- 23 Nov 07, 11:56 AM
This trip has been an incredible experience that we've been privileged to have but, with the ups always come the downs, and there have been one or two of those on this shoot, most notably the scare we had with Matt Brandon, the Producer/Director. Matt and I have known each other since we were 13, we went to school together, he was the best man at my wedding, and he is godfather to my daughter Sofia.
When we were young we used to dream of coming to a place like this and making films together, and this was to be the fulfilling of that ambition.
Matt and Zubin in the High Andes during the filming of Amazon
I am sure the details of his illness are well documented elsewhere on this website so I will not go into them here, but needles to say it was the most horrific experience. To see someone so close in that kind of state is something I would not wish on my worst enemy, the fact that it all took place in the middle of the jungle hundreds of miles from any real help and during a massive storm just added to the surreal atmosphere of the whole episode.
The evacuation was thankfully a textbook example of how these things should be dealt with. Every single member of the team pulled together, taking on various roles, all equally important and all with only one thing in mind: getting Matt to safety. After a horrendous night watching Matt deteriorate, we finally got the call to say that the local anti-narcotic force would send a helicopter to take him to their base where there was an airstrip, so that a plane could land to take him on to Lima, and a proper hospital.
At first light people went out with machetes to cut down an area so that the helicopter could land, John our fixer had constructed a huge flag from a bed sheet and the biggest piece of bamboo I have ever seen, so as to guide in the helicopter. Bruce was co-ordinating the pick-up, mobile phone in one hand, machete in the other, as he helped with the clearing of the area. It was great to have someone of his experience amongst us: he was a very calming influence during the whole episode.
After what seemed an eternity we heard the distant whirr we had been waiting for. The helicopter was a full-on army gunship - we were in one of the most dangerous parts of Peru and probably South America: one of the main cocaine producing areas of the world. All of this just added to the feeling that we were in a scene from a film.
After a short ride we were at the base waiting for the plane to take us over the Andes to Lima. When it arrived we realised that it was not pressurised, not the ideal form of transport for someone with a suspected serious neurological injury. So having consulted the doctor back in the UK, we boarded the plane with much trepidation but little choice. Thankfully it all worked out, we got to Lima safely and eventually to the San Borja clinic where the care was first rate.
After a few days in intensive care Matt began what can only be described as a miraculous recovery, which seemed to coincide with the arrival of his wife Zoe from the UK. Matt is now back home in Bristol still doing amazingly well and I have no doubt he will soon be back in a jungle somewhere doing what he loves most.
This blog was written in December but has been published now to give an account of what Matt's illness and evacuation were like for the team. Production on the series ceased for 10 days in November while Matt was ill.
Read the blogs and see the video and images related to Matt's illness and evacuation