Papua Province (04:29)
Steve Backshall, a naturalist and adventurer, plans to travel down the Baliem River, exploring the wilderness of New Guinea. A helicopter lands at Lake Habbema. (Credits)
Launching the Kayaks (03:52)
Backshall researched the area by satellite imagery, but there are no maps for the next nine miles. He, Aldo Kane, Barney Young, David Bain, Nate Klema, and Jordan Searle makeup the expedition team with the film crew following behind. The Baliem River runs smoothly until the kayaks reach a gorge.
Baliem River Rapids (03:38)
The team sends Young to ensure they can traverse the river. The support crew guides the inflatable raft down the rapids; it might puncture on the limestone rocks.
Searching for a Campsite (01:56)
The team discovers a grassy island in the middle of the Baliem River. Backshall builds a campfire and sets up tents.
Expedition Difficulties (05:46)
Backshall discovers that limestone rock created gouges in the bottom of the kayak and worries about the inflatable raft. The next rapids prove too hard to traverse by boat; Bain and Klema fall ill and Searle calls for a helicopter to carry them past the whitewater.
Exploring Papua's Landscape (02:40)
Backshall travels to Wollo to explore local sinkholes. As the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates collided, it created mountains. Steve Jones prepares to rappel down the limestone cliff-face.
Backshall searches for a bird-of-paradise. The team discovers it needs more permission to scale the cliff. Backshall tries to persuade the village elders to allow them to visit the sinkhole.
Backshall visits another cave after securing the proper permissions. Rainwater travels through cracks in the limestone, becoming acidic and carving out areas. Stalagmites and stalactites form from minerals leeched from the cavern ceiling.
Baliem River Communities (03:04)
The river team plans to kayak fifty miles downstream to the end of the Baliem Grand Valley where the Dani live. An increased current speed means less danger to the inflatable raft, but increased velocity. The Papuan tribes share genetic links with the Aborigines in Australia.
Whitewater Rapids (05:16)
The river turns into a rapid over half a mile long. Searle guides Backshall down the river. At the next whitewater, Backshall spins around in a back current and falls out of his kayak; Young throws him a safety line.
Dani Village (02:47)
Backshall asks tribe members if they can camp in their village. Honai, the traditional Dani home, contains wooden walls and thatched roofs. The river team meets the village elder.
Dani Chief (06:54)
Backshall asks Martin Mabil about their wives, living on the Baliem River, and religious beliefs. Dani women cut off their fingers as a sign of grief. Eli Mabil reveals a 200-year-old mummy.
Credits: Steve Backshall's Extreme River Challenge: Episode 1 (01:35)
Credits: Steve Backshall's Extreme River Challenge: Episode 1
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