I’M getting myself into a little tizzy wondering if the meet with Gordon Buchanan will run smoothly, given we’ve never met before and hadn’t arranged a specific spot. But then it dawns; Buchanan is a Scots Indiana Jones. The wildlife filmmaker has managed to find his way across most of the Earth’s continents, making documentaries such as The Bear Family and Me and Life In The Snow. Finding a journalist, even on a damp, very dull Thursday, shouldn’t be too hard.

At first sight, Buchanan looks like a young Elliot Gould – but ripped, with a silhouette that suggests he’s not a slave to Dairy Milk.

The 47 year-old curls may be grey but he’s coloured by youthfulness. Buchanan isn’t wearing an Indiana leather jacket or carrying a bull whip, but he is really. You sense those who come along to his Audience With tour shows will be immediately won over.

His appearance commands the immediate questions; how do you grow a wildlife explorer? Did he develop the call of the wild thanks to growing up in Alexandria? “No,” he smiles. “When my folks split up we ended up in Bellsmyre (housing estate) which back in the late 70s was a pretty rough area. After a few years of that my mother took us (two older brothers and a sister) off to Mull.”

The Tobermory choice came about because his grandparents once had a caravan on Mull. and Buchanan’s first few years on the island was spent under a mobile tin roof on that same site. “It was tough. The first winter I’d never experiences cold like it – the heating system was a two-bar fire – and I remember we couldn’t get fresh milk on the island. Butter was something you had at Christmas. I still can’t open a pack of butter without feeling a sense of delight. But it was especially tough for my mum, being the only divorcee around for 200 miles and doing three or four jobs to survive.”

Buchanan’s boredom - not assuaged by occasional visits to Dumbarton to visit his pub-working dad - was countered by the great outdoors, and, from the age of ten, working at a trekking centre. What about girls? “How can I put this delicately? There weren’t even many girls in our class. The summer season offered more selection when the tourists arrived. That was the time to make hay.”

The teenage Buchanan however didn’t do particularly well at school. Part of this was down to the education standards. “The school had some great teachers. But Tobermory was seen as a hardship posting so sometimes we got the bottom of the barrel.”

Buchanan’s personal rescue haven had been the local trekking centre, where he worked from the age of 10. But what to do with his life? The answer arrived while working in a restaurant owned by the wife of natural history film maker Nick Gordon, who took a shine to the teenager. “His office looked like Indiana Jones’ den, full of dried piranhas, photos and bows and arrows. It was so intoxicating. I was really into Indiana Jones and Nick was living the Indiana life.”

Nick Gordon offered the young man a job, a trip to Sierra Leone, on the proviso he saw the project through. But to say it was demanding is to say tigers can be a little scratchy. It meant sleeping in a tent for months on end. No internet. No phones. Was there ever a point when he thought he couldn’t do it any longer? “Every day,” he admits. “I’d cry myself to sleep most nights. I was so homesick, I missed my mum and my friends and I can remember almost willing myself to break a leg or have the sort of accident that would see me taken home.

“Every night I’d write a letter to someone, a friend or a teacher, anyone I thought would write back. I needed human contact. I read each letter at least five times.”

He adds; “When I came home half way through the stint for a couple of months break I found it very hard to go back.”

Yet, in this strange life he saw a future and continued to work with Nick Gordon for another four years. Aged 23, however, Buchanan compassed his own direction, securing a Princes’ Trust loan he bought a load of camera equipment – and into several years of hard slog.

Meantime, he had met his future wife Wendy, (they have two children) who runs her own TV company. And Buchanan’s own career flourished to the point he’s very selective about the work he now takes on. Is this to do with being a father, and risk-taking?“Yes,” he admits. “When I was filming the likes of leopards in Sri Lanka I wasn’t doing the sort of risk assessments required now. I figured I was indestructible. Since the kids have come along I’ve got a better sense of danger.”

Has he lost a couple of his nine lives? “Well I was shot at in Sierra Leone,” he says, grinning. “I made a mad choice to crash a road block. I floored the car and set off cackling like an eejit. But the 47 year-old year-old me wouldn’t do that. And I’ve been chased by elephants a couple of times and they almost caught me.” He smiles; “If they catch up with you there’s no chance so if you’re ever attacked by an elephant, wait until you feel their breath on your neck and then make a sharp turn. Elephants don’t do right angles. Or you could drop something and an elephant may stop and sniff. Such as a hat, or the contents of your bowels.”

Did he ever take hallucinogenic drugs with Amazon Indians? “We did on one occasion take Yopo, which had the consistency of ground pepper which you hoover up through your nose. I came too 40 minutes later, on all fours while staring at a rock, for no real reason. I was then horrendously sick. Then a couple of years ago I tried this beetle nut stimulant in Papua New Guinea, which I didn’t really like. My head throbbed and I became hyper aware, but I took it so as not to offend the tribesman.”

Was he ever offered the hand in marriage of a tribal chief’s daughter? He pauses, suggesting a yes. “No, but back in Sierra Leone I remember having a massive crush on the second wife of the tribal chief. I remember thinking she’d be better off with me, but it wouldn’t have gone well had I made any moves.”

What of the rival telly Indianas out there? Who does he hate most between Steve Backshall, Simon Reeve and Bear Grylls, you ask jokily. But Buchanan isn’t laughing when he replies. “I’ll answer your question in a different way. I really like and respect Steve and Simon. They’re really good people. I think they’re really good at what they do. But I was really disappointed in Bear Grylls when I realised he wasn’t the real deal.

“I’d watched his programmes from the early days because I had one foot in that world and was in awe of the fact he seemed superhuman. Hardcore. But then I worked with someone who had just been filming with him and he said ‘Naw, it’s all hotels,’ and I was so let down. I wouldn’t watch any of his programmes again.”

What of the future? More of the same. But less. the knees are a bit sore. And perhaps an autobiography. “Yes, I don’t like working from home. I’m so easily distracted. If I could go off to a little cabin for three months on my own.” He laughs. “But I don’t know if the wife and kids would go along with that idea.”

Gordon Buchanan is now touring with Animal Families and Me, appearing in Stirling, Aberdeen, Dunfermline, Greenock and Edinburgh.