Journey Of A Lifetime

Journey of a Lifetime is an annual initiative whereby BBC Radio 4 join with the Royal Geographic Society to sponsor a particular journey, that a person or persons have been itching to go on for years.

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20140915

The winner of this year's BBC/Royal Geographical Society award for a dream travel project is Irishman Peter Geoghegan. His ambition: to learn the physically exhausting skills of traditional Mongolian wrestling, on the ground in the depths of the Mongolian countryside. But with the nation's economy undergoing a phenomenal boom, this mineral-rich nation, now an industrial powerhouse, must face uncomfortable choices between tradition and change.

Mongolia's wrestlers are world famous; they eat prodigiously and grapple fearlessly for hours in the searing sun. To be a wrestler is not just part of manhood's rituals, it's an integral part of being a Mongolian, indissolubly linked to the people's old traditional life as nomadic herders: a Mongolian nomad must possess the strength to bodily lift his beasts. Each year the national Naadam or games brings together the country's greatest wrestling champions, in exhausting contests of bodily strength and guile. But today, as Peter Geoghegan discovers when he joins a band of three dozen men at one of their training camps, they now arrive in sleek new four-by-fours and often work in western-style jobs in the traffic-choked capital, Ulan Bator.

As the falcons wheel over the steppe, Peter nurses his many bruises and ponders the future of a nation at a critical crossroads between a cherished past and a lucrative future...

Producer: Simon Elmes.

12Three Months On Pitcairn20151019

Each year, the Royal Geographical Society organises, in association with BBC Radio 4, a contest to discover the most imaginative and exciting dream travel project. Rhiannon Adam is this year's winner and her goal was to visit one of the world's smallest countries, Pitcairn Island.

Rhiannon grew up on sailing boat in the Atlantic reading romantic stories about The Mutiny of the Bounty and Pitcairn Island as final resting place for the renegade mutineers. She wondered about this far flung piece of the former British Empire and, as a wandering Brit, whether she might have something in common with the descendants of the mutineers.

The tiny, remote British territory of Pitcairn lies in the Pacific between Chile and and New Zealand. It is home to about fifty people and its remoteness has raised questions about its future as it needs to attract more settlers in order to survive. The romantic image of the island was challenged a decade ago when a number of men on the island were imprisoned for sexual abuse of young girls.

In this very personal account, photographer Rhiannon Adam explores the romance and reality of Pitcairn Island on her 'Journey of a Lifetime'.

Producer Neil McCarthy.

2001Pugmarks In The Sundarbans20010921

Journey of a Lifetime is an annual initiative whereby BBC Radio 4 join with the Royal Geographic Society to sponsor a particular journey, that a person or persons have been itching to go on for years.

Environmentalist Tessa McGregor sets off to see how the people of the Bangladesh Sundarbans co-exist with the Royal Bengal tigers.

2002Hoping For A Miracle2002082320030904

An expedition to the tiny atolls of Tokelau in the middle of the South Pacific was Damian Welch's winning proposal for the second of these Journeys Of A Lifetime, co-sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society and BBC Radio 4.

Damian experiences the culture and customs, midnight fishing, massed singing in church, and the chatty and original sanitary arrangements called va-vas.

But underneath this surface lies a real environmental threat, a small rise in water level would make the atoll disappear.

How are the inhabitants facing this, or are they just hoping for a miracle?

200320030912

Journalists Andy Home and Grigori Gerenstein visit Russia's most polluted town, where the snow is black and where life expectancy is 10 years below the national average.

The first traveller looked for tigers in Bangladesh, the second visited a threatened atoll in the Southern Pacific.

Our journeymen this year opted for a trip closer to hell-on-earth than paradise lost.

As metal and mineral journalists, Andy and Grigori have frequently written about the city of Norilsk, which is the world's largest producer of nickel.

Everyday the smokestacks that ring the city belch 5,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the air every day.

With a further 2,000,000 tonnes of waste gas, and 85,000,000 cubic metres of dirty water produced every year by the city's mines and smelters, the ecological impact is felt as far away as Norway and Canada.

This Spring, Andy and Grigori went to see the city for themselves.

Not only were they keen to see the mines and smelters that had formed the basis of so many of their articles for the specialist periodicals they write for, they also wanted to see what life was really like for the 230,000 residents that live and work in and around the City.

2004Cattle-roads And Motorcades2004090620081113

Luke Freeman fulfills his life's dream to drive a herd of cattle along the old drove-paths of Madagascar and ends up armed with a diplomatic passport jetting around Africa as chief speechwriter to the President.

20052005091620081120

Young photographer Chris Brown won the 2005 BBC/Royal Geographical Society's annual competition for travellers who want to fulfil their dream journey to the back of beyond.

He joined the nomadic Rupshu tribe of Ladakh in their long annual trek at high altitude.

But as the country endured its worst winter in over 30 years, the journey became highly treacherous.

This spring, Chris joined the nomadic Rupshu tribe of Ladakh in their long annual trek at high altitude.

But as the country endured its worst winter in over 30 years, simply making it through the drifts - and ultimately survival - became serious worries.

2006Living With Rubbish2006091520081127

Philosophy graduate Jessica Boyd and environmentalist Bill Finnegan were the 2006 winners of the BBC/Royal Geographical Society's annual competition for travellers who want to fulfil their dream journey.

This programme follows them as they visit the outskirts of Cairo, home to a community of 23,000 people whose livelihoods depend on the city's waste.

The Zabbaleen came as pig-farmers from Upper Egypt 60 years ago to form a thriving and complex economy based on what others throw away.

The 2006 prize went to philosophy graduate Jessica Boyd and environmentalist Bill Finnegan.

They went to the outskirts of Cairo to a 23,000-strong community whose whole livelihood depends on the city's waste.

Jessica and Bill spent three weeks with the Zabbaleen - or 'rubbish people' - who recycle or reuse anything up to 90% of the garbage they collect nightly.

It's the story of how these people came as pig-farmers from Upper Egypt 60 years ago to form a thriving and complex economy based on what others throw away.

2007*2007100120081204

Runner David Waldman won the BBC/Royal Geographical Society's 2007 competition for travellers who want to fulfil their dream journey.

This programme follows him as he fulfils his ambition to meet the Nandi people of Kenya's Rift Valley and discover just what makes them the greatest endurance runners on the plane.

Runner David Waldman fulfils his ambition to meet the Nandi people of Kenya's Rift Valley and discover just what makes them the greatest endurance runners on the planet.

20082008082920081211

Emily Ainsworth takes a dream trip to perform with a family circus in Mexico.

The latest winner of the BBC/Royal Geographical Society's annual competition for travellers who want to fulfil their dream journey to the back of beyond.

2009The Sinking Islands2009090420121231 (BBC7)

The 2009 winner of the BBC/Royal Geographical Society's annual competition for the most enterprising dream travel idea, Dan Box, attempts to reach the remote Carteret Islands in the South Pacific, where, with sea levels rising, the world's first mass evacuation as the result of climate change is now taking place.

These low-lying islands, part of Papua New Guinea, rise barely a metre above the level of the surrounding ocean, and with what are known as King Tides threatening every year, rising sea levels as a result of global warming are a threat that is already a reality for the Carteret Islanders.

Last winter's great storm resulted in the islands being badly flooded, their productive soil rendered useless by the salt in the water.

Now the Carteret people have no way of growing crops in their plots, or 'gardens', and the local authorities have started a process of mass evacuation.

Eventually thousands of men, women and children will be resettled in the neighbouring island community of Bougainville.

Dan Box was determined to watch the world's first organised exodus as a result of climate change as it got underway.

But first he had to negotiate the tricky journey - diplomatic as well as physical - that would take him to these tiny spikes of coral amid the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

Papua New Guinea:

Dan Box attempts to reach the Carteret Islands where a mass evacuation is taking place as the sea level rises.

201020100910

Each year, the Royal Geographical Society in association with BBC Radio 4 offers a prize for the best adventurous dream-travel idea.

This year's winner is Nick Hunt and his award-winning project is to investigate the little-heard-of lives of the migrant workers - mainly from the Indian subcontinent - constructing the steel and glass towers of Dubai.

Says Nick: "Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers of downtown Dubai, twenty Indian men huddle on a rooftop under a torn plastic sheet.

Homeless, jobless and far from their families, some have been trapped here for years, victims both of the economic downturn and the systematic exploitation of migrant labour.

I follow in the footsteps of one, ex-construction worker Ramu, who has managed to make the journey home to a remote part of rural Andhra Pradesh.

Ramu's story is the story of how the Dubai dream turned sour, and of the hardships faced by migrants when boom turns to bust..."

Producer: Simon Elmes.

Nick Hunt follows recession-hit migrant Indian workers in Dubai back to their villages.

201120110905

Each year, the Royal Geographical Society in association with BBC Radio 4 organises a competition to choose the top dream travel assignment.

This year's winner is Jane Labous, whose destination of choice is the west African nation of Mali.

Her goal: to meet the men and women who face hardship every day as they eke out a living digging and diving for sand and gravel from the bed of the River Niger.

Tradition in Mali has meant that houses are made from mud, which bakes hard in the searing African sun.

But today the available solidity of concrete means that mud homes are less desirable and there is an ever-growing demand for sand to help fashion the concrete structures sprouting all over the capital Bamako.

Jane travels to the little town of Koulikoro 50 km north of the capital to talk to the sand-diggers who spend back-breaking hours in 40-degree heat dredging tons of sand and gravel from the riverbed to satisfy the relentless hunger for aggregates of Bamako's builders.

But at what cost? The fishermen are outraged by the way the river waters are disturbed and their livelihood threatened; as for the sand-diggers themselves, the natural perils of the Niger - crocodiles, hippopotamus, not to mention the river-genies who must be appeased - are now compounded by the dangerous deep trenches in the riverbed that make diving ever more dangerous.

Now the locals have taken out an order to ban the diggers from the shallow waters close to Koulikoro's centre where the town's children love to play.

But with bandits threatening the north of the country, the other big question on Jane's mind today is whether she'll make it to the regional capital of Djenné safely for the traditional annual renewal of mud-coating on the city's grand mosque - Producer: Simon Elmes.

Travel competition winner Jane Labous meets the people of Mali who make a living from mud.

201220120903

Prizewinning traveller Jaswinder Jhalli explores the lives of the gauchos of Argentina.

Each year, the Royal Geographical Society organises in association with BBC Radio 4 a contest to discover the most imaginative and exciting dream travel project. Jaswinder Jhalli is this year's winner and her goal was to visit the gauchos of Argentina and discover to what extent the reality of their lives tallies with the romantic image of prairie horsemen that they have always had.

Jaswinder writes: "The wistful gaucho myth of a proud, well dressed, virtuous individual, free to roam the Pampas and work as he chooses, has little connection with their history. It reminds me of how the Indian community is portrayed. You get the impression all we do is arrange marriages, dance in unison and eat chicken tikka masala. Of course every culture throws up it's own clichés. But this kind of typecasting always forced me to feel I was an outsider. Constantly struggling to escape the elusive cultural stereotype that seemed to precede me everywhere I went. I want to break down these myths and find how today's gauchos view these caricatures."

Producer: Simon Elmes.