by Nomad Co-founder and CEO, Paul Goodyer
|Landing on a Hercules airplane in Ecuador||
For series three of BBC's Beyond Boundaries, 10 physically disabled teenagers crossed the Andes, one of the highest mountain ranges in the world.
Nomad CEO Paul Goodyer
Over a period of four weeks and 400km, I was the Logistics Assistant for the TV production company that helped these young people fight their way from the edge of the Amazon Basin, climb to over 5000m to reach the snowline on Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world, and then descend to sea level, wading through miles of swamp before reaching the Pacific Ocean.
It was one of the toughest experiences in my life compounded by the fact I shared responsibility of ensuring everyone got there in one piece.
It was hard right from the moment we landed. It was too wet and muddy for the big Herc to land at our destination so we diverted to Shell Cota. Whilst most of the 40 strong cast, crew and local military took light planes direct to the starting point, I had half a tonne of equipment to get to the edge of the Amazon basin, scout a location and set up base camp. My Spanish lessons came in handy as I was able to hire banana trucks from locals to move it closer. Then as the roads ended we rented 38 mules to shift the kit up the hill to the base camp location. Unfortunately we needed a total of 47 mules so we had to double back and make sure we weren't visible on camera.
While I expected rain, it was unusually heavy and long. Actually it was the wettest expedition I have ever been on and caused all sorts of logistical problems. Not only did we have to find a passable route (wheelchairs proved a real challenge!) and find large clearings for Base Camps but we also had to keep everything dry. Tatonka Barrel bags proved themselves fantastic in showers but because the downpour was that heavy, they eventually leaked through the zips. This lead me to finding a waterproof holdall with a fold and clip closure. Problem solved!
For the humans, the Travelproof Tropical Ponchos were indispensible and more than held their own in the torrential rain. The filming and recording equipment were especially important on this trip (it was a TV production afterall!) and the 2 big generators charged the batteries and as a great by-product (discovered by accident) that acted as large exhaust fans. They blew hot air to dry our wet equipment.
I enjoyed being stretched by the challenges this TV production threw at me. I also enjoy learning and my travel health training was greatly improved on this expedition. Our Nomad Pharmacy and Travel Clinics were responsible for constructing the huge medical kit required for the 40 people but I had to learn how to split it up effectively in the field. Naturally we couldn't carry it all together because the group did not remain together at all times. The challenge was in keeping the major items within attainable reach of all parties in case of emergencies and different scenarios. We were successful and while accidents happened, we were able to treat them quickly and effectively.
The type of footwear to use in the jungle always poses a problem. Jungle Boots are suited best but on this expedition I opted for good old wellies. The amount of rain and mud made it almost a neccessity and by slipping in Brasher Footbeds, they become fairly comfortable too. However it was just too much rain and mud and they kept getting stuck and once water got inside, it had nowhere to drain. In the end, I went for non-waterproof boots instead and they were much more effective.
Over the 3 weeks of filming where I was involved, the expedition winded its way through the steamy, claustrophobic environments of rainforest and cloud forest, where we all got used to the wildlife, stifling humidity and torrential rain. Unfortunately this was where my expedition ended as my real job was calling. However for the rest of the group new challenges arose and they had to come to terms with trekking and filming at altitude, where altitude sickness was a very real concern, and the temperatures can drop below zero. All this on top of a vertical ascent of nearly 2 kilometres and still shifting half a tonne of kit and equipment with them the entire way.
I have been involved in many expeditions over the years and the Beyond Boundaries production has been one of my favourites. Defeating the huge challenges I encountered was very satisfying. I think perhaps though that the most rewarding part was helping the participants and watching them conquer their disabilities with such an amazing spirit.
Overall, a truly inspiring experience.
On an easier and drier part of the Andes route
Setting up Base Camp