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Marina De Brito

Cocaine Raid

Posted from: On the Tabatinga – Tefe passenger boat
Our film started on a river boat on the 8th of March. This is a passenger boat that takes some 200 people up and down the Amazon River between Tabatinga on the Brazil/Colombia border and Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. It is a four day journey to Manaus, but for us a two day journey as we were jumping off in Tefe, half way through the trip. The boat had three decks, the first and second quickly filled up with hammocks, the third one was for socialising, not sleeping. It had a bar with very loud Brazilian forro playing all the time and a huge sun deck.

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Bruce Parry

Following the coca leaf downriver

Starting in the high Andes and weaving our way down to the Apurimac and Ene Valleys, the first phase of our trip (which will probably make the basis of programme one) has an interesting central theme to it: cocaine. And what a story it has turned out to be. Looking back at it all now I can say that I’m glad I’m still in South America and not in the edit room back in Cardiff trying to put it all together as there was a lot to take in.

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Steve Robinson

Amazon United F.C.

Posted from: Catunga.
Catunga is a weird place. Two years ago a local logger built a road through the forest and roads change things quickly around here. In return for the right to log the forest around Catunga, he built them wooden houses, probably made out of their own wood.

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Steve Robinson

An Unannounced Arrival

Posted from: Catunga.
This is one of the most dangerous places we’ll visit on this journey, a place entirely beyond the rule of law but if we are to follow the course of the Amazon River, from source to sea, then we have to come this way. We stood on the beach with our pile of boxes and giggled nervously.

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Steve Robinson

The Ashaninka in the Red Zone

Posted from: Catunga.
We’ve had a very strange day, even by our very high standards. We’re in a small settlement called Catungo, in the Apurimac Valley in Peru. We’re in what is known as the RED ZONE, a place deemed so dangerous and difficult that the local law enforcement agencies have given up on it.

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Steve Robinson

Blowing up the Bossa

Posted from: Palma Pampa.
We had a great day today, out with the drug police blowing up coca labs. We should have got a really exciting sequence for the film.

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Matt Norman

Police Raid on Cocaine Lab

Posted from: Palma Pampa
Today we have gained access to film the flip side of the cocaine story in Peru, the fight against the trade in cocaine by the police and army forces, who are in turn supported with US funding.

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Bruce Parry

Bruce takes on a Bossa

Bruce excitedly prepares to blow up a bossa

Steve Robinson

Cocaine Badlands

Posted from: Miraflores / Lima.
It's strange to be back in Peru so soon. I wasn't expecting to be here again for a while, but have come out to take over from Producer/Director Matt Brandon who fell seriously ill just over a week ago. I saw him at the clinic yesterday and he seems to be recovering really well.

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Bruce Parry

An illegal coca base lab

Posted from: Louisiana.
Today we went to a coca base lab, which is where coca leaves are turned into cocaine base. It’s a highly illegal activity and the Peruvian Military and the American Drugs Enforcement Agency both run armed raids from helicopter and vehicles to find people doing this type of work.

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Matt Norman

Panic in the Jungle

Posted from: Louisiana
12:30 pm: Covered in sweat from the heavy work the workers take a break and are joined by some other members of the family who have brought them food. No kidding, this was by far the best food on the whole journey so far, made up of some very tasty rice and spicy fish which they very generously share with us.

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Matt Norman

The Coca Pit

Posted from: Louisiana
7.20 am: We walk 10 minutes up through the woods and come to a small clearing with a wooden house. A very poor-looking mum and dad with six scraggly young children greet us. They look somewhat puzzled by our motives and the driver quickly reassures them so it’s happy hand shakes all round.

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Bruce Parry

Coca debates

Bruce has a tricky time harvesting coca leaves with Antonio’s family.

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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.

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Bruce Parry

Coca concerns

Bruce expresses his fears over filming in coca country

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Matt Brandon

Time out

Posted from: Louisiana.
The trip so far has been incredible - the source of the Amazon, Rodolfo and his family, an epic trek, white-water rafting, and a lot more - but I'd be lying if I said that we didn't all enjoy a couple of nights in a hotel in Ayacucho and choosing food from a menu.

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Matt Norman

Magic Hour with the Coca Growers

Posted from: Louisiana / San Fransisco
At about 4pm we all meet up and take a 30-minute drive to join up with a family of coca growers. It has been difficult for Luis to find a family who are happy for us to film them, as they are very aware that the growing of coca is controversial and they do not wish to get into trouble with their community.

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Matt Norman

U Can’t Touch This

Posted from: Louisiana
Luis, our multitalented fixer-translator-local producer, has pre-warned us that we should do our utmost to arrive at our destination before dark. This is because the region we are heading for is the primary cocaine producing area of Peru and is pretty much lawless.

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Matt Norman

Journey to the other San Francisco

Posted from: En route to San Francisco
We leave early to hopefully avoid the roadblocks of the strike in a strict three-car convoy and within minutes each vehicle has been separated from the others. Today will be another long day with a 14-hour drive ahead of us. With no sign of barricades we escape the city for another day of careering around hairpin bends with epic drops.

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Matt Norman

On the Bandit Trail

Posted from: Ayacucho.
John, our fixer, is in our vehicle and says that the road ahead is notorious for bandits holding vehicles up at gunpoint. He says there are two roads to Ayacucho and to keep safe we should not take the left fork ahead as that’s where the bandits hide ready for an ambush. We take the right fork - hopefully the bandits don’t try this road for once!

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Matt Norman

Bone shaking all the way to Ayacucho

Posted from: en route to Ayacucho.
So we’ve got the all clear to make our journey into the Red Zone, which means that today will involve another two hour journey in a bumpy vehicle. Today is not Zubin's day as, highly inconveniently, he has the runs - not the best on a long drive like this.

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Matt Norman

Amazon team enter the Red Zone

Posted from:Machu Puente
In a few days time our journey will take us into the coca growing and cocaine trafficking area of Peru known as the 'Red Zone'. This region is pretty much a no-go area, even to the Peruvian army. This means that a mix of local militia police, members of the Ashaninka community and the drug traffickers control the area.

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Matt Brandon

A technical perspective

Posted from:Angostura
The altitude has been a shock but the source of the Amazon was amazing - water just spewing out of this wall. The mountains are covered with snow and the landscape here is totally epic. It's been really, really tough and it's very cold, so technical things like keeping batteries charged is a problem.

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Matt Brandon

Mutiny on the Mismi

Posted from:Base camp Mismi
David - our guide and translator for this section - took the opportunity to make an emotional offering to the mountain at the source and invited us all to join in. All of us found it equally moving and we each took three coca leaves and prayed to the Apus before making a request and then placing the leaves into the first waters of the Amazon.

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Matt Brandon

The Big Opening

Posted from:The Source
Last time I blogged Almu and I were on our way to an Alpaca Shaving competition. The competition was in the beautiful and very rundown town of Ran Ran. Many people were dressed in traditional Andean outfits, and there were obviously a lot of alpacas around. The shaving competition was saved until the end of the day, and despite chewing lots of coca to combat the altitude we both felt less than good. Almu was soon dressed in traditional clothes and, not wanting me to be left out, someone soon found a spare poncho and hat for me to put on.

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Matt Norman

Arrival in base camp

Posted from:Base camp Mismi
Yesterday our three-vehicle convoy drove higher and higher up into the Andes towards Mount Mismi in search of the source of the Amazon. On route we stopped in a tiny town to refuel and while waiting, Zubin, Matt B, Luis (our driver) and I played football with two small lads of no more than 10 years in age.

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