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The India Connection: Epic Adventures Bear Grylls Has Had in India 

Over his years of making survival TV shows, Bear Grylls has traveled and filmed in India and has said it is a place that is dear to his heart.

The first time he traveled there was when he was on a year out after school and an old school friend invited him hiking in northern India. He says it was a dream trip.

Exploring the Himalayas

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Image by Bloomberg/Contributor

“We spent a month hiking through the Indian Himalayas, around Darjeeling and beyond. We traveled on the roofs of trains, slept on wooden beds in remote mountain villages, and rode the white waters down mountain rivers,” Bear wrote in his book Mud, Sweat and Tears.

Bear says that it was during a visit to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute near Darjeeling that he became hooked on mountain climbing. “The place was like a shrine to the great mountaineers, and the stories of death and adventure on the highest peaks on Earth had me entranced,” he wrote.

He says that when he was lucky enough to see Everest – and watch the sun rise over the mountain one morning – he decided that someday he would attempt to climb the mountain, and he did just a few years later.

A Life-Changing Experience

Bear was also in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) and visited Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity headquarters.

“We routed by train into the huge, terrifying, sprawling metropolis of one of the world’s biggest cities,” wrote Bear. “The station was a seething mass of hurrying, scurrying, hustling bodies; it was physically impossible to move faster than a slow shuffle, and you just got taken in whichever direction the crowd was moving. The noise and the smell was overpowering.”

He says that Mother Teresa’s headquarters was a haven of love, cleanliness, calm, and care – a contrast to some of the dirt and suffering of the city at the time, and that her way of life changed how he saw the world.

He wrote about how he realized that he had been given privileges in life beyond those any person could ever hope for, and that we all have a duty of care towards the world and its people.

Adventure with Prime Minister Modi

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Image by Tuul & Bruno Morandi

Bear returned to India to film an adventure with Prime Minister Modi of India for Man vs. Wild in 2019 – but he and the team met a lot of challenges along the way. 

First, there was a storm when the Prime Minister was supposed to arrive in the Uttarakhand Rainforest in northern India by helicopter with all his security personnel and advisers. They had to switch to boats – with the Prime Minister and his team loading into small aluminum boats with tiny outboard engines for the journey upriver into the jungle.

Conditions got worse, with wind and rain, and the boats were trying to make their way upriver with huge waves, as those aboard bailed out the water. Time was also running out for the shoot (the Prime Minister had to be at an event just a few hours later), and Bear knew that their careful filming plan would have to be ditched. 

He hastily came up with a new plan, and when he met the Prime Minister, he walked with him into the forest, showing him how to make a spear in case of a tiger attack, and sniffing elephant dung.

The Wild as the Great Leveler

One of the most memorable scenes of the episode is when Bear brings the Prime Minister across a raging river in a tiny coracle raft that he had made from some reeds and an old tarpaulin.

“The wild doesn’t care who we are, that it treats us all the same – and it bonds us all in tough moments,” Bear later wrote in his book Never Give Up. “To be out in that river with the Prime Minister, just us two, in the torrential rain, barely being able to understand each other’s words but just laughing at the moment. It is the heart of what I love about the wild. It is always the great leveler, and connector.”

Bear says that the adventure led to him filming episodes with other big stars in India, such as Akshay Kumar and Rajinikanth.

“I see it as the start of a wonderful friendship with a country I had never expected to fall in love with so much. Beautiful hearts and wilderness,” he wrote in Never Give Up.

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