Trekking through the Himalaya, with a short stop at Mt. Everest’s base camp, sailing the Ganges River, crossing the North Pacific Ocean on a container ship, meditating with monks in a Tibetan monastery – these are not the typical activities you might expect during a family vacation with two young children. Bruce Kirkby took an extraordinary adventure halfway around the world, and has invited everyone to come along.
Travel Channel’s mesmerizing and cinematic new series, Big Crazy Family Adventure, premiers Sunday, June 21. It follows wilderness guide, writer and award-winning photographer Bruce Kirkby throughout his epic trip – from his home in Kimberley, British Columbia, to a remote monastery in the Himalaya – with his wife, Christine Pitkanen, and their two young boys: Bodi, 7 and Taj, 3.
There’s just one catch: on their 13,000-mile adventure they don’t be take ANY airplanes. To fully experience the life-changing and serendipitous moments that exploring the world provides, they got to their final destination through surface travel only including by canoe, container ship, ferry, high-speed train, river boat, tuk tuk, pony, their own eight feet, and more.
“Travel returns each of us to a state of childhood,” says Bruce. “For a moment we look upon the world, crowded with the unrecognizable and incomprehensible, with the same eyes as our kids. And in doing so, the distance between us shrinks, just a bit. These shared experiences, with all their uncertainties, challenges and enchantments, are like fertilizer for family bonds.”
Highlights from Big, Crazy Family Adventure:
- Leg 1: The first leg of the Kirkby family’s 13,000-mile journey involves canoes, camping, a luxury train and taking a container ship to South Korea. Storms, life vests and a run-in with Russian Border Patrol create challenges. Location highlights: Kimberly, B.C.; Canadian Rocky Mountains; Vancouver, B.C.; Nakhodka, Russia; Busan, South Korea
- Leg 2: In South Korea, the family takes their first-ever bullet train, chow on butterfly larvae snacks and sail the Yellow Sea. Bruce gets up close at the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea, while Christine and the boys take a cable car up to the Seoul Tower for an amazing view of the city. Location highlights: Busan, South Korea; The Seoul Tower; DMZ (Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea); Qingdao, China; Beijing
- Leg 3: The family climbs a remote section of the Great Wall of China, known as the “Wild Wall.” A 21-hour train ride from Beijing across China brings them to the start of a five-day acclimatization mission where they’ll slowly elevate up to 10,500 feet. But when Taj doesn’t respond well to the altitude, his health and their Tibetan permits are up in the air. Location highlights: Beijing; the Great Wall of China; Xining, China; Qinghai Lake
- Leg 4: A 27-hour ride on the highest railway in the world brings the family into Tibet where Bodi shows a curiosity in Buddhism and learns to meditate. They make their way to the North Base Camp of Mount Everest, at 16,800 feet elevation, for a breathtaking view and unforgettable moment for Bruce. But time is ticking as they race to reach the Nepal border before their Tibetan visas expire. Location highlights: Xining, China; Lhasa, Tibet; Xigaze; Friendship Highway; Mt. Everest base camp; Nepal/Tibet border
- Leg 5: In Nepal, the Kirkby family meets a Hindu goddess, Bodi exhibits excellent bargaining skills and the family rides elephants in the jungle. Bruce photographs rhinos in Nepal’s first national park – a dream come true – while Christine spends her birthday on the trail of the elusive Bengal Tiger. Location highlights: Nepal/Tibet border; Kathmandu; Chitwan National Park; Nepal/India border
- Leg 6: India brings scorching heat, spicy food, a private boat ride on the holy Ganges River, a special lesson in lassi-making, snake charmers and the burning ghats. But the family finds themselves in a race against time to make a train to the Taj Majal. Location highlights: India/Nepal border; Allahabad; Varanasi; the Ganges (the Holy River); Taj Mahal; Agra
- Leg 7: The Kirkby family explores the renowned Taj Mahal, where youngest son Taj learns about his iconic namesake. The kids learn about poverty and take a Bollywood dance class while Christine cooks an authentic Indian dinner for her family. Later, they explore a rock and water-filled adventure park. Location highlights: Taj Mahal; Agra; New Delhi; Old Delhi; Chandigarh
- Leg 8: Moving deeper into the Indian Himalaya, they board a narrow gauge “toy” train, encounter monkeys at Jakhu Temple and Bruce digs into his family history in the town of Shimla. But when Taj becomes feverish, they must call in a doctor to see if their trip can stay on track. Location highlights: Chandigarh; Shimla; Leh Manali Highway; Manali; Rohtang Pass; Palamo
- Leg 9: To get to their final stop in Ladakh, the family must trek 100 miles of rugged terrain to elevations of 16,700 feet. Along the way they deliver school supplies to children in remote villages, make their way across winding narrow paths with drop offs of several hundred feet and Bodi overcomes another fear as he rides a pony for the first time. Their arrival at the stunning cliff-side monastery, Karsha Gompa, is an emotional milestone. Location highlights: Palamo; Zanskar Sumdo; Chumik Napko; Shingo La Pass; Kargyak River; Testa; Tangzay; Karsha Gompa Monastery
Tune-in in June to see his adventure unfold.