Peru World's Most Dangerous Roads


Peru

Adventurer Ben Fogle and comedian Hugh Dennis drive a historic route from the Peruvian Andes to the depths of the Amazon. They hope to find the lost city of Constitucion.


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Transcript


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This programme contains some strong language.

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-Five billion kilometres of roads network our planet.

-The drop!

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400 feet, absolutely sheer.

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Instant death then, yeah?

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Yet the desire to communicate and trade means new routes

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are being forged through increasingly challenging terrain.

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-Keep as close as you can there.

-I know, but am I OK with that drop?

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Across Arctic tundra.

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Zero visibility on the pass. We are mid-drift.

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Over mountain passes.

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-Through jungle.

-No! Go, Fogle!

-Go!

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These roads fight a constant battle with nature.

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Let's just calm it down.

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But their very existence is testament to man's ingenuity,

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and driving them requires courage and determination.

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Oh, ge... Woah!

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Adventurer Ben Fogle and comedian Hugh Dennis have teamed up to drive the treacherous route across Peru,

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from the Andes into the very heart of the Amazon.

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On this epic eight-day journey, they will see the beauty and the danger of this extraordinary road.

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They are aiming to get to the geographical centre of Peru.

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As close to that side as you can, now.

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And the road they're taken has some of the most extreme

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driving conditions either of them have ever encountered.

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Careful, careful.

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To make it through, they will need steady hands and nerves of steel

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on one of the world's most dangerous roads.

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Ben and Hugh's journey begins at over 3,000 metres above sea level in the Peruvian Andes.

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So, are you nervous about this at all?

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I'm slightly nervous about it. Can I just check one thing?

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Did you pass your driving test first time?

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I didn't pass my driving test first time.

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-That matter?

-That's fine. How many times did you take it?

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-Seven.

-Seven times? Seven?

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I like to think it makes me a better driver, by the way.

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That's fine, because I've never passed one.

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-Seven times!

-That makes me feel so much better...

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Their route runs for 1,000k across Peru and will take them through

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three very different but challenging types of terrain.

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They have to cross the Andes on one of Peru's highest roads,

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before heading down into the Amazon Rainforest.

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After that, it's 500 kilometres of rough jungle roads to the town of Pozuzo.

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Finally, they will have to make it across the mighty Huancabamba Canyon

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and along miles of mud roads to reach the centre of Peru.

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Here they hope to find Constitucion, a city which in the 1980s was intended to replace Lima

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as Peru's new capital but today doesn't even appear on the map.

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But their adventure begins at the gateway to the Peruvian Andes in the town of Concepcion.

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This is where local people come to start their journey into

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the mountains and the taxi drivers here know this route backwards.

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Ben sees an opportunity to try out his rusty Spanish on them.

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Hola. Mi nombre es Ben.

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Somos en nuestro coche. We're in our car.

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Que bueno, que bueno.

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Digame, que tal es la carratera? How is the road between here and there?

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So he's saying the roads are very dangerous and there's lots of...

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Polvo is dust.

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It comes up and you can't see anything. Are there big drops?

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Ooh! 500 to 1,000 metre drops.

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-Concepcion?

-No, Constitucion.

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The drivers don't seem to know much about the city of Constitucion,

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except that it's somewhere in the jungle.

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So will we be OK?

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He said the biggest danger is other drivers, and he said

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said we have to be very, very careful on all the corners.

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-Plus we have to worry about you.

-And I have to worry about me.

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Gracias, senor. Gracias.

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Hasta luego.

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OK, let's hit the road.

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Armed with local knowledge, they're aiming for a quick getaway.

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But the road has been temporarily closed.

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I find it amazing we're in the middle of nowhere

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-and we've come across the biggest brass-band competition I've ever seen.

-It's amazing, isn't it?

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I don't think I've ever seen a brass-band competition.

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Where have you seen one before?

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Have you ever seen one?

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35 bands from all over Peru will parade through town today before the road re-opens.

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You think this is a cool thing to do, then? If you're a kid?

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Do you think the cool kids are in the brass band?

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Would you think it's all the dweebs?

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-I don't know.

-I think it's cool.

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-Do you?

-Yeah.

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If I was out here, I'd be in a brass band.

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Do you think we'll ever actually get out of this place now?

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Well, there are more coming.

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That lot are my favourite.

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I think they're going to win.

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Shall we head back to the car?

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-Can we get out, do you think?

-I think we should go this way.

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After Conception, the road quickly rises up into the Andes - the second highest mountain range in the world.

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This route over the mountains and into the Amazon was mapped out by

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Franciscan monks almost 500 years ago

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as they searched for indigenous tribes to convert to Christianity.

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We're about 4,500 metres up now, so in Alps terms that's almost the top of Mont Blanc.

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Today, huge herds of llama and alpaca roam this area,

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and avoiding them is going to be the boys' first challenge.

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Here we go.

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-Oh... Woah..

-Excuse us. Excuse us!

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Hey, chaps. That one's getting out of the way.

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This one isn't. Have you seen an alpaca before?

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-Yeah.

-They're pretty cool.

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I've always wanted to be an alpaca farmer.

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Well, you could. You can do that in England, can't you?

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It's not quite the same as here in the Andes though, is it?

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I've been lucky enough to come to Peru a couple of times over the years.

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I came here when I was about 18 and fresh out of school, so this is where I had my learning experience.

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It's where I found myself, as such. So, for me, it's somewhere I really love and I get very excited by still.

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Inspired by his first trip to Peru, Ben took a degree in Latin American

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studies and has since returned to South America many times as a professional adventurer.

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Is that a road?

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Is that thing a road going up there?

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It must be. With the switchbacks... I don't know if that's what we're going up.

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It looks very off-road, doesn't it?

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Bloody hell.

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I've never been to Latin America. I've never been to South America.

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I've been to all the other continents but I've never been here.

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I'm so pleased I'm doing it.

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This is a fantastic journey.

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It's a journey that will take Hugh further off the tourist trail than he's ever been before.

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The town of Comas was established over 2,000 years ago.

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But the first vehicles only appeared here in the 1930s, when road crews

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finally blasted through the mountains surrounding the village.

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It's the last chance before the jungle for drivers to check

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that their tyres are up to scratch with local mechanic, Rui Cardenas.

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Hola.

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-Mi nombre es Ben.

-Gusto, gusto.

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I'm going to say... Is it fair for me to say we don't know much about tyres? Do you?

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Am I being presumptuous there?

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No, it'd be fair to say.

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HE SPEAKS SPANISH

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I'm just saying what happens if there's a hole and we don't have spare inner tubes or anything.

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Wow, you're thatching the inside of a tyre.

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So he's saying the best thing is to use leaves and things.

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This would be, in my opinion, the very best use for rhubarb.

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So he's saying we can actually put our clothes in here as well.

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-Your jacket.

-Use your clothes!

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He's saying we can borrow his.

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We don't need to stuff you in there at this stage.

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They're so resourceful out here, aren't they? I suppose that's what you have to do.

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You have to just make do with what you have.

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Y cuantos? Mucha mucha?

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Until it's pretty solid.

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Do you think that'd pass the MOT in England?

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It makes you wonder why they bother to fill them with air.

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Roughly what he was saying there are that no foreigners are crazy enough to come on this road.

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At the end of their lesson the day is nearly over,

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the next stage of the road is too dangerous to drive in the dark.

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So they have to spend the night in Comas.

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Their roadside hotel doubles up as a restaurant

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to feed and house the people who drive this route every day.

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Today, there is only one dish on the menu.

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I don't mind eating the dish of the day when I'm in England and you know roughly what you're going to get.

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Buenas noches. Que tal?

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Gracias.

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Have a look at the head area.

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That's a guinea pig.

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That's a guinea pig.

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Teeth, ribs...

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Is that its heart?

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Qui qui I think is what they call it.

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If nobody told you what that was, I think you'd just think that was chicken.

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It's fairly obvious what it is.

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The only clue it's missing is that it's not in a hutch.

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We're joking about eating guinea pig but this is kind of what they eat out here.

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I always feel sensitive about not wanting to laugh at other people's cultures and what they eat.

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-No, no that's absolutely fine.

-They keep them in their bedrooms.

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Like the long rooms they sleep in, the guinea pigs, maybe up to 60, sleep under the bed

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and multipurpose, like a heater, they move around all night

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and the heat they make goes up through the bed, keeps them warm

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-and then they eat them for breakfast.

-I had guinea pigs when I was

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a child, and as I remember, they ate each other.

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Ben and Hugh have completed the first stage of their journey,

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but the tarmac road they've enjoyed so far ends abruptly in Comas.

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Now they have to drive 150 kilometres over the Andes

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on an unpaved mountain road, and then down to the jungle town of Satipo.

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The single-track Comas road reaches heights of over 4,500 metres.

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Its hairpin bends and sheer drops combine to

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make it one of the most challenging drives anywhere in South America.

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Look.

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That must be our road.

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-That is our road.

-That is unbelievable.

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This is fantastic. How do you build a road like that?

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It's just extraordinary.

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Wow. It's quite a steep drop just here.

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Yep, I saw that.

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I was aware of that.

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The Comas road was carved out of the mountainside by huge gangs of manual labourers throughout the 1940s.

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Its engineers followed the track charted by the missionaries centuries earlier.

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With drops of over 1,000 metres to the valley below,

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even the smallest miscalculation can lead to disaster.

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Do you see the landslide there?

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Don't be looking at it too much, because this is also here.

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Look, down there is the bottom of the valley and also the end of your life.

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Look at the road going up.

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And to survive on the Comas road, it also pays to keep an eye on the rear-view mirror.

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OK, we've got a bus behind us.

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I would not want to be in a bus. Would you?

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Well, the thing is about a bus is that you're in the hands of some driver you know nothing about.

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Oh, that's like us!

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Exactly.

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He's also going faster than you.

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HORN SOUNDS

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He honked at me!

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With 1,000-foot drop, or whatever that is, next to me.

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Do we let him pass us?

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-Keep going for a bit.

-Shall we?

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Yeah. Bloody hell.

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We'll just let him go here.

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Go on, then.

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This might be one of his stops.

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That's fine.

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-Do you think we copped out there?

-No.

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Most fatal accidents here involve other vehicles.

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Roadside shrines mark the most dangerous corners,

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where drivers and their passengers have gone over the edge.

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So, I reckon those shrines are there because

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they'll just have misjudged that bend, won't they?

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Wow.

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How far down do you reckon that is?

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-Well, we're level with 1,000 feet... 12,000 feet?

-Far enough.

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It's a bit scary actually.

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You really do need to keep your eyes on the road and you don't think about that.

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Well, I'm assuming that's what's happened here.

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A car has misjudged that bend.

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Slightly sobering, isn't it?

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Not really a pleasant thought.

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The threat of landslides is an ever-present danger

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on the Comas road.

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Hundreds of cubic tonnes of loose rock can

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sweep down from the mountainside, destroying everything in its path.

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Maintenance teams fight a constant battle to keep the road open,

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and there is always a team in action somewhere on the road.

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OK, so they've opened this road for 20 minutes for us.

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She's saying we've got to go.

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She said always go very carefully.

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Did you get that?

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-Yep.

-Look. Careful, careful.

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Can I get past that?

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-It still coming down?

-It's still coming down.

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Bloody hell. There's stuff coming off.

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It's actually coming down quite fast now.

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The mountainside above the car is unstable, but despite assurances,

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the road ahead is now blocked.

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We have to wait here for a sec. It's crazy, isn't it?

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They just said they'd opened the road and there's a bulldozer.

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There's a phenomenal digger loading up a lorry.

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I think we do just pass.

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-Did you smile?

-He nodded.

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He nodded as if to say, "Go at your own peril."

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This road crew is part of a major five-year project to resurface the Comas road.

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It's a vital link that connects the isolated mountain communities to market towns in the jungle,

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and all 150 kilometres of the route need to be scraped and compressed before re-surfacing can begin.

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Gracias.

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Oh, here's a traffic jam.

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They look very jolly about working at 3,500 m,

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quarrying earth on a road about six or seven feet wide with an enormous digger.

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Woah, look at that.

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All the dust coming off.

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That really looked like part of that hill was going fall...

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while we were under it.

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After six hours on the Comas road they reach its highest point - 4,589 metres above sea level.

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Drivers often suffer exhaustion and blurred vision here.

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At this altitude, people sometimes take oxygen.

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What, just because of the altitude?

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-Yeah. How you feeling?

-Slightly drowsy.

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-You got any symptoms?

-No, I'm fine.

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I've had a slight headache for a while,

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but I think that's just being with you.

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-Thanks.

-Yeah.

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So, somewhere down there is the jungle.

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That gives me the feeling of enormous power.

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Does it you? Does it make you feel sort of...

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Yeah. It's pretty amazing we're above the clouds.

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So from now on, we're heading down into the jungle, and then in the jungle

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we've got to find Constitucion. Which was built in the '80s?

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The government said they would relocate the capital city

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to the geographical centre of Peru, the middle point, which happens to be in the middle of the jungle.

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They did it in Brazil. They moved the capital city to a man-made one, Brasilia.

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I think most capital cities are man-made. I don't want to pick you up on that point.

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Artificially located, let's change my wording.

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But there's a long way to go before they get off the Comas road,

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and the descent is particularly dangerous at this time of day.

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I can't see anything at all. Can you see anything?

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I'll walk.

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Can you see anything?

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Yeah, I can see... Yeah. I've got a little bit of the road here.

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-Shall I walk up the other side?

-I think I'm OK for now. I'll tell you if I...

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I've never had sun quite so strong straight into the face.

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If we have another run of sheer slope, then you can get out.

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Good visibility is essential here, as there are still more obstacles to overcome on the road.

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-Moo.

-Excuse us.

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Excuse us.

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-That one's getting out the way.

-This one isn't.

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-Shall I go and herd them?

-HORN BEEPS

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What you've done there is, you've put another one in the way.

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You've honked, and now the one that wasn't in the way is in the way.

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Get out.. Right, OK. Hang on...

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That's it. There's a gap.

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Thank you, thank you very much.

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Easy! We're like pros.

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The Anchor butter commercials led me to believe that cows could talk,

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-but they didn't seem to understand anything.

-Not really.

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After a day's drive above the clouds,

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the boys must now drop back through them to get to the Amazon basin.

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It does give the illusion of driving into thin air, doesn't it?

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Driving in the air... I could sing that for you.

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-TO TUNE OF "THE SNOWMAN":

-# We're driving in the air... #

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No!

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At dusk, visibility drops to a few metres,

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but after 12 hours on the road,

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they make it down to Satipo, and a bed for the night.

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Ben and Hugh have made it to the Amazon basin

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and must now head further into the rainforest towards the centre of Peru

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on their search for the city of Constitucion.

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But first, they need to negotiate the road to Pichanaki,

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where temperatures can reach 40 degrees by midday.

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Agh-yyah!

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I just wanted to wake you up.

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I've been bitten by sand flies, actually.

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I've got them all over my face.

0:22:200:22:22

-They don't actually itch so much.

-They don't itch at all, as far as I can see. Are they nasty?

-Well,

0:22:220:22:28

probably shouldn't tell you this now, but they do carry this rather nasty disease

0:22:280:22:32

that, out here, they call "uta", and back in England is called Leishmaniasis.

0:22:320:22:38

I don't want to know.

0:22:380:22:40

You'll be fine, Hugh.

0:22:400:22:42

The Peruvian Amazon covers nearly a million square kilometres.

0:22:490:22:53

Over the last century, there has been a vast increase in the number of roads into the area,

0:22:530:22:58

built to harvest the enormous natural wealth of the jungle.

0:22:580:23:03

The road from Satipo to Pichanaki was originally created by loggers 60 years ago

0:23:030:23:08

but is now used primarily by the coffee farmers who live alongside it.

0:23:080:23:13

Liliana Palomino manages her family's farm, one of the oldest in this area.

0:23:130:23:18

Her father arrived here from the highlands in the early 1950s, looking for land.

0:23:180:23:23

TRANSLATION:

0:23:230:23:25

So, she's saying that her father came from Comas, where we've come from,

0:23:300:23:34

-but there was no big highway like we just came on.

-VAST highway!

0:23:340:23:38

It was small tracks. A lot of it was river, because this was virgin rainforest.

0:23:380:23:42

Liliana's farm contains over 2,000 coffee plants which need to be picked by hand,

0:23:420:23:48

and it can be risky work.

0:23:480:23:50

Oh, OK!

0:23:590:24:01

So, what kind of snakes do you have?

0:24:010:24:04

This is becoming quite a long list!

0:24:110:24:13

I think "shushupe" is bushmaster.

0:24:140:24:16

-Bushmasters are nasty, aren't they?

-Yep.

0:24:160:24:19

What she's basically said is, the quality of the roads is integral to their way of living,

0:24:410:24:46

because coffee, here, is life.

0:24:460:24:48

So, hopefully no bushmasters on our way back. Do you want to lead?

0:24:490:24:53

Was that bad?

0:24:530:24:55

-BEN LAUGHS

-Quite bad, yeah.

-Sorry.

0:24:550:24:57

That ruins my Indiana Jones credibility there.

0:24:570:25:00

Not that I ever had any!

0:25:000:25:01

The unpaved Pichanaki road is the only way for locals to get to market,

0:25:060:25:11

and there are frequent accidents on this route.

0:25:110:25:13

Look at this child.

0:25:170:25:19

-There are four people on there.

-There's four people on that bike,

0:25:190:25:23

and that child has just got a... like a...shawl wrapped around it, holding it on.

0:25:230:25:28

-Gracias.

-Gracias.

0:25:320:25:33

Do you say "gracias" because you were expecting four back?

0:25:330:25:36

Yeah, I was expecting each one to... Check this out!

0:25:360:25:40

-There is a man.

-In the boot!

-Oh, no, a woman.

-Fantastic.

0:25:420:25:46

-That's very funny.

-What they've done...

0:25:460:25:48

It's an old lady, they've put in the back of the car!

0:25:480:25:53

They've put Grandma in the boot!

0:25:530:25:56

-Shall we take over this truck as well?

-Yeah.

0:25:560:25:58

-The only good thing you can say about that is that she wasn't strapped to a roof rack.

-True!

0:26:000:26:05

After a dusty five-hour drive, they reach Pichanaki,

0:26:100:26:14

a busy town where coffee and citrus fruits and are brought to market.

0:26:140:26:19

-Not quite sure what this truck's doing.

-It's turning left, I think, by the indicator.

0:26:190:26:24

Oh... I've been in the jungle for so long, I'm almost getting urban shock.

0:26:240:26:29

This road was built in the 1960s to encourage migration from the highlands,

0:26:290:26:35

and it's now one of the busiest in the Peruvian jungle.

0:26:350:26:38

Lots of these little motor taxi things.

0:26:380:26:41

-These three-wheel drive things? There seems to be quite a lot.

-There are thousands of them.

0:26:410:26:46

When the road arrived in Pichanaki, it was a village of 300 people

0:26:480:26:51

and the surrounding area was populated by indigenous tribes.

0:26:510:26:56

Today, those tribes have been pushed out by an influx of over 60,000 settlers.

0:26:560:27:01

Ben and Hugh stay the night here before heading further into the rainforest

0:27:030:27:08

and the centre of Peru.

0:27:080:27:10

To get there, they first have to drive the mountain jungle road to Pozuzo,

0:27:110:27:16

which runs alongside the dangerous Pichanaki River.

0:27:160:27:20

I bet in the winter, when it's rainy season,

0:27:200:27:23

this must just fill up.

0:27:230:27:26

The Pichanaki, a powerful tributary of the Amazon,

0:27:260:27:30

can rise four metres above its current level.

0:27:300:27:33

Whole sections of this road are regularly washed away,

0:27:330:27:37

and it's been the scene of several fatal accidents.

0:27:370:27:40

See this bit here? That looks like it's been blasted, or something.

0:27:400:27:44

-It's got these lines in it.

-Scrape marks.

-So what are they?

0:27:440:27:49

Maintenance teams are fighting a desperate battle

0:27:490:27:52

to move the road away from the collapsing riverbank and keep it open to traffic.

0:27:520:27:57

It does look they're laying something up there, doesn't it?

0:27:570:28:02

-They're uncoiling something.

-They're sticking things in tubes. This bloke here,

0:28:020:28:06

I think they've put a tube in and he's got a stick

0:28:060:28:11

and he's ramming...charge, I guess.

0:28:110:28:14

If they are going to blow that up, we're going to have an extraordinary...

0:28:140:28:18

-Long wait?

-..seating view.

0:28:180:28:20

That's the difference between us. I'm really excited, you're worried about the traffic jam!

0:28:200:28:25

Unfortunately for Ben, chief engineer Harold Abad

0:28:250:28:29

wants all vehicles to clear the road before blasting begins.

0:28:290:28:33

-Hi, I'm Hugh.

-Hi, Harold. I'm Ben. You speak English?

-More or less.

0:28:330:28:38

-How do you clear that rock? Drill a hole?

-Yeah.

-Put dynamite in?

0:28:380:28:43

Yeah, we have a hole maybe three metres...

0:28:430:28:46

-put some TNT...and explosions.

-And that's what they're doing now?

0:28:460:28:51

Yeah.

0:28:510:28:52

-You're working with dynamite and landslides, that must be very dangerous work?

-Yeah,

0:28:520:28:58

because here, it's not exactly strong, this part.

0:28:580:29:02

For example, yesterday, we were working

0:29:020:29:07

and we have, coming down, very, very big rocks,

0:29:070:29:11

and the last year, we have one people die for that reason.

0:29:110:29:16

-Hit by a rock?

-Yeah, he died, he pass away.

0:29:160:29:20

-So the most dangerous time for us to be on this road would be when they blow it up?

-Uh-huh.

0:29:200:29:25

-So we need to get out of the way?

-Uh-huh.

0:29:250:29:28

-We'll get going.

-OK. See you.

-Bye.

-Bye. See you.

0:29:280:29:31

The car's been stuck in traffic for two hours now,

0:29:320:29:35

and there's still another 30km of roadworks to get through.

0:29:350:29:41

They honked.

0:29:410:29:42

HORN BEEPS

0:29:420:29:44

That's a good honk, I've noticed they do that here.

0:29:440:29:47

You've become like my wife, you lean across.

0:29:470:29:50

-Was that encroaching on your personal space?

-Yeah.

0:29:500:29:53

-Am I becoming too over-familiar?

-Yes, hmm.

0:29:530:29:56

I've always been most concerned about other drivers -

0:29:560:29:58

and I don't necessarily mean Hugh - but I'll get back to that in a second.

0:29:580:30:02

Whoa! Try not to... SCRAPING

0:30:020:30:04

-I won't bottom out the car.

-No, no.

-I mean, how could I have avoided that?

0:30:040:30:08

Hugh and I have been in a car for a few days now, and I'm feeling confident,

0:30:080:30:12

but the terrain has changed, so it's one thing feeling confident up in the mountains,

0:30:120:30:17

it's different in the jungle.

0:30:170:30:18

Don't go more to the right now. That truck is close enough as it is.

0:30:180:30:23

Ben does this thing whereby he says thank you to people...

0:30:240:30:28

who obviously can't hear him, who are miles away.

0:30:280:30:31

I think if you had gone more to the right... Gracias!

0:30:310:30:35

Hmm. If I'd gone more to the right?

0:30:350:30:38

Rather than just going... he will actually go, "Thank you!"

0:30:380:30:41

-Are we going to be stuck behind this truck for the whole way?

-You want me to overtake?

0:30:410:30:46

-Well...

-He wants me to overtake.

-Yeah, he does. Go, go, go, go, go.

0:30:460:30:50

I was just chatting.

0:30:500:30:51

Gracias.

0:30:510:30:53

-Go.

-Hey, look, now.

-Now you've got yourself in a right pickle. What are you going to do?

0:30:530:30:59

-I'm going to avoid the lorry and I'm going to avoid the minibus.

-Weren't you just cutting him up?

0:30:590:31:04

-The minibus. Look.

-Well done.

0:31:040:31:06

Ben and Hugh have now reached the Huancabamba canyon and the dirt track which runs alongside it.

0:31:180:31:24

It's a notoriously unstable road

0:31:240:31:27

with drops of over 300 metres into the river below.

0:31:270:31:31

-I think this is the bumpiest section we've been on.

-Yes.

0:31:320:31:36

-Is it possible to get whiplash at 15 miles an hour?

-I think so.

0:31:400:31:43

Steady...

0:31:470:31:48

This is the highest point of the canyon,

0:31:530:31:56

and oncoming traffic is a real danger.

0:31:560:31:59

In 2009, two tourists veered off the road here

0:31:590:32:02

and plunged to their deaths in the valley below.

0:32:020:32:05

BOTH: Ohhh-ohhh!

0:32:100:32:12

Stop here? He wants us to go over here.

0:32:230:32:27

-Does he want us to go over here?

-I don't know.

0:32:270:32:30

It's a single-track road and the trucks aren't giving way.

0:32:300:32:35

Shall I go into there?

0:32:380:32:40

-Oh, blimey.

-How close am I?

0:32:450:32:49

Is that enough room?

0:32:490:32:51

Look at this drop here.

0:32:570:32:58

He was fairly insistent, wasn't he?

0:33:060:33:09

He didn't want us to go there. That was like, "You're going there, mate."

0:33:090:33:13

I thought that was quite slick.

0:33:270:33:28

Do you think they could tell we weren't from around here?

0:33:300:33:32

-What's that?

-Wilkommen.

0:33:370:33:41

Wilkommen in... What does that say?

0:33:410:33:43

Pozuzo.

0:33:430:33:46

-Einzigen Osterriechisch Deutschen kolonie der welt.

-Can you translate that?

0:33:460:33:52

Welcome to Pozuzo - the only Austrian, German colony...

0:33:520:33:58

-in the world. 1859.

-This is weird.

0:33:580:34:01

This is weird.

0:34:080:34:10

It looks like we have arrived in an Austrian village.

0:34:100:34:15

This is so un-Peruvian.

0:34:150:34:19

It's like a ski resort, isn't it?

0:34:190:34:21

A ski resort in the jungle.

0:34:210:34:24

It's incredibly neat as well, isn't it?

0:34:240:34:27

This is a bit freaky, it's a bit like a toy town, isn't it?

0:34:270:34:31

He looks German - that man looked German.

0:34:330:34:36

-Where?

-There. Look how tall he is!

0:34:360:34:39

There is a very, very great danger of me starting to indulge in national stereotyping.

0:34:390:34:47

How on earth did a place like this get here?

0:34:470:34:51

That's what I don't understand.

0:34:510:34:53

Pozuzo is still inhabited by the descendants of the

0:34:550:34:58

European settlers, who arrived here in the mid 19th century.

0:34:580:35:02

Like local resident Jose Castrada.

0:35:020:35:05

We can't help but notice there is an enormous ship in the middle of the square -

0:35:050:35:09

in the middle of the jungle here. What on earth is this here?

0:35:090:35:11

The story began

0:35:110:35:14

in 1850. The Government here in Peru pursued the idea of colonising the central jungle.

0:35:140:35:21

334 people board in Antwerp - a part of them were Austrians and a part of them were Germans.

0:35:210:35:28

So, can you tell us a bit about the boat journey and how long it took?

0:35:280:35:31

It took about four months to come here from Antwerp.

0:35:310:35:35

It was a guano ship - they ration the water, they ration the food and everything.

0:35:350:35:40

-I think six people died there.

-So, pretty miserable existence on board.

0:35:400:35:43

Of course.

0:35:430:35:45

They landed here in Peru and they hiked more than two years to come here.

0:35:450:35:50

It took them two years to get from the coast...?

0:35:500:35:53

Yeah, from the coast here.

0:35:530:35:54

Only 180 came here to Pozuzo.

0:35:540:35:57

So, what happened to

0:35:570:36:00

that missing 150 or so?

0:36:000:36:02

Lots of them gave up and lots of them died on the way.

0:36:020:36:05

Died from disease?

0:36:050:36:07

From disease, from hunger, cold and so on.

0:36:070:36:12

So, what were they expecting when they got here?

0:36:120:36:13

Did they think there would be buildings and roads, what were they promised?

0:36:130:36:18

No, they was expecting to have land and to have a road connection to the capital.

0:36:180:36:24

-Which they didn't?

-They didn't.

0:36:240:36:26

So when did the road finally arrive?

0:36:260:36:28

Well, after 100 years of isolation, in 1975,

0:36:280:36:34

the road arrived here in Pozuzo for the first time.

0:36:340:36:38

And with the road came also the new things - new materials, new communications.

0:36:380:36:43

-And wealth?

-And wealth also.

0:36:430:36:46

-Jose, thank you very much.

-Thank you.

0:36:460:36:50

-Auf Wiedersehn.

-Auf Wiedersehn.

0:36:500:36:52

Pozuzo has thrived since the arrival of the road

0:36:530:36:56

but it remains proud of its European roots and still receives financial support from Germany and Austria.

0:36:560:37:03

The next stage of the journey to find the city of Constitucion, runs from Pozuzo across the fearsome

0:37:060:37:11

Huancabamba Canyon, to the town of Codo.

0:37:110:37:14

But first they need to change their vehicle, as the road ahead can't be driven in an ordinary 4x4.

0:37:160:37:23

This garage rents pick-up trucks with higher ground clearance

0:37:240:37:28

to cope with the most challenging jungle tracks.

0:37:280:37:30

-So this must be our car.

-I think so, Hola, senor.

0:37:300:37:34

THEY SPEAK SPANISH

0:37:340:37:38

So he said, this is the car we wanted for the route.

0:37:430:37:46

-Let's have a look around.

-Why do you kick that?

0:37:480:37:50

It's what everyone does. I've seen them. You kick it and it makes it look good.

0:37:500:37:54

-You have no idea what it's for though.

-I'm going to check the back.

0:37:540:37:56

This is great, one of us can ride up in the top here.

0:37:560:38:00

That's fine by me, I'll drive you stay up there.

0:38:000:38:04

Do you think it'll be bouncy?

0:38:040:38:05

Oooh!

0:38:050:38:08

The road out of Pozuzo is crossed by several streams, which cascade into

0:38:090:38:12

the river below, making the road-surface unpredictable and prone to collapse.

0:38:120:38:18

Well, the locals say that this is one of

0:38:200:38:23

the hardest parts that's coming up.

0:38:230:38:27

I'm actually, for the first time, feeling a little bit nervous.

0:38:270:38:30

Look at this!

0:38:330:38:36

Where does the road go?

0:38:360:38:38

Where is the road?

0:38:390:38:41

I think the road used to go there.

0:38:430:38:46

-Across there?

-That must be the road there.

0:38:460:38:49

Sorry, you couldn't really see it, could you?

0:38:490:38:52

You keep your eyes on the road,

0:38:520:38:54

or one the track or on the mud, whatever we call it.

0:38:540:38:57

I do think you should be careful at this bit here.

0:39:010:39:04

Because it's straight on?

0:39:040:39:06

Well, because I can see there are marks

0:39:060:39:08

that go straight on and it looks like someone's done that already.

0:39:080:39:11

-There are, aren't there?

-This is where people skid off.

0:39:110:39:13

Those tyre tracks go right over the edge.

0:39:130:39:16

There's not a car over there, is there?

0:39:160:39:19

Oh, Lord!

0:39:200:39:22

This is mad.

0:39:230:39:26

This is not a road.

0:39:280:39:31

Ben and Hugh are still 350 kilometres away from the centre

0:39:390:39:43

of Peru and the site chosen for the new capital of Constitucion.

0:39:430:39:46

Do you think we'll find this place?

0:39:460:39:49

I find it a bit worrying that it's not on our map

0:39:510:39:55

that we were looking at but other people have heard of it.

0:39:550:39:56

-Some people have heard of it.

-It was only built in the 1980s.

0:39:560:39:59

Well, we don't even know how much of it was built.

0:39:590:40:03

And the further we go, the more ridiculous I think this idea of a new capital is.

0:40:040:40:09

They now have to cross the river to reach the town of Codo.

0:40:100:40:15

A brand new two-lane bridge is under construction but unfortunately it doesn't open for another few weeks.

0:40:150:40:21

They will have to use the old bridge, which is currently being prepared for demolition.

0:40:210:40:27

Oh, bloody hell.

0:40:270:40:29

-No way!

-Look at that!

0:40:290:40:33

Oh, my God!

0:40:360:40:37

As they approach the bridge, Hugh is worried about the brakes.

0:40:390:40:44

How does that feel?

0:40:440:40:46

Should be all right, as long as I can stop it.

0:40:460:40:48

-Well, that's the thing, can you? Do you want to try here.

-Oh, I can now.

0:40:480:40:51

You can? Definitely stop?

0:40:510:40:53

We're going... I'm serious though we will go straight over that edge.

0:40:530:40:56

Look at this tight...

0:40:560:40:58

You've got to somehow turn here.

0:40:580:40:59

You're going to have to do a zillion point turn.

0:40:590:41:02

I'm not in any gear.

0:41:070:41:09

Push the clutch.

0:41:090:41:11

That's low so that should be back into high, so can you get a gear now?

0:41:110:41:14

-Are you into reverse?

-I don't want reverse, I want to go forward.

0:41:140:41:17

You should be able to now, OK.

0:41:170:41:19

OK, OK, that's probably close.

0:41:220:41:24

-Do you want me to actually get out and point you over here?

-Yeah.

0:41:300:41:33

Hola, senor.

0:41:350:41:37

Pull her round this way.

0:41:390:41:41

THEY SPEAK SPANISH

0:41:440:41:45

He said it's safe.

0:41:450:41:48

Turning, turning more.

0:41:480:41:49

You've got lots of room here, Hugh, lots more room.

0:41:490:41:54

Yeah, but none here.

0:41:540:41:56

I've got to go back, I can't do that. I've got to go back.

0:41:560:42:00

The pick-up is pressing against one of the pillars holding the bridge up.

0:42:000:42:03

And now the engineer is concerned.

0:42:030:42:06

HE SPEAKS SPANISH

0:42:060:42:08

Whoa!

0:42:110:42:12

You OK?

0:42:140:42:15

I've got to go back.

0:42:210:42:23

Turn the wheels around, turn the wheels more,

0:42:260:42:27

turn them more, turn the wheels more.

0:42:270:42:29

Yeah, yeah, that's good.

0:42:290:42:31

ENGINE REVS

0:42:310:42:34

Start turning, turning more. Full on.

0:42:400:42:43

Now turn the wheels over to this side here.

0:42:430:42:47

OK.

0:42:500:42:51

THEY SPEAK SPANISH

0:42:530:42:55

OK.

0:42:560:42:57

We're not even across the bridge yet and that's the most terrifying bit of it.

0:43:050:43:09

This is unbelievable. We're not off it yet.

0:43:090:43:13

How am I doing on that side?

0:43:130:43:14

You've got lots of room.

0:43:140:43:16

-When you say loads of room...

-Lots.

-Gordon Bennett!

0:43:160:43:21

Look at it bouncing. Can you feel it?

0:43:210:43:23

Yeah, don't worry, I'm going very slowly now.

0:43:230:43:26

-Woo hoo!

-I'm going to jump.

0:43:300:43:31

-Have a look, that is unbelievable.

-I'm gonna get out and have a look at that.

0:43:350:43:38

Yeah, that was a terrifying bridge to go across.

0:43:450:43:47

When he was turning his wheels, they were going into the wire and actually hanging over the bridge.

0:43:470:43:54

-How much did you sweat?

-Quite a lot.

0:43:540:43:57

-Do you want to feel that?

-Not really.

0:43:570:43:59

I was steering, Ben was guiding, so the fact I hit the pillar is at least 40% his fault.

0:43:590:44:06

So, no truck can get across there, can it?

0:44:060:44:09

We have seen two trucks today.

0:44:090:44:10

They can't have come across that, can they?

0:44:100:44:13

It was "bien danado",

0:44:140:44:17

which means well damaged, as one of the workmen said as we drove past afterwards.

0:44:170:44:21

I kept that secret from Hugh. I think he was a bit...

0:44:210:44:24

I think he felt a bit dented himself.

0:44:240:44:26

-Shall we carry on?

-Yeah, let's.

0:44:260:44:29

I thought I was going to have a heart attack earlier. Can you drive?

0:44:290:44:31

Can I drive?

0:44:310:44:33

It's taken an hour to clear the bridge and they have to drive

0:44:390:44:42

the rest of the road in the dark before reaching Codo, where they can plan the route ahead.

0:44:420:44:47

This last bit.

0:44:490:44:51

We were in the Canyon of the Huancas, did you know that?

0:44:510:44:55

And now we go up here and then somewhere in here...

0:44:550:45:00

is Constitucion...

0:45:000:45:02

and what's rather alarming about it is there is no road

0:45:020:45:06

-or road marks.

-And, more notably, no mention of the lost city.

0:45:060:45:12

And we've got to find it. Well, that should be easy.

0:45:120:45:17

Ben and Hugh have now reached the final stage of their journey.

0:45:190:45:23

Constitucion reportedly lies at the geographical centre of Peru.

0:45:230:45:27

To get there, they must leave the river valley,

0:45:270:45:30

then drive across swampland into the heart of the jungle.

0:45:300:45:34

But the canyon has one final terrifying climb to negotiate.

0:45:370:45:42

It's too early in the morning for this.

0:45:430:45:46

This is so narrow. Can I say, I can't see where the drop is there?

0:45:490:45:54

-Keep as close to that side as you can.

-Am I OK with that drop?

0:45:540:45:56

Oh, my God, I feel like I'm actually hanging over the side.

0:46:000:46:04

The pick-up is trapped between a sheer rock-face and the fast-flowing Huancabamba river.

0:46:050:46:12

Right, get over there now. Get over there.

0:46:120:46:14

There's another bit.

0:46:140:46:17

Close to that side as you can now.

0:46:180:46:20

Bugger me.

0:46:200:46:23

-Tell me how far.

-Just stay as close as you can to that wall.

0:46:230:46:27

Don't worry about this side but if you keep as close as you can...

0:46:290:46:31

-I can't see that side.

-Get over there, get over there, get over there.

0:46:310:46:34

This is ridiculous.

0:46:360:46:39

If I hit the rock, I'll bounce back in.

0:46:390:46:42

Well, don't hit the rock then.

0:46:420:46:44

They have finally cleared the river valley and are close to the centre of Peru.

0:46:550:47:01

This section of the road was only built a few years ago but already

0:47:010:47:04

has had a huge impact on the local environment.

0:47:040:47:07

Illegal tree felling has cleared vast areas of rainforest

0:47:070:47:12

and cattle farming ensures that the jungle cannot grow back.

0:47:120:47:16

On the map, we are in the middle

0:47:240:47:27

of the jungle, do you remember looking at that?

0:47:270:47:29

There was no roads - nothing around.

0:47:290:47:31

So this should be thick, primary jungle.

0:47:310:47:36

And look around us.

0:47:360:47:38

I guess this road mostly is just used to take wood, isn't it?

0:47:410:47:43

Take logs. See these trees here - the big ones.

0:47:430:47:47

It looks to me as though they're the ones that have been left.

0:47:470:47:52

They've cleared massive areas of trees, haven't they?

0:47:520:47:55

The further these roads encroach into the rainforest,

0:47:550:47:59

the more the natural resources they're going to be exploiting.

0:47:590:48:02

This could be one of the first landscapes that becomes extinct.

0:48:020:48:06

The end of Ben and Hugh's journey is now only 75 kilometres away.

0:48:090:48:15

But this final stage of the road was only completed two years ago and doesn't even appear on the map.

0:48:150:48:21

It's known to locals simply as the Mud Road.

0:48:210:48:25

This is a good road, isn't it?

0:48:250:48:27

OK, so now we want to go into this one over here -

0:48:360:48:40

so out to the right.

0:48:410:48:43

I'm stuck.

0:48:430:48:45

Now into first and if you pull it around to the right a little bit...

0:48:540:48:58

They have only gone three kilometres but they are already stuck.

0:49:010:49:05

It's spinning, spinning.

0:49:070:49:09

What you want to do, Hugh, you've got some drier stuff up here, yeah, exactly.

0:49:090:49:14

Nice, slow tread...

0:49:140:49:16

We're going to go back into that hole. I've got to go back.

0:49:160:49:19

If the pick-up can't get through the mud, they are trouble.

0:49:220:49:26

There are no rescue services in the middle of the jungle.

0:49:260:49:30

If you turn the wheels right...

0:49:300:49:33

I don't know if you can get enough traction.

0:49:340:49:37

It's going to send me back into that hole.

0:49:370:49:39

Agh, so nearly.

0:49:450:49:48

What we want to do is try and get traction up pointing into the jungle - that way.

0:49:480:49:53

It's what we want to try and do. There's a bit of a slope, yeah. Nice slow traction, yeah.

0:49:530:49:57

Go, go, go, go, go...

0:50:000:50:02

Keep going, keep going!

0:50:020:50:04

-Yes!

-Now where?

0:50:050:50:07

Into here. Straight on there. Yep.

0:50:070:50:10

Into this bit.

0:50:100:50:11

Don't smile yet.

0:50:210:50:22

We've still got another 50 miles.

0:50:250:50:26

Of this! I know.

0:50:260:50:28

Other vehicles are few and far between on the Mud Road.

0:50:290:50:33

This one belongs to Jose Caballero - a local mayor and the official responsible for roads in this area.

0:50:330:50:39

So who built this road?

0:50:390:50:41

He built it.

0:50:420:50:44

I'm saying, for us,

0:50:530:50:55

it's a little bit difficult.

0:50:550:50:58

-What he's saying is, in their winter, this is impassable.

-At the moment this is good?

0:51:020:51:07

-This is a great road.

-What happens if we get stuck?

0:51:110:51:14

The key is to go with another vehicle and make sure they've got ropes to pull one out.

0:51:210:51:26

No mobile reception or anything here.

0:51:290:51:31

Would you like to come with us?

0:51:310:51:33

I said it's a joke.

0:51:330:51:35

I think he was taking you seriously, although we are being serious, aren't we, in a kind of way?

0:51:350:51:41

Ben has taken over for the final section of the Mud Road, which they hope leads to Constitucion.

0:51:430:51:50

Even experienced local drivers get bogged down here.

0:51:500:51:53

Cross over to this side, do you think?

0:51:540:51:56

Yeah, and that side seems to be used.

0:51:560:51:59

As long as it doesn't take us into that tree.

0:51:590:52:01

I could add to your dent.

0:52:010:52:03

-WE made that dent!

-I have to agree.

0:52:060:52:09

Whoa, fucking hell!

0:52:110:52:13

Pardon me, viewers.

0:52:130:52:15

The last kilometre of this road is completely submerged

0:52:180:52:21

but the boys are finally getting the hang of mud driving.

0:52:210:52:25

It's coming in through the window.

0:52:250:52:28

-What are you doing?

-I'm just following the tracks.

0:52:290:52:31

Oh, that's fantastic. Every time you think it's over, it's not over.

0:52:310:52:35

It's not over till the fat woman sings. Bloody hell!

0:52:350:52:38

Beautiful!

0:52:400:52:42

-Go, go, go.

-Go, Fogle!

0:52:420:52:46

Go, go!

0:52:460:52:48

Well done, mate. That was fantastic.

0:52:480:52:51

Yes!

0:52:510:52:52

They have arrived in a small dirt town that emerged in the 1980s to house and feed

0:52:590:53:04

construction crews who came to build the city of Constitucion.

0:53:040:53:09

To discover what happened to the dream of a new Peruvian capital,

0:53:110:53:16

Ben and Hugh have come to a local government office...

0:53:160:53:18

Ah, David!

0:53:180:53:20

..Where David Zevallos is a guide and historian.

0:53:210:53:23

This is our ex-president, Fernando Belaunde Terry.

0:53:230:53:27

He was a very important man for us and he decided to build Constitucion city in the middle of the jungle.

0:53:270:53:33

And how big was it going to be?

0:53:330:53:35

It was going to be a big city. It was going to be the capital of Peru.

0:53:350:53:40

Here you can see the plans here.

0:53:400:53:42

Here we have the civic centre, the commercial centre,

0:53:420:53:44

-houses that he wanted to build like this for our citizens.

-Look at that!

0:53:440:53:48

That is a massive project, isn't it?

0:53:480:53:50

Look at the size of that road! That looks like a triple-lane highway.

0:53:500:53:54

So, why did he choose here as the location for the new capital?

0:53:540:53:58

He thought it was a strategic place.

0:53:580:54:00

-A strategic place?

-A strategic place.

0:54:000:54:03

Yeah, it was the centre of the jungle.

0:54:030:54:05

It was important but it was nothing at the end, because we couldn't finish that.

0:54:050:54:10

So what went wrong?

0:54:100:54:12

Well, there was a lot of corruption.

0:54:120:54:14

There was a lot of people robbing money.

0:54:140:54:16

-Are you disappointed that this never got off the ground?

-Yes, of course.

0:54:160:54:20

As a Peruvian citizen, I am disappointed for that because a lot of people would be living there.

0:54:200:54:29

And now it's just forgotten in the middle of the jungle.

0:54:290:54:32

But you can see it at the end of the road.

0:54:320:54:35

We can see where this was going to be?

0:54:350:54:37

Yes, it was going to be at the end of the road.

0:54:370:54:39

Thanks very much. Muchos gracias.

0:54:390:54:42

You're welcome.

0:54:420:54:44

The site chosen for the new capital lies three kilometres away,

0:54:450:54:50

at the exact geographical centre of Peru.

0:54:500:54:53

President Belaunde Terry's grand vision was for a huge road through the jungle, leading to the new city.

0:54:530:55:01

Thousands of indigenous people were moved from their land in preparation.

0:55:010:55:05

But, today, little but the road remains.

0:55:050:55:08

So, this would have all been part of it, I guess, wouldn't it?

0:55:110:55:14

This road we're on now would have all been part of those plans, isn't it?

0:55:140:55:18

So this might be - literally - the end of the road.

0:55:200:55:24

It's not often you actually find that point.

0:55:240:55:28

So this is effectively what's left

0:55:290:55:32

of the city of Constitucion.

0:55:320:55:33

The new city was abandoned after only a few houses were built,

0:55:370:55:41

but it is now inhabited by members of the Ashaninka people - the largest indigenous tribe in Peru.

0:55:410:55:49

The community is led by 72-year-old Alicia Arellano.

0:55:490:55:53

BEN SPEAKS SPANISH

0:55:530:55:55

Alicia.

0:56:000:56:02

Hugh.

0:56:020:56:03

So she's been here for 23 years.

0:56:080:56:11

So that's President Belaunde created these buildings they moved into.

0:56:140:56:19

So they had to clean it all. They had to pull back the jungle again.

0:56:250:56:30

So she is from the jungle.

0:56:320:56:35

Her people are from the jungle.

0:56:350:56:36

So it's kind of they claimed it back almost, haven't they?

0:56:360:56:39

-Gracias.

-Gracias.

0:56:390:56:42

There is a community - a proper community here.

0:56:480:56:50

And all these buildings are now used by the tribes that were forced off the land to build the city,

0:56:500:56:56

so they've reclaimed it, which is rather satisfying in a way...

0:56:560:57:00

not for President Belaunde but I find that really rather satisfying.

0:57:000:57:04

I think this journey - this road we've been on - has taken so many twists and turns in every sense.

0:57:040:57:10

It actually doesn't surprise me that the ending has been just as

0:57:100:57:13

strange as everything we've found along the way.

0:57:130:57:16

Ben and Hugh have reached the end of their journey and can now head for home.

0:57:230:57:27

Over the last eight days, they have driven right across Peru,

0:57:270:57:31

on one of the world's most dangerous roads, and survived to tell the tale.

0:57:310:57:37

We were able to travel from the Andes, deep into the rainforest.

0:57:370:57:40

I don't think you'll find a road with quite such variety anywhere in the world.

0:57:400:57:44

It's an incredibly impressive enterprise, actually.

0:57:440:57:47

One, the fact they've got it in the first place, which is almost a miracle, I think.

0:57:470:57:51

And, secondly, the fact they are constantly clearing it and making sure people can get through.

0:57:510:57:57

It's a huge trust experience to take the wheel and be in charge of quite a precious cargo, really.

0:57:570:58:04

There was the odd kind of, "Steer left, steer left, or you're going to kill us!"

0:58:090:58:14

But I think that's fair enough.

0:58:140:58:16

I think all of those stressful moments, happy moments...

0:58:160:58:19

that's what creates the journey, isn't it? It's what

0:58:190:58:22

bonds you together.

0:58:220:58:24

When I hit the dashboard, Mr Fogle...

0:58:240:58:28

I'd like you to do an emergency stop.

0:58:280:58:31

Why are you driving?

0:58:350:58:37

-Don't you think I should be driving?

-I didn't crash into a bridge.

0:58:370:58:39

I didn't hit a cow, did I?

0:58:390:58:42

Yours is too bumpy, your driving.

0:58:420:58:44

You don't seem able to cope with bends.

0:58:440:58:46

You got stuck in the mud!

0:58:460:58:47

You got stuck in the mud!

0:58:470:58:49

We both got stuck in the mud.

0:58:490:58:51

Mind the motor, taxi!

0:58:510:58:53

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:570:58:59

Adventurer Ben Fogle and comedian Hugh Dennis drive a historic route from the Peruvian Andes to the depths of the Amazon, along roads built for those intending to conquer and exploit the natural wealth of Peru's rainforest. It's a rollercoaster ride of 2,000 foot drops and hairpin bends on one-lane dirt roads, stretching from mountains high above the clouds to the muddy, humid trails of the jungle.

At the end of this epic journey they hope to find the lost city of Constitucion. To get there, they will have to endure some of the most remote and dangerous roads in South America. It's a journey that will test them both to the limit and beyond.


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