‘It doesn’t feel like work at all’
With season seven currently in full swing, globetrotting crew members of Liquorish, the reality TV travel programme showing Monday nights on One, tell Patrick Cooke about the highs and lows of life on the road.
Name: Joseph Cauchi.
Occupation: Production manager.
What was your most memorable trip?
We have been through so many pleasant episodes I will cherish and so many other moments I would rather forget.
However, if I really had to choose one destination, it would have to be Brazil. It is such a magnificent place, and luckily I had the opportunity to enjoy its most breathtaking locations.
Spending seven days roaming about in the Amazon jungle was my favourite part, as we encountered species I never dreamt of getting close to. We saw so many unique species distinctive to the Amazon: florescent frogs, tarantulas, anacondas, alligators... I even got to carry a sloth.
Liquorish trips are no ordinary holidays; we get to visit the far off regions the average tourist does not. Having obtained the necessary authorisation to meet a Brazilian tribe, we spent a week living on a boat to reach the location.
Hang-gliding over Rio’s beaches and flying above the Corcovado (Christ the redeemer statue) gave me an adrenaline rush I will never forget.
Living in the heart of the favelas with Maltese nuns was life changing. To lend a helping hand, we organised hot dog and soup days for the homeless children squatting in the area. Knowing that most of the children we were feeding had AIDS from such a young age was heartbreaking.
Where would you never return to?
It would probably have to be India. I must admit that India was a huge culture shock for me. The tourist brochures never prepare you for the hard-hitting reality; they only show the Himalayas, the Thar Desert, the Taj Mahal and its other renowned touristic attractions.
Our Indian experience was rather different as we travelled and lived with locals. The whole experience was tough: the stench in the streets, the food, the language and the customs.
We travelled on an overcrowded train, with people sitting on the roof and clinging to the doors. A small cubicle with a hole in the ground was the only ‘toilet’ on board, with the train leaving a trail of human refuse behind. India was my first experience with a squat toilet, yet I quickly got used to it after a horrible case of food poisoning.
Indian cities are overpopulated and over-polluted, which made us appreciate our trek in the cold Himalayas or our days spent riding camels in the desert even more. If I had to choose the best moment of this trip it would be receiving an authentic ayurveda massage in a fishing village – I would recommend this to everyone, followed by an exquisite meal of shark.
Tell us about the worst cultural faux pas you have committed...
Prior to visiting a country we spend months researching it. However, India had its share of awkward moments.
Shaking one’s head from left to right in India demonstrates agreement – it took us quite some time to get used to this.
Where were you made to feel most welcome?
Most definitely Africa, where we drove all the way up from South Africa to the north part of Namibia and back down so we passed through a number of local villages. On our way, we got lost, our car broke down multiple times, and we ran out of fuel, as well as food and water.
Contrary to our expectations, we always found locals ready to help. We read so many warnings to be cautious when dealing with locals in such remote countries, yet my experience here was very positive.
What is the most unfriendly place you have been to?
Once again I would have to choose India. Travelling by train often resulted in heated arguments about seats, which we would have booked and paid for beforehand.
Of course, we could have opted for higher class seats but the concept of Liquorish is to mingle as much as possible with locals.
Walking around the streets of India made us feel like animals on safari as the locals stared at us everywhere we went.
When did you feel most in danger?
No matter how friendly people are, you always have to be very cautious. Liquorish is extra careful that all passports and other valuables are as safe as possible.
Our participants are never allowed to have a phone or cash, so an emergency can prove deadly.
During our trip to Ilha Grande in Brazil, we realised that the area was surrounded by armed men and kids. On our way back to our hostel we got lost, yet no one dared to ask for directions. At one point, we were even escorted by the police.
In Madagascar there are specific moments at night when tourists (and locals) are not allowed to drive, so we often had to wait for the ‘taxi bus’, escorted by police officials, since it is safer to drive as a group.
What is the most adventurous thing you have eaten?
Food is quite a delicate issue for me. When it comes to experimental cuisine, I’m not quite the adventurous type. However, I still try to taste the local food whenever I get the opportunity.
During our trip to the Amazon we were given a survival lesson. We drank from tree roots and ate worms, which grow inside a particular nut. Even though it tasted just like nuts, the worm was very mushy, and knowing that I was eating a worm was revolting.
What is your favourite hotel or resort?
Viewers at home sometimes have the wrong impression that the production team lives in a hotel or resort while everyone else is on an adventure.
The honest truth is that we live and sleep in the same places as the participants, or sometimes we end up not sleeping at all because of lack of space or time.
You will get ample chances to experience a lush hotel, but it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to sleep in a hammock next to the Amazon river, or outside under the African sky, or in a tent on a Himalayan mountain.
What do you love most about your job?
Going to the office doesn’t feel like going to work at all. Television in Malta is very small-scale compared to other countries, but that’s what I like about it.
Working on TV sets abroad, the work is specialised, it’s only in Malta that you get to work at different posts, which makes every day a challenge.
I also love the fact that my job as a production manager of Liquorish has given me the opportunity to travel the world in a unique way – probably no travel agency can organise a trip as our team does for various reasons.
For my all-time worst moment, I’m torn between one horribly cold, wet night on Pic Boby (Madagascar’s second highest peak), and a cave full of cockroaches in beautiful Borneo.
On Pik Bobby, I and three other crew members shared a two-men tent.
In between several episodes of numb legs and pins and needles in my hands, I barely got an hour’s sleep.
Producer on location
During the past eight years of Liquorish adventures I have travelled to Thailand, India, Borneo, Madagascar and Morocco.
My highlight was the Kinabatangan River, Sabah Borneo. A year before the trip I saw a documentary on the jungles of Borneo and thought it would be amazing to see orang-utans in their natural habitat.
I was overwhelmed to lie back in a wooden canoe and watch endangered birds. I was constantly pinching myself to make sure it was not a dream.
The very nature of our programme means we face a multitude of situations which at times can be rather hair-raising
There have been a number of occasions when I wondered if we had really thought everything through.
A harrowing van ride on a dirt road in the Indian Himalyan foothills springs to mind. The lack of guard rails leading to 150-metre drops made this six-hour drive one of the scariest experiences ever.
Another particular ‘event’ had us trekking through wetlands in the Amazonian basin in Brazil, known as the Pantanal. Our local guide, ‘Johnny Indiano’, came highly recommended by a BBC crew who had used his services months prior to our expedition.
Still, this gentleman coaxed two of our female participants into playing a twisted sort of Russian roulette with a fully grown boa constrictor. The four resulting puncture wounds in the young woman’s thigh were far less traumatic than being bound in a death lock by 2.5-metre reptile.
Liquorish: The Berber Kingdom (current series) was my fifth series, yet each year still proves to be an incredible experience.
I have sky-dived, sand boarded, drove off-road, swam with piranhas and travelled to places many people didn’t even know existed.
However, if I had to pick one single moment that I will treasure for life, it would be from my first series in Brazil when we spent a week living in the Amazon. It was just after dawn one morning with beautiful reds in the sky; enchanting trees on either side of the boat; enthralling sounds and wildlife occupying every centimetre in the forest. A storm was brewing over the horizon.
That day I saw more birds than I had seen in my entire life. They filled the sky above us to escape the oncoming storm. I live for those moments.