To say that Reza Pakravan has a thirst for adventure may be an understatement. He’s absolutely gasping, it seems, to find outlets for his derring-do.
The 46-year-old has cycled 11,000 miles from Norway to Africa, fighting thieves and battling malaria along the way, biked across the Sahara Desert and undertaken a 4000-mile journey across the Amazon rainforest. That would be enough adventuring to last a lifetime for most. But not Reza.
Last year he was back on the wild frontiers of travel – this time journeying across the width of Africa from Senegal to Somalia via the Sahel, a belt of land stretching across the southern boundary of the Sahara Desert. It’s an astonishing odyssey chronicled by new four-part show The World’s Most Dangerous Borders. And the title is not hyperbole.
Rez is pictured here climbing up the rock-hewn Abuna Yemata Guh church in Ethiopia
Rez talks to a Malian hunter, who helps protect the local population against terrorists
At one point he was held up at gunpoint.
He told MailOnline Travel: ‘I was held at gunpoint in Niger. I was in the desert on the outskirts of Agadez, filming migrants as they set off to Libya and then Europe. As I was interviewing them, a couple of men suddenly approached me with their faces covered. They were human smugglers and didn’t want us or our cameras there.
‘They threatened to shoot me if I didn’t leave immediately. It was terrifying.’
Being handed over to Sundanese intelligence was another ‘dark moment’.
He said: ‘I entered Sudan through Darfur and, despite having all the permits and relevant paperwork, I was arrested by the military and handed over to the Sudanese intelligence.
‘The country was going through a revolution and they didn’t want us there. I spent four days under arrest, completely cut off from the rest of the world, not knowing what they were going to do with us. It was a very dark moment.’
A ‘beautiful, ancient’ village in Burkina Faso that boasts traditional architecture and is home to the Kasana people
A funeral in the Dogon country in Mali, the place Rez visited on his journey that he’d most like to return to
Tense frontiers: Soldiers in the Malian Army on their way to fight al-Qaeda
The point of the three-and-a-half-month journey was to tell the untold stories of those who live in the wild lands of this tense frontier.
To do this Reza travelled with the locals as they do by whatever means available, whether on animal carts, in the back of pick-up trucks or on foot.
He also ate the same local foods from the same bowls.
The result is a ‘unique insight’ into some of the most diverse and fascinating cultures on earth.
And he risked his life on multiple occasions to bring it.
As well as his terrifying moments in Niger and Sudan, Reza was caught in a standoff between the Malian Army and al-Qaeda and narrowly escaped attacks by Boko Haram in Diffa, one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Towards the end of his epic 5,000-mile journey, Reza crossed the hottest place on earth, the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, at the hottest time of the year, experiencing temperatures as high as 50C.
Rez is pictured here at the ‘incredible’ sandstone Sindou Peaks in Burkina Faso, which he said he came across after ‘widespread terrorist attacks and violence’ pushed his group away from the main road and into rural areas
Somaliland offers some of the most astonishing trekking experiences, said Rez
A member of a militia in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Here Rez was arrested and handed over to the intelligence services, despite having the correct paperwork
The Niger Army en route to do battle with Boko Haram. Rez was held up at gunpoint in Niger
The World’s Most Dangerous Borders is launching in Digital HD on all Digital Platforms today and from November 27 on Amazon Prime Video
He had to fight for his survival as he ran out of water, only to be saved by Afar people, who call the depression their home.
Reza didn’t spend the entire 5,000-mile journey on the brink of death, though.
There were plenty of moments filled with uplifting wonder. Many arrived in Mali.
Reza, who lives in Maida Vale, London, added: ‘Everything about Mali is unique. The tribes, landscapes and places are frozen in time. Its people are warm and friendly, its traditions are thriving, and the way of life has remained the same in many parts for centuries.
‘The plastering of the mosque ceremony in the city of Djenné is something that I will never forget. Three days of plastering and partying, it felt like Notting Hill Carnival in the middle of Mali.’
The World’s Most Dangerous Borders is launching in Digital HD on all Digital Platforms today and from November 27 on Amazon Prime Video.