda crust covering a layer of boiling mud just centimetres below, they spend the night with their Maasai friends, learning more about their culture, beliefs and of course, their sacred mountain. From the arid, hellish depths of a volcano to the wet, luxuriance of the fabled "Mountains of the Moon"; this is where Speilberg should have filmed Jurassic Park'.

Wilby and Ciantar, together with a team of Bakonzo porters, cut their way through an untameable wilderness of over sized groundsels and lobelia, trudge through knee, often thigh-deep mud. Higher still, with mist swirling, streaming, dissolving and forming anew overhead, they enter a realm of giant glaciers and sweeping snowfields. Legend has it this hallowed province of Kitasamba - a powerful deity of the Bakonzo and Baamba peoples - is frequented by a half man - half ape like creature: merely uttering its name is taboo, for doing so will bring one out of hiding.

Snow, Sand and the Evil Eye

Our journey begins in the geographical centre of the Sahara; the largest desert on earth. We are surrounded by a veritable sea of sand - an "ocean without water". The Hoggar Mountains rise from this seemingly dead flat surface; a series of bizarre boulder piles, spires, twisted pillars and mounds. Wilby and Ciantar, together with three camels and a local guide, will climb over and between these monoliths, discovering ancient cave paintings, hidden craters, gullies, canyons, gorges, gueltas (oases) and, surprisingly, people.

The heart of this most inhospitable terrain is home to the traditionally nomadic Tuareg, the famous veiled "Blue Men of the Desert". They present a proud, impressive image of invulnerability and independence. In recent years, Arab influence and extended periods of drought have put much pressure on the Tuareg to change their ways, to become sedentary and less pastoral. But while urbanized Tuaregs zoom around the sleepy streets of Tamanrasset in 4WDs, their nomadic brothers still ride through the same streets on dromedaries. The town boasts a used car lot - but one can still find a line of camels "parked" in an adjacent vacant block. Town Tuaregs sip cappuccinos at kerb-side European-style cafes, but deep in the heart of the Sahara, the elaborate tea ceremony is still a daily ritual.

As our journey progresses - as Wilby and Ciantar move further away from the towns and settlements and thus the influence of 'progress' - they rediscover the traditional Tuareg; the tranquillity and mystique of the desert.

Suddenly, from the eerie silent world of the Sahara, we enter the crowded Medina of Morocco's Djemma el Fna - the "Assembly-place of the Nobodies". It's just gone 5pm and thousands of people are pouring through the narrow covered streets towards centre stage. Colours, smells and sounds collide like fragments in a multi-sensory kaleidoscope. Merchants, beggars, soothsayers and medicine men vie for our attention. Weaving through the chaos of snake charmers, acrobats, herbalists, hawkers, tooth-pullers, costumed water sellers, crazy men and musicians, Wilby and Ciantar meet their friend Kalhal. After a traditional Berber family feast inside the palatially decorated home of Kalhal's mentor, the three set off with two mules and their lively masters into the High Atlas Mountains.

They travel along an infrequently visited Berber valley; climb through a narrowing canyon into a virtual cathedral of stone. Massive waterfalls, yet to thaw from their wintering, hang like crystal chandeliers overhead. Negotiating a challenging rock, snow and ice route, they reach the base of Rebel Toubkal - the highest mountain in North Africa. After summitting, they venture to the more remote Tessout region. In this isolated, exquisite setting of the High Atlas, we come to know the peaceful, idyllic ways of Berber rural life.
Wilby and Ciantar join Menya Le Kenya's celebration, then leave with him and brother Illumpala to trek down to the shores of Lake Natron towards Tanzania's awesome "Avenue of the Volcanoes" - an unspoiled landscape lying between the Rift Valley and Serengeti Plains. Walking between dust devils, parting a red sea of flamingos, chasing giraffe, wildebeest and zebra, they finally reach the manyatta (mud and twig homestead) of a distant relative at the foot of Ol Doniyo Le Engai - "The Mountain of God".

The ground is rumbling, the sulfuric smell of escaping gases burns their nostrils. A recent eruption and subsequent lava flow necessitates the use of ropes. Camped inside the crater, on the thin soda crust covering a layer of boiling mud just centimetres below, they spend the night with their Maasai friends, learning more about their culture, beliefs and of course, their sacred mountain. From the arid, hellish depths of a volcano to the wet, luxuriance of the fabled "Mountains of the Moon"; this is where Speilberg should have filmed Jurassic Park'.

Wilby and Ciantar, together with a team of Bakonzo porters, cut their way through an untameable wilderness of over sized groundsels and lobelia, trudge through knee, often thigh-deep mud. Higher still, with mist swirling, streaming, dissolving and forming anew overhead, they enter a realm of giant glaciers and sweeping snowfields. Legend has it this hallowed province of Kitasamba - a powerful deity of the Bakonzo and Baamba peoples - is frequented by a half man - half ape like creature: merely uttering its name is taboo, for doing so will bring one out of hiding.

In the Land of the Lost Ark

The war with Eritrea is over. Mengitsu is in exile. In the mountain stronghold of the Ethiopian Highlands, peace again prevails and life has all but returned to normal. We join Wilby, Ciantar and Getenet Akalu on the edge of the spectacular Simien escarpment, impossible sheer cliffs rise above and fall below them, single drop waterfalls plunge a thousand metres into darkness, a troop of several hundred rare gelada baboons cascade over the lip of a gorge and disappear into the depths of a blackened chasm.

Rather than concentrating their Ethiopian climb on one single mountain, they have chosen to explore the length of a little known but nonetheless magnificent, sparsely populated range. Challenging our pre-conceptions to the max, we will glimpse a country full of fertility and promise, meet not a people defeated by fate, but a nation determining its own destiny - a proud, highland race as joyful and light-hearted as they are stalwart.

We will experience both Muslim and ancient Coptic Christian traditions in action, observe the daily tasks and trials of highland children, share the incredulous laughter of curious villagers finding more than they usually bargain for at their Saturday market - reactions run high as they spy Westerners for the very first time!

Straight from this last remarkable scene, we cut to Kilimanjaro - to a designer-dressed crowd of tourists jetting in to climb the most popular (by virtue of its accessibility) high mountain in the world. Tourism is big business here, and people from all over the world have come to crown their 'African Adventure' with the fulfillment of a life-long dream.

Capturing the cosmopolitan flavour of the peak, we will meet people from all walks and talks of life. Swedes, Germans, Japanese, Americans - aged from 17 to 70. We will follow them through moss-draped forests, heath land and scree, see first hand how their collective aspiration and en masse presence have changed the face of the mountain and the lives of those who live beneath its shadow forever. In a departure from the normal Kilimanjaro experience, Wilby and Ciantar will re-find solitude in the unsullied, incredible icy realm of the crater.
Wilby and Ciantar join Menya Le Kenya's celebration, then leave with him and brother Illumpala to trek down to the shores of Lake Natron towards Tanzania's awesome "Avenue of the Volcanoes" - an unspoiled landscape lying between the Rift Valley and Serengeti Plains. Walking between dust devils, parting a red sea of flamingos, chasing giraffe, wildebeest and zebra, they finally reach the manyatta (mud and twig homestead) of a distant relative at the foot of Ol Doniyo Le Engai - "The Mountain of God".

The ground is rumbling, the sulfuric smell of escaping gases burns their nostrils. A recent eruption and subsequent lava flow necessitates the use of ropes. Camped inside the crater, on the thin soda crust covering a layer of boiling mud just centimetres below, they spend the night with their Maasai friends, learning more about their culture, beliefs and of course, their sacred mountain. From the arid, hellish depths of a volcano to the wet, luxuriance of the fabled "Mountains of the Moon"; this is where Speilberg should have filmed Jurassic Park'.

Wilby and Ciantar, together with a team of Bakonzo porters, cut their way through an untameable wilderness of over sized groundsels and lobelia, trudge through knee, often thigh-deep mud. Higher still, with mist swirling, streaming, dissolving and forming anew overhead, they enter a realm of giant glaciers and sweeping snowfields. Legend has it this hallowed province of Kitasamba - a powerful deity of the Bakonzo and Baamba peoples - is frequented by a half man - half ape like creature: merely uttering its name is taboo, for doing so will bring one out of hiding.

Screenshots

Image: Africa-High-and-Wild-Screen0.jpg

Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: DivX 5.1.1
  • Video Bitrate: 1650Kb/s
  • Video Resolution: 576x 416
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 1.38:1
  • Audio Codec: AC3
  • Audio BitRate: 225Kb/s (112/ch) 48KHz
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • RunTime Per Part: 52mins
  • Number Of Parts: 3
  • Part Size: ~700MB (734,711,808 Bytes)
  • Ripped by bigbreaths

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