We don’t know about you but Netflix is running a little dry for us after four months of lockdown. Luckily, however, we stumbled upon Sony BBC Earth’s new Couch Travel Anthology, which will take you from Japan to Russia, Turkey to the Caribbean, through Cuba and Colombia all the way to Burma. Presented by Sue Perkins, Simon Reeve and Romesh Ranganathan, the journey travels through culture, socio-political issues, and terrorism to show the world as it is, but with a light-hearted disposition.
British author and TV host, Simon Reeve, has taken his misadventures around the world and turned them into documentaries and books on terrorism, modern history and travel. He has won numerous awards for his shows like Equator (2006), Tropic of Capricorn (2008), and Indian Ocean with Simon Reeve (2012), among others.
We got talking to Simon Reeve about his life, travels, and the new show. Don’t forget to read part 1 first!
Tell us a little about the new show, Couch Travel?
They show quite a few of the TV series I've made: Russia, the Caribbean, Cuba, Burma, Turkey. They are also showing a brilliant British comedian Sue Perkins in Japan, and the misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan, who is also a very, very funny bloke.
And the idea, obviously, is that this is taking people from their front room, from their TV, around the planet to see real and unfiltered, extreme and hopefully quite non touristy stories of life forms on our planet. I think if you want to get a tourist brochure, you could, you can just go on YouTube, and look up a place.
But I think there is still an opportunity and a space as it were on the TV for people to go and have a look behind the scenes and try and understand the country a little bit more than a tourism video. And that's what we try to do. It probably sounds a bit pretentious and pompous, but the whole joy of making TV programmes means doors open for you that other travellers don't get to go through because people around the planet are fundamentally very warm and very welcoming. And they want to show you their nice patch of Earth.
Can you share an experience from your journey? Something that you didn’t expect?
They've all got really spectacular memories associated with each one and it's quite overwhelming actually just to see the name or the titles on the page and then a lot of emotion and memory washes over me from each one. But that's how travel should be, it should leave a mark and should have an impact.
But just one place we went to visit in Honduras, in Central America, which is a country with an enormous problem with gang violence. And we went into a prison in a city in Honduras, which is one of the most dangerous places on the planet outside of an active war zone. And we went into this prison to meet the leaders of some of the criminal gangs who are tearing the country apart.
And it's a prison controlled by the inmates, by the prisoners. It's a very dangerous place and we weren't sure how we were going to be able to get in there. And we thought maybe some special forces soldiers might be able to protect us or something like that. But eventually, we went into this prison protected by just one man. One man, the only person who could take us into this prison safely was the bishop of the city with a big Christian cross on his chest. And he protected us and kept us safe inside this prison, which was like a cross between a Harry Potter magic world and a sweatshop. It was a factory sweatshop. It was a completely surreal place with characters straight out the movie.
But protected by the bishop, we made it in and out of the prison safely. So that's just one of the experiences and adventures from one of the programmes.
Have you ever been to India?
I've been to India, I think, probably eight times. And I have travelled in India fairly extensively. I've travelled across India, following the Ganges from source to sea. I've travelled through the central states, and I've travelled around the coasts of India as well. I made a show where I travelled around the Indian Ocean, so we went down the west coast, and then up the east coast.
I've been to some unusual places. From the Rann of Kutch, to Mizoram and Tripura. I've bathed in the waters of Varanasi. I’ve been to Gujarat and Rishikesh, my god I’ve travelled in India. But, I’ve never been to Rajasthan! I’ve not been on the tourist trail or the Golden Triangle, I’ve had a non-touristy experience in India.