Richard Terry interviewBy Emma
Cameraman turned global adventurer Richard Terry is the next big thing in TV travel
He’s lived in the wild, been attacked by bears, and even tracked down the mayan death bats of southern Mexico. The Gap Year Travel Guide’s Emma Godden spoke to Richard about his epic adventures, and how he came to be the most fearless man in showbiz.
Over the past year you’ve burst onto our screens as the next big TV adventure hero. What are the stand-out moments from your career so far?
The first year I went out and lived for six months in a wilderness area, in a log cabin with no amenities around wild bears. That was quite an eye-opener, to realise that I enjoy, and am quite happy spending long amounts of time in the wilderness.
Living with a 70 year old man who had to chop wood and do everything physically to survive out there was good motivation for me to not moan about having to put in some hard work. If you wanted heat you had to chop wood, if you wanted water, you had to go and get it.
Knowing you were going to be in such an isolated environment for a long time, how did you prepare for the experience?
I didn’t get the chance! After I first heard about the job, I was in Alaska within two weeks. There wasn’t time to prepare. I had a vague idea about what I would be facing, so I took part in an adventure first aid course which came in handy. I also did a gun familiarisation course on Dartmoor, because I knew I would be spending time around wild animals.
It was a case of having to fly by the seat of my pants. I had to learn along the way from the guy who had been living out there for years. Dive in and do what I’m told.
How did you pluck up the courage to spend so much time around grizzlies, particularly after the death of Timothy Treadwell, the so-called Grizzly Man, who was mauled to death in 2003?
I had heard of Timothy Treadwell, the Grizzly Man, and I was very aware of what happened there. I knew that the man I was going to stay with had formerly been a hunter for 20 years before spending another 20 years living with the bears at his wilderness cabin. I had to put my faith in the fact that he had survived and stayed safe during that time.
Were there any moments during the first six months you spent filming grizzlies in Alaska that you regretted your decision?
I never regretted it for a moment. Even when I was hobbling round with an open wound from a bear bite, I was happy that I was able to walk. Being bitten was completely my fault – it was a sharp lesson. In fact, it gave me real confidence by forcing me to step out of my comfort zone in so many ways. Not just in terms of learning to make a film by myself, but also during moments like trying to get from the cabin to the outhouse [loo] through hordes of agitated bears.
Your most recent series, Man v Monster sees you travelling around the world to investigate stories of so-called monsters. Which episode has been your favourite to film so far?
It’s hard to identify the best as they were all exceptional adventures. The one I perhaps enjoyed the most was the second one, which was filmed in Mexico [The Mayan Death Bat]. I thought quite wrongly beforehand that Mexico would be the least interesting location [compared to] the Amazon and remote islands in Indonesia. In fact, it surprised me when in the remote southern regions of Mexico how much I loved the place and the beauty of the landscape and the warmth of the people. They were so proud and generous.
The whole process of working with a great team who all wanted the film to be a success, was one of the most enjoyable filming experiences I’d ever had.
During the filming of Man v Monster, which was the scariest monster that you encountered?
The scariest beast, when you get up close to it, and you see how fast they are, after hearing the tales from a man whose son has been killed by one in front of him, were the komodo dragons. They’re fast, they’re agile, and it’s been proven that they’re venomous. They were formidable, we had to really keep our eyes peeled.
Is there any situation which would be your worse-case scenario for the new series?
So far, I don’t think I have any phobias, but it could happen. I get to hear about all the things that are living amongst the environments that we’re working in and we always have excellent local knowledge. It’s so important – we would be lost if the researchers from the production company didn’t make contact with really good local guides.
For instance, during one episode I slipped and almost lost my middle finger in Indonesia. I ran it down the entire length of my machete. It was a lot worse in reality than it appeared on film. I still can’t bend it shut – the blade went through the tendon.
Even though I did have an American military pad which you’re supposed to put on deep traumas to stop bleeding, the local guides recognised a leaf from exactly around the area that I’d fallen. They put it in their mouth, mixed it with their saliva and placed that leaf inside the wound to stop it bleeding – it worked almost instantaneously. That to me completely justifies and shows how important local knowledge is.
Thankfully, after filming that scene, we did find a very remote medical centre. I had my finger stitched up with old-fashioned, really heavy-duty catgut. The injury happened right at the beginning of filming, so I had to use the machete again, climb trees, free-dive under water and carry around heavy steel cages to catch the komodo, all with a finger that was sewn together.
To read the rest of this interview and much more besides, check out The Gap Year Travel Guide 2012.