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Matt Norman

Coca Harvest

Posted from: San Francisco area.
We arrived back at the hacienda and I’m now feeling nauseous and dizzy. I take some re-hydration salts as I’m probably suffering from dehydration and crash in my tent. I’m sick most of the night and having not slept I’m still dressed when we leave at 4am in order to travel and film Bruce waking up with the family back at Antonio’s hut.

This time of morning the roads are safe and empty and we arrive back at the small collection of huts perched on the hillside. The light is stunning so I film some wide shots of the views and then, when trying to pick up the HD camera, I feel dizzy again and as though I’m going to fall over. Probably still dehydrated, I lie in the back seat of the car and Zubin comes to the rescue by using the smaller DV camera to shoot the scene of Bruce having breakfast with the family.

To get some air I lie on the floor outside the car and a while later open my eyes to see the upside-down image of two small boys standing over me. With the novelty value over and me providing no entertainment they quickly get bored and leave me in the grass to sweat it out.

Matt describes the dangers of mistaken identity around an illegal coca plant.

After an hour or so and numerous itchy insect bites I search for the rest of the team and find them about to go off with Antonio and the family to harvest coca leaves. Having re-hydrated as best I could, I resume filming with the big camera as we need this scene covered in HD. We film Bruce walking the 10-minute winding walk through the undergrowth and they then arrive at an open sided hut.

Here the mum and two of her smaller kids sit with the coca seed laid out in the shade and we film Bruce chatting with them and sharing some coca tea. Next Bruce helps Antonio in the process of laying out previously collected coca leaves to dry them in the sun. Antonio is a lovely, gentle, hard-working man just looking to do the best for his family and send his kids to school. Subsequently everyone, including six small kids, walks to a nearby area to continue their harvesting of the coca leaves. It’s a basic but effective technique in which a handful of leaves are stripped from the branch of a coca plant in one swift pull.

All of the kids of the family help their dad while nearby the cutest two-year-old girl sits in the grass, crying as she feels left out. I give her a sweet and a cuddle and it seems to make her much happier. By now it’s only 10.30am but the sun is sweltering so Zubin and I both have the same idea of filming from the shade as Bruce joins in the leaf collecting. As they chat and collect for the next two hours we follow the action giving it a nice long lens feel while trying our best to follow the shade and ending up huddled in the tiniest of shadows.

Find out more
about the coca growing regions


  • 1.
  • At 01:13 AM on 16 Dec 2007,
  • Lucy wrote:

I like the "long lens feel" - surely for Artistic purposes only... ahem...

It's so wonderful to read all the blogs everyone is posting on here. It's all so descriptive and nearly sort of brings it to life...

Thank-you! And be safe, won't you? Do be safe.

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