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November 23, 2014: Set Speed Records on El Capitan, Prosecute Poaching Kingpins and More

Political turmoil in Democratic Republic of the Congo has left the future of the world's 800 remaining mountain gorillas uncertain. In the new film "Virunga," director Orlando von Einsiedel shows how oil exploration and a civil war endanger the gorillas and their home in Virunga National Park. (photo by Michael Nichols)
Political turmoil in Democratic Republic of the Congo has left the future of the world’s 800 remaining mountain gorillas uncertain. In the new film “Virunga,” director Orlando von Einsiedel shows how oil exploration and a civil war endanger the gorillas and their home in Virunga National Park. (photo by Michael Nichols)

Every week, embark with host Boyd Matson on an exploration of the latest discoveries and interviews with some of the most fascinating people on the planet, on National Geographic Weekend.

Please check listings near you to find the best way to listen to National Geographic Weekend on radio, or listen below!

HOUR 1

– Two and a half years ago, Filipe Masetti Leite set out from Calgary, Alberta on horseback. Today, he sits on a beach in Brazil, writing his memoirs about the epic journey that he undertook with his horses Frenchie, Bruiser and Dude. The team rode through ten countries, befriending poor locals and cartel leaders alike. Masetti Leite describes earning safe passage through some of the hemisphere’s most dangerous cities, and the hero’s welcome he received upon arrival in Brazil.

– The holidays are a time to get together with friends and family to celebrate. Hosts and guests a lot often spend time pondering which is the best bottle to imbibe at Thanksgiving or other holiday meals. But without proper guidance, it can be hard to know what bottle of wine to offer. Sommelier Joshua Wesson provides guidance to avoid a faux pas in a bottle. For Thanksgiving, he suggests something affordable and refreshing and don’t bother trying to pair it to what is being served. He also breaks down the merits of sparkling wine and offers a winning secret to improve the taste of any bottle of red wine.

– Forget your bucket list. National Geographic Traveler says the time is now for these 20 destinations. But some of these are not like the others. Traveler features editor Amy Alipio explains how Oklahoma City is an ideal destination for 2015, as are more traditional destinations like Peru’s Incan ruins, and France’s Mont St. Michel. The article appears in the December/January issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

– As technology improves, we’re constantly surrounded by innovations that would stun someone who time-traveled from even twenty years ago. One achievement that is frequently overlooked as ordinary medical practices is the ability to bring people back from the dead; people who have no pulse, no brain activity and aren’t breathing are not alive. But what happens between the time these people die and they come back to life? Judy Bachrach looks at the science and commonalities between people’s accounts of their time away from life, which include knowing what happened in the room while they were dead, and not being concerned with the affairs of the living world. Her book, Glimpsing Heaven is out now.

– Solar power is quickly making great leaps in terms of the amount of power it solar cells are able to generate. And National Geographic Emerging Explorer and nanoscientist Xiaolin Zheng is working to broaden solar power’s ability to transform our lives. Zheng has created sticky solar cells that adhere to the backs of gadgets and can help “charge the chargers,” allowing us to power phones and GPS devices from the woods, for example. She expects these devices to hit the market within a few years.

HOUR 2

– Africa’s oldest national park has been hiding a secret for the past 89 years. But her secret oil and mineral reserves were recently discovered by SOCO, a United Kingdom-based oil company, that now threaten’s the park’s very existence. The last 800 of the world’s mountain gorillas live in Virunga National Park, and they’re protected by committed rangers who are working to keep rebel soldiers and the oil company out of the park. The rebel armies are also fighting a prolonged civil war against the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s federal government on the edge of the park’s borders. Orlando von Einsiedel directed a new film, “Virunga,” that tells the story of the fight to save the last home of the world’s mountain gorillas and a park from being destroyed for oil. “Virunga” can be seen on Netflix now.

– American beef consumption peaked in the 1970’s. Since then, chicken has become a much more popular source of meat, because people perceive chicken to be better for us. But, National Geographic reporter Rob Kunzig explains that the science is pretty unclear on the health benefits of avoiding beef. He also says that if someone is concerned about animal welfare, eating chicken isn’t necessarily better than eating beef either, from his observations visiting a chicken farm. Kunzig said that he has concerns about how the United States produces all meat, but now, “I eat more beef than I did before I reported this story.” His article, “Carnivore’s Dilemma,” appears in the November 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine.

– Cycling enthusiasts often lament winter as the end of the cycling season. But Tom Babin, winter is just a time you wear more clothes while cycling. He shares a few hard-earned rules of cycling through snow: buy a cheap mountain bike with wide studded tires; don’t take corners too fast; and don’t dress too warmly, because you’ll sweat just as much as you do in warmer months. His new book Frostbike breaks down the rules of winter cycling, as well as how countries around the world pedal through winter.

– National Geographic Emerging Explorer and women’s education pioneer in Kenya, Kakenya Ntaiya bucked centuries of tradition when she rejected the young boy who was chosen to be her husband in her remote Kenyan village. She defied the odds and received an education in the United States, and now she seeks to empower the young women who are still forced to leave school in order to take care of household chores and don’t receive the same education that young boys do. Ntaiya created a school that boarded the girls so that they can learn to play and believe that they’re equal to the boys in their home villages. Help Kakenya spread the dream of education for girls here.

– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares the story of his recent mountain gorilla hike in Rwanda. He points out that in Rwanda, eco-tourism has surpassed agriculture as a money-maker for the country, helping stabilize the region and further ensure a safe future for mountain gorillas.