Go­ing com­mando

Sunday Herald - - NEWS - BY BRID­GET MORRIS Pho­to­graphs: David Bain

ex-ma­rine Aldo Kane on his tough­est chal­lenge yet

HE’S the Scot­tish ad­ven­turer the stars trust to keep them safe when film­ing in the most dan­ger­ous places on Earth. For­mer Royal Marines Com­mando Aldo Kane has trav­elled the world with A-list Hol­ly­wood celebri­ties as they shoot block­buster films and TV shows.

Now the 39-year-old from Ayr­shire has taken on one of his tough­est chal­lenges yet as he trav­elled to the tiny In­done­sian prov­ince of West Pa­pua on the Pacific is­land of New Guinea.

Kane trav­elled to the prov­ince – an area be­set by con­flict be­tween the oc­cu­py­ing In­done­sian gov­ern­ment and the in­dige­nous peo­ple – to tackle one of the wildest rivers on the planet for a new BBC Two show with nat­u­ral­ist Steve Back­shall.

The pair got more than they bar­gained for dur­ing film­ing for the se­ries, which is to be broad­cast tonight, in­clud­ing con­fronting ma­chete-wield­ing tribes­men, fac­ing the dan­gers of man-eat­ing croc­o­diles and ne­go­ti­at­ing deadly white-wa­ter rapids.

The 300-mile Baliem River in West Pa­pua boasts the world’s most ex­treme white-wa­ter rapids, of­ten hemmed in on ei­ther side by steep rocks and it was Kane’s job to make sure Back­shall – and the film crew – sur­vived the per­ilous ex­pe­di­tion. The for­mer sniper is used to dodg­ing bul­lets in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he was forced to avoid ar­rows and spears while in West Pa­pua. Kane said: “As far as ex­pe­di­tions go, it was right on the line in terms of safety. West Pa­pua is an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult coun­try to film in, po­lit­i­cally. Elec­tions were tak­ing place when we were there and there was a huge level of civil un­rest.

“The Free West Pa­pua move­ment is very ac­tive. When we got there we dis­cov­ered there were ter­ror­ist at­tacks planned. I had to make sure we were on the river in the fur­thest away sec­tion from hu­man­ity to make sure we were as safe as we could be.”

How­ever, the un­tamed jun­gle is home to hun­dreds of tribes who were of­ten hos­tile when they came across Kane and his crew.

He said: “All the way along the river the tribes were split into var­i­ous anti-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions who are very ag­gres­sive. In liv­ing mem­ory, these tribes­men were head-hunters and can­ni­bals so they’re force to be reck­oned with. They would come out of the jun­gle with bows and ar­rows, spears, dag­gers. That hap­pened sev­eral times. It added an ex­tra layer to an al­ready dan­ger­ous ex­pe­di­tion. It was scary at points.

“At one stage we were ab­seil­ing and the lo­cals de­cided to cut the ropes. I fran­ti­cally climbed back up and when I got to the top there were six or seven men with ma­chetes and bows and ar­rows drawn. I re­verted to my ‘hearts and minds’ train­ing from when I was in Marines to de-es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion and calm things down. One thing is for sure, this area is an un­tamed wilder­ness and the ku­dos of TV has ab­so­lutely no sway. It’s ac­tu­ally quite re­fresh­ing.”

The river is so treach­er­ous that it is thought that no one has ever jour­neyed the length of it – from Lake Habema to the sea.

Kane said: “It is so dan­ger­ous. There are sec­tions that are 10 miles long, with grade five and six rapids and steep gorges on ei­ther side, and no way of get­ting out. If we had done cer­tain sec­tions some­one would have died, no ques­tion. Steve is a great pad­dler but there were quite a few oc­ca­sions when he was kicked out of the kayak. I was be­hind in the safety raft and you just have to get to him as quickly as you can while he holds on for dear life.”

On the jour­ney Kane also came across some of the dan­ger­ous crea­tures lurk­ing in the river and sur­round­ing jun­gle. He said: “When we were set­ting up camp we were find­ing scor­pi­ons and snakes. But the main prob­lem is man-eat­ing croc­o­diles, which are the big­gest in the world. They were inches un­der the boats as we went down the river, and never far from the shore.”

For­tu­nately for Kane, there was some respite dur­ing the ex­pe­di­tion when they met the Dani Tribe of Baliem Val­ley. He said: “They couldn’t have been more hos­pitable. We went into these long huts where every­one was smok­ing. They cooked a pig for us. I was of­fered the chance to try the Be­tel Nut, a mild nar­cotic grown in the area. You start sweat­ing straight away. It makes you feel fuzzy headed and un­co­or­di­nated. It’s a bit like drink­ing whiskey.

“But it leaves a hor­ri­ble taste in your

Clock­wise from main: For­mer Royal Marines Com­mando turned ad­ven­turer Aldo Kane; with Steve Back­shall; ne­go­ti­at­ing deadly river rapids on the Baliem River in West Pa­pua; with mum­mi­fied re­mains of a 200-year-old Dani war­rior. Be­low: Back­shall with his kayak

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