Our advance crew headed out to Namibia, a country in southern Africa, to shoot background stories more than three weeks before Matt left the comforts of studio 1A on his Where in the World trip. The journey took 28 hours, three plane flights and a harrowing 5-hour Land Rover drive to reach our first destination: Damaraland, home of the desert elephants and black rhinos. We knew we arrived when we saw an "Elephant Crossing" sign on the road.
It wasn't until after dark when we finally pulled into our first camp. The staff set out a five-star spread beside the campfire, and we ate by the light of our lanterns and the moon. On the menu was traditional Namibian game meat: oryx, springbok and kudu, all types of antelopes. I won't say it tasted like chicken - it was better! The game meat was so incredibly lean and delicious; we ate it every night for the next two weeks.
To say we were off the grid would be putting it mildly. At times during our two-week expedition it felt more like we were off the planet. The road shot straight toward the horizon with wide open spaces in every direction. One day we were rolling through what looked like a lunar landscape and the next it felt like America's wild wild west (right until a family of giraffes or elephants crossed in front of us). Our guide said our crew sounded like monkeys with our constant, "Ooh oohs" and "Aah aahs."
And we had a few close calls. One morning we were filming near camp when we heard an angry growling from a nearby ravine. Minutes later we saw three hungry - and bloody - lions finishing up their breakfast: a springbok, similar to what we ate the night before. Later, when a testy elephant charged our vehicle, Larry, a member of the crew, instinctively rolled up his window. Our guide turned and calmly said, "Larry, that's not going to help you now."
The wildlife is set against some of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet. It's a producer's dream as every shot feels spectacular. Sure, an elephant may charge your caravan - but we kept filming! Animals were everywhere, even when I stopped to use the "bush toilet" and an audience of seven extremely curious antelopes sized me up. I couldn't help but feel a little guilty about all of our meaty dinners.
Throughout the two weeks we drove through a large portion of western Namibia. The unpaved roads jiggled our brains and claimed two cameras, a tripod, a computer, a sound mixer, two tires, the front windshield of one car, the back of another and a rear view mirror. The bumps shook screws right out of their holes, and by the end pieces of our Land Rover were just falling off. All that blowing sand from the sand dunes didn't help much either.
Our gear may have limped to the finish but by the end of the journey the crew was busy plotting ways to get TODAY back to Namibia for another shoot!