With a change of flights in Doha, Qatar we arrived in Bali with this block’s guest presenter, my TV sister Naomi Wilkinson, having spent the same amount of time in the air that it took us to get to Sydney filming ‘AOTP Australia’ a few years ago. Waiting to greet us in the outdoor arrivals area, which is dotted with huge Hindu sculptures, was our Spanish fixer Ana, holding a box of cold flannels infused with peppermint oil. “I think I’m going to like the next couple of weeks filming”, I thought to myself.
Our day off flew by in a haze of discombobulated ambling about the hotel and beach, and before I knew it I was in a tiny mini bus (people in Bali seem to be about half the size of me) careering through the tourist streets peppered with Hindu shrines, out onto the country roads cutting through the tropical looking fields and then up into the volcanic mountains with their lush vegetation and crumbling hairpin roads. Mopeds laden with produce somehow shared the road with us, seemingly in constant threat of being clipped by our bus and sent tumbling down the mountainside, but everyone seems to know what they’re doing and it all ends up being just fine.
After two and a half hours we arrived at the East Bali Cashew processing plant, through Willy Wonka style factory gates and into one of the most well run businesses we’ve encountered on this show. The owner was fed up with sending the local farmer’s produce abroad to be turned into expensive snacks, so now they do it all here, with a very nice school at the gates for the workers’ kids. The stuff they’re turning out would sit happily on the shelves of Waitroses (I was a particular fan of their caramel cashew and popcorn mix), and it’s all super clean and efficient. After a tour round the ten step processing we journeyed out onto the hill to see how cashews are grown. What a palaver! Each one comes from the underside of a “cashew apple”, and is plucked by hand once the apple has fallen to the ground. I’ll treat cashews with a lot more respect from now on.
For our final bit of filming I dressed up as Gameshow Man and hosted a quiz involving the explosive popcorn cannon, shouting my head off with my ear defenders on and wondering what the future holds for this insane character that I love playing so much. It’s the last time he’ll be making an appearance this series and with no decisions made about next year, who knows what he’ll be doing…