Top TV Pic #15: Himalaya Calling and Pedro Mota’s YouTube videos

Himalaya Calling trailer

Following my recommendation of a series of YouTube videos made by Pedro Mota, two of my friends responded with how much they liked an Amazon Prime documentary, Himalaya Calling – Overland to the highest passes in the world. They were right! I’ve watched three of the four episodes, and they are great.  Plus, these have far broader appeal than Mota’s videos. Maggie loved the incredible scenery from a part of the world that is rarely photographed because it is so remote and empty.

This 4-epsisode film stars two German guys, Eric Peters and Alain Beger. They are not super jocks, handsome movie stars, or killer riders.  They’re mostly normal, although trained and experienced enough to take six months and spent it on an incredible adventure to a part of the world few visit.  Their real skill is the way they managed to capture this adventure with only hi-res cameras mounted on their helmets, bikes, and a drone.  No supplemental film crew, chase vehicles, or backups, and rarely cell phone coverage.  They got spectacular footage and edited it into a smoothly compelling movie series.  You don’t have to be a motorcycle rider to appreciate this amazingly ambitious accomplishment.

The original was made in German but the Amazon Prime version has an English language soundtrack.  I’m guessing the guy’s actual voices would have been better, but as I don’t speak German, this is an acceptable compromise.  Oh, and there is some salty language at times, but it’s not overdone. Check it out and let me know what you think.

For more hardcore riders, I also have to recommend Pedro Mota, who’s ridden his Transalp just about everywhere. His videos are on YouTube and are all genuine, unpolished, rough, and transparent.  They show what it’s like to explore roads and trails you’ve only heard about but never ridden.  This totally meets the definition of “adventure,” unlike the hyper-staged media extravaganzas like “The Long Way Down,” and its sequels.  Mota chronicles what actually happens, and does it all alone, without a camera crew or backups.

The first video is enlightening. I think I felt grit from his ride in my own teeth!  Skip down for notes and links to the second.

His second video, below, is a continuation of the one above.  It shows one of the most wonderful things that happen when adventure riding.  You meet incredible people.  You learn so much about what humanity is all about.  You get to really touch the world.

These aren’t professionally produced, the editing is spotty, the camera angles are sometimes horrible, and forget about the soundtrack.  And sometimes, things happen in languages you won’t understand and he forgets to translate.  To me, however, that is the magic of these things.  They’re raw and real and so reminded me of some of my rides in uncanny ways.  If today’s camera technology had been around back then, I could have made some cool movies, I think.

TV Top Pick #14: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople trailer screenshot

Do you ever wish for a compelling but simple story having no agenda? Something that every minute you watch you just smile, and say to yourself, “OMG, this is just so good!” If so, watch “Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The story here is funny and touching, the scenery spectacular, and the actors create strong, believable characters.  The original songs are hilarious and the occasional haiku poems a hoot.  I have to give credit for this film to the director, Taika Waititi, who also wrote the screenplay based on the book “Wild Pork and Watercress.”  Waititi has won accolades for his other movies like “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Jojo Rabbit.”  He is so clearly at the top of his game here, confidently balancing comedy with superb story-telling, making it just magical in its simplicity and wonder.

My thanks for learning about this movie go to my niece, Christen Phaenuf, who is staying with us for a few weeks. Since we can’t be out and about with Covid, we’re watching movies.  It’s been a great time sharing personal favorites.  This was one of hers and after watching it, I can see why, and it is now one of mine.  It is a delightful experience to watch this movie.  We rented this 2016 film from Amazon Video but I now see that it is free on Netflix.  It stars Sam Neil and Julian Dennison, just 14 years old when the movie was made.

 

TV Top Picks #13: Engineering the Future: 3 Episode Series

The first of these 3 one-hour films is on wind power. I was instantly hooked.  In just over 50 minutes, you get amazing views into the interior workings of massively large wind turbines; learn extraordinary details on how they are made and what it takes to locate them.   At first I was a bit put off on having to join a new streaming service, this one called “CuriosityStream” to watch it, but that turned out to be an unexpected bonus.  If nothing else, watch this first episode on the engineering revolution going on in wind power and let me know what you think.

Before I tell you a tad more about these documentaries, let me explain CuriositySteam.  It was new to me, but apparently over 13 million subscribers have already discovered and signed up since it began in 2015, founded by the guy who created the Discovery Channel.  You need to subscribe, and it’s $2.99 a month or $19.99 annually for an HD subscription, although right now they have special $11.99/yr. offer.  Having cut the cable on our COX programming, I’m saving about $90 a month.  Being able to spend my subscription dollar on precisely the content I value and want to watch versus paying for massive amounts of programming I had no interest in is a no-brainer.  The way I figure it, I can sign up for another 25-30 monthly streaming services (Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, etc.) and I am still getting better value for my subscription dollar.  CuriosityStream offers thousands of documentary films across a variety of categories like science, history, mathematics, technology, robotics and nature. Think of it like the online version of The Great Courses, much more entertaining and less academic, but still authentic and accurate.

The 3 episodes in the Engineering the Future series are Wind, Aviation and Fusion, each one just under an hour.  Production quality is some of the best you will find.  Narration is done by David Attenborough and Patrick Stewart.  Interviews are conducted with scientists and engineers at the leading edge of research and production in each of these three areas, and scripted in a way that is easily understood for non-engineers like me. This is all new, cutting-edge stuff: one of the wind farms was just completed and brought onto the electric grid in the fall of 2020.

Photographs: Dakar 2021

riding up a sand storm
Photo credit: The Atlantic

Ten years ago I tracked the 2011 Dakar Rally in Argentina and Chile for The Overland Journal Magazine.  In the article I said the Dakar Rally was to dirt bike riders what The Vatican is to Catholics, what Hollywood is to movie buffs and the Grand Ole Opry is to country music lovers. Bringing together the best riders in the world also attracts the top photographers, especially when the race covers some of the most beautiful and harshest landscapes on the planet.

Follow this link to see a collection of photographs pulled together by The Atlantic magazine, featuring photographs by Franck Fife and Hamad Mohammed. This extraordinary compilation of images gives you a brief glimpse into what 300 brave souls experienced in 2021 during the 43rd annual Dakar Rally, a 14-day, 4,751 mile off-road trek in Saudi Arabia.  If you’ve never read my report from the 2011 Dakar Rally, please take a look at it here.