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-Oh, my Lord. Oh, my God.
'My fellow comedian Ed Byrne and I are on an epic road trip.'
We have been in this car for nearly a month!
'We're travelling 4,000 miles down the longest road in the world,
'the Pan-American Highway.'
Wow, look at that.
'We'll be passing through some of the most spectacular...
'and volatile countries on the planet.'
Look at that over there.
Oh, my God.
'Today, this great road is the main artery through the Americas,
'but 75 years ago, it was little more than a cart track.
'Then, three adventurers from Detroit set out to drive
'all the way from North to South America.'
'It was an expedition to attempt what no-one has ever done.'
'Crossing jungles, fording rivers and conquering mountains,
'they forged a route for what would eventually become
'the Pan-American Highway.
'Using their journal as a guide,
'we'll follow their path from the USA
'all the way to Panama.'
Here we go.
'This time, we're going deeper into Central America,
'where we soak up the ancient culture...
'..get a Guatemalan re-spray...'
COD SPANISH ACCENT: How you like my new ride, huh?
'..and uncover the shocking realities of everyday life here.'
If you look at the streets, they just kill each other.
'We'll discover how this highway has changed
'the lives of the people who live on its course,
'on our very own Pan-American road trip of a lifetime.'
I'm excited by Guatemala, I have to say.
I mean, I've a certain amount of trepidation
-because of the horror stories...
-..we hear about civil unrest,
-people getting shot through the head on a bus.
But still, you know, a very interesting, exciting Mayan culture.
-People are just wandering out into the road.
-Oh, no, no, no.
You can do that as much as you want, champ, I'm not stopping.
-What was that about?
-That was really weird.
'Dara and I are a third of the way
'through our journey along the Pan-American Highway.
'We're planning to travel nearly 4,000 miles to Panama.
'We've already come the length of Mexico and, this time,
'we're travelling through Guatemala,
'El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
'We're on the trail of the men they called "the three damn fools",
'who struggled down this route
'in an ordinary Plymouth Chrysler Saloon in the early '40s.'
'We leave Mexico now after three torturous months,
'crossing her from North to South,
'and enter Guatemala through the Customs House at Rio Suchiate.'
'By the time they reached Guatemala in January 1941,
'the boys had been travelling for three hard months,
'and both they and the car had taken an incredible battering.
'But Sullivan Richardson, Ken Van Hee
'and Arnold Whitaker were determined to continue their mission
'to encourage the building of the Pan-American Highway,
'and promote friendship between the nations of the Americas.
'The expedition crossed into Guatemala over the Talisman Bridge,
'which is still here today.'
Here is the border.
There's a nightclub and there's restaurants,
and now we've got people running alongside us.
There's a whole team of them.
I feel like I'm the President in In The Line Of Fire.
'The Talisman Bridge is one of the busiest crossing points
'between North and Central America,
'and a slightly chaotic duty-free area has built up
'around the passport office.'
Look how busy this is,
as somewhere that exists neither in Mexico nor Guatemala.
'We've got our passports stamped, but our car is stuck in Customs.
'So we've got time to check out an alternative route.'
Uh...camino? Yeah? Gracias.
OK. What is this?
You're kidding me!
We can go back to Mexico on a boat.
'This ingenious raft crossing isn't exactly hidden
'from the authorities above, on the bridge.'
-Are we getting on?
-I think just for the fun of it.
You got your passport?
-I do actually have my passport on me, just in case.
Hang on, there's actually genuine commuters here, as well as...
'It only costs a few pesos to take the raft across the Rio Suchiate,
'but even this is too expensive for some.'
Apparently, if people can't even afford this,
they just walk across the river.
'Every year, hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants
'make their way across borders like this into Mexico,
'heading for the USA.'
That is incredible. Guatemala to Mexico.
'While the three adventurers dreamed of, one day,
'people would be able to move more freely across the Americas,
'this isn't exactly what they had in mind.
'Not that it bothers the authorities.'
It's incredible that Florida security isn't up there going...
They can see this happening and they don't care
that you can just go back and forth without getting your stamp.
They seem quite relaxed here. They're relaxed to the point of
it taking four hours to get your car through.
Oh, Guatemala, you better be worth it.
'Guatemala is one of the most interesting and colourful countries
'in the Western Hemisphere.
'Her colourfully costumed Indians, her clean red and white villages,
'her high, almost perfectly shaped volcanoes.
'We find her friendly, interesting
'and with an all-weather road from border to border,
'which seems like heaven after the three bad months
'we've just spent in Mexico.'
It's a lovely straight road.
They checked into a rooming house in Guatemala.
They asked the guy who owned it
-if their car would be safe, and everything.
And he said, "Oh, yes,
"there is no thievery or crime in Guatemala City.
"El Senor Presidente would have the culprits shot."
-"It was not the only time we had heard of Mr Ubico's
"summary method of handling the incorrigibles of his republic."
You incorrigible, you!
'General Ubico had ruled Guatemala
'in this way since 1931
'and backed by the US,
'he'd embarked on a huge programme of road-building.
'A keen motorcyclist, the general rewarded himself
'with a custom-built Harley-Davidson.'
"Our great Senor Presidente rides his motorcycle very often
"to visit towns and cities in his republic.
"If he could ride his motorcycle comfortably over the roads,
"then his people can ride comfortably in cars and carretas."
This is a small plus point in favour
of a generally very dubious character.
'In the 1940s, Sullivan Richardson and the expedition
'skirted along the shores of Lake Atitlan,
'describing it as one of the highlights of Guatemala.
'This area has been at the centre of Mayan culture
'for hundreds of years, and Ed and I are keen to see
'what remains of their ancient ceremonies.'
There's something to be said for arriving in the dark
and then, in the morning, having this...
-Waking up and seeing this.
The scenery would take the sight out of your eye.
'Santiago Atitlan is the largest Mayan village on the lake...'
'..and Mayan guide Dolores Ratzan is taking us to a shrine of Maximon,
'one of the most important deities of the Mayan religion.
'Traditionally, he's consulted before any big decision or journey.'
Maximon, we call him a holy grandfather.
In my language, Chujean,
we call him "Rilaj Maam" or "Maam".
I don't know what you're going to ask to the grandfather,
is it for health, or for the work?
I'd like to have a blessing for the health of our friendship,
because it's being sorely tested lately.
I want to ask for a blessing for the trip,
and for Ed's career as well.
-You want a blessing on my career, do you?
Unlike most gods,
the cross-dressing Maximon likes to consider
all requests over a cigarette and a tot of rum.
-So you hold the two candles and the rum?
-Till the medicine man ask you, then you will give it to him.
HE CHANTS IN OWN LANGUAGE
'Each coloured candle stands for a different request,
'and blessings are communicated to the shaman
'through the smoke and incense.
'Blue candles, for example, represent work.'
'It's not clear exactly when the designer scarf
'and cowboy hat were introduced,
'but this ancient ceremony has been adapted
'for tourists in recent years.'
'Maximon's blessing doesn't come cheap,
'but although we have to part with 20, four large beers
'and a bottle of rum, we do at least get some of it back.'
You need to close your eye.
Close your eye.
SHAMAN SPITS RUM
(You're having me on.)
Did you get rum in your eye?
No, but do you know what? That was bizarre.
It's really made me appreciate the smoking ban in pubs,
because I suspect I'm going to smell of that for some time now.
I wasn't expecting the...part.
There's a lot of stuff there that I have issue with.
I appreciate that it's a tourist thing.
So that people can come in and have a look.
And it's an interesting way to experience, you know,
-traditional Mayan culture.
But, at times, it really felt like you were just getting fleeced.
You know, listen, what religion doesn't hand
round a basket at some stage?
'While they may have commercialised it somewhat,
'you do have to admire them for keeping their religion alive.
'Having previously suffered years of brutal oppression under
'successive military regimes,
'it's a wonder any of the Mayan culture has survived here at all.'
'From Lake Atitlan, we're driving south on the Pan-Am,
'towards the town of Antigua,
'which should take us about six hours.
'In 1941, the same journey took the expedition three days,
'but they didn't have to deal with
'the technicoloured speed freaks that we do.'
'These gloriously decorated chicken buses
'are the kings of the Pan-Am Highway in Guatemala,
'and it's not wise to get in their way.'
-I think he wants a race.
Why is he matching your speed?
'Crashes are common, but these buses are what most people
'use to get around here.'
We're happy to let you go if you want to go.
'Perhaps unwisely, Ed's persuaded me to take a ride on one.'
THEY SPEAK IN LOCAL LANGUAGE
'So I'm heading towards Guatemala City
'with local commuter, Juancho Galic.'
Would people not like a slightly calmer ride?
-Certainly not to be thrown around as much.
You grow up with that.
You see the little girl already knows how to, like...
-Properly wedged in.
-Yeah. For a Guatemalan, this is normal.
But you don't call them chicken buses? The locals don't?
Guatemalans don't call them chicken buses.
Chicken bus is a name that came from outside.
-In Guatemala, they're called "camionetas".
Should we refer to them as camionetas?
Is it insulting to call them chicken buses?
No, not really.
'While Dara risks his life on the bus,
'I've come to the Esmeralda Company HQ,
'to see how these camionetas are made.
'Originally clapped-out old US school buses, they are driven down
'the Pan-Am Highway and transformed into exotic beasts of the road.
'Victor Flores has worked for the company since he was a boy.'
So you're the head engineer here?
And I see that it's not just cosmetic,
the changes you make to the buses.
You give them a full overhaul. What are you guys doing here?
So you properly soup them up, then?
Right. Turn them into
something worthy of a Guatemalan bus driver.
'The buses are also shortened in length,
'and automatic gearboxes are replaced with manual ones,
'to make them easier to handle on Guatemala's winding mountain roads.
'And finally, they get a trademark multi-coloured paint job.'
So, Victor, you guys clearly take great pride
in the decoration of the buses.
Why is it so important to you how they look?
Right. That's an Esmeralda bus, definitely.
'But the multi-coloured chicken buses
'also draw the attention of less welcome customers.'
If you get in a chicken bus,
you should know that there's a chance that you'll be held up.
They'll just, like, walk in with guns or knives
or something and be like, "Hey, give me your watch."
Where does that happen? That's not going to happen today.
-It's a bright day...
-Hopefully it won't happen today
-but it has happened before.
'As well as hold-ups, the bus drivers and companies
'are forced to pay protection money
'by organised criminal gangs, or "maras",
'who control the routes into the big cities.'
The gangs have definitely taken over, erm,
-certain areas of Guatemala.
There are some parts where at least once a month you will
hear about some driver not wanting to pay the fee.
They're not going to care.
-They'll just shoot the guy, you know?
It's one of the most dangerous jobs in Guatemala.
'And it's not just the chicken buses that are targeted by the gangs here.
'Since 2006, over 1,000 bus, taxi and truck drivers have been
'murdered during robberies on Guatemala's roads.
'A far cry from General Ubico's crime-free highways
'which the original expedition enjoyed in 1941.'
Victor, I've got a favour to ask.
I want to surprise my travelling companion
with a little bit of pimping of our ride cos, erm,
the guys that we're following, you can see their car...
You see it had these designs on it.
I think it'll be really cool to have something like that on here, see?
Do you think you could... Do you think you can manage that?
-No hay problema. Si, se puede.
-No hay problema.
You're joking me!
I said, "Spruce it up a bit."
I thought you'd give it a wash.
COD SPANISH ACCENT: How you like my new ride, huh?!
Check out the pintos, huh?
-That is fabulous! Show me the route map and everything.
There we go.
I was so tempted to get "Dara" really small and "Ed" really big.
I am so impressed that you went that way.
That is a generosity I would not have extended to you. Top work.
Guate, guate, guate, guate!
'We've been on the road for two weeks now,
'and we're heading into the ancient city of Antigua.
' "The fools" had been travelling for 15 weeks over mountains,
'through rivers and along dirt tracks by the time they arrived
'at this extraordinary colonial city.'
'In the early '40s, few people in the States had heard of Antigua,
'and Sullivan was keen to reveal its beauty and history to a US audience.'
-So, beautiful downtown Antigua.
-Yes, it is beautiful.
UNESCO World Heritage Site.
-It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
-Yes, it is, and so, therefore,
it has been kept in this beautiful colonial state.
Lots of cobbling, you can feel the cobbling all right.
Lots of cobbling going on, it's quite good as a massage.
'From the 16th to the 18th century,
'Antigua was the capital of Spain's
'Central American empire, which stretched from Guatemala to Panama.
'The city was destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1773,
'but many of its stunning Baroque buildings survived,
'and these days, tourists come from all over the world to see them.'
Park there. Look, there, there, park there...
-I'm going to park up there, I'm going to park there!
-Don't hit that guy!
'Sullivan picked out the ornate 18th-century monastery of La Merced
'to feature in his book, Adventure South.'
One great church, beautifully decorated,
had withstood the earthquake and was still being used,
and still is there. Exact same shot.
It's almost like they've hired those flocks of birds...
Just to go past it at exactly the right moment.
..just to give it that extra bit of drama and gravitas.
Get the shot, get a shot.
Get a picture, come on.
This is how we do photos NOW.
'Guatemala has 22 volcanoes,
'and Ed, because he likes this sort of thing,
'has suggested we visit one.'
So we're going to Pacaya, which is the most active volcano in Guatemala.
-In fact, I think in Latin America.
And how active... When you say that, like, cos...
-It erupted two weeks ago.
It erupted two weeks ago.
Like "erupted" erupted?
Erupted, like lava came out of it and people had to be moved.
What the hell are we doing going up it now?
Because if it erupted two weeks ago,
the chances of it erupting again now are very...very low.
The chances are the same as at any time.
'Despite the obvious danger, we're heading for the peak
'with volcano guide Matt Nordgren.'
-The older lava you see here is from May 2010...
..where it was flowing for several years.
And then, just most recently, two weeks ago, you can see
the darker patch of lava.
-Wow, this is recent.
What noise does it make when it erupts?
So it sounds just like thunder.
-Occasionally you'll feel earthquake-like tremors.
And then you can hear the rocks, boulders,
as they actually roll down the mountain face.
-Were there tourists on the mountain when it erupted?
-Most recently, no.
And in the eruption in 2010, there was actually only one fatality,
it was from a journalist who decided to come up and...
-What did they do, get hit with a rock or something?
Took a hot rock to the head.
'Pacaya is now monitored on a daily basis
'for signs of further eruptions,
'and with these vague assurances that we're safe,
'I agree to continue to the peak.'
Matt, I'm no mountain expert - that's more Ed's thing -
but there seems to be a bit missing from the middle of the mountain.
Yes. So, the peak, as we're looking at it now,
is an effect of the eruption in 2010, and when it erupted
it completely blew the top out of... off the mountain.
Can we hear a rumble of thunder now?
That might be my belly.
OK, well, hopefully.
That would explain the gaseous smell as well.
-Yes, that's the sulphur.
-Yeah, sorry about that.
The main trail of lava that you can see is fresh,
-this is, again, from just a few weeks ago.
It's funny when you think about it, though,
-that this mountain was inactive until the '60s.
So even when "the fools" came here in the '40s,
it would have been just thought of as a mountain,
and then suddenly, in the '60s, it starts rumbling and smoking.
Very much alive, still.
I have to say, I was entering Guatemala
with a certain amount of trepidation,
so, er, I didn't have high hopes for it,
but now that I've been here, it is heart-stoppingly beautiful.
Guatemalan people must be the most lucky
and unlucky people on the planet.
They have the most incredibly beautiful country.
You can grow anything,
anything will grow in Guatemala, and because of that,
massive international companies came in and they took all the food,
and then the CIA got involved,
and then there's this hideous history.
So, on the one hand, there's everything here
to draw people towards a country,
and on the other hand, it always comes with a warning.
'Do you know, I was right to be nervous about Pacaya!
'Only a week after our climb, the volcano erupted again,
'forcing the mass evacuation of several nearby villages.'
LAVA RUMBLES AND GURGLES
'Following the trail of the Richardson expedition on what is
'now the Pan-American Highway,
'we're heading south into El Salvador.
'It's a short trip of 60 miles from
'the Guatemalan border to the capital,
'and like "the fools", we're making good time.'
'From Guatemala, we enter El Salvador,
'smallest of the American republics
'but, in many respects, among the most progressive.
'We're entranced by the beauty of the countryside as we drive along.
'And another thing that wins our hearts - paved highway -
'and Salvador's section of the Pan-American Highway is paved
'more than 75% of the way from border to border.'
'By the time the expedition arrived in San Salvador,
'word of their mission to promote the Pan-Am Highway had spread,
'and the three adventurers arrived to
'a warm welcome from government officials and the local press.'
Right, somewhere around here are the offices of El Diario.'
'El Diario is one of El Salvador's oldest newspapers, and according to
'Sullivan's journal, it covered the expedition's arrival in the city.'
-Glad to help you.
-Yes, you're Elder Gomez.
This is Ed, I'm Dara.
-We're looking for a newspaper from here from 1941.
-Do you have old papers and archive?
-That'd be great.
'The paper still prints six editions a week, as it did in the 1940s.'
-Can we put it down here?
-So we're looking for March 17th.
-A little further on.
-Wait, wait, whoa, whoa, yes.
-Oh, hey, there it is!
-Oh, wow, it's on a fold. That's fantastic.
-They look quite casual about it.
-They do, very unremarkable, yeah.
It's like, "Oh, must we pose for more photographs with this car?"
'It's impressive to see how a journalist, a mechanic and a cook
'from Detroit were fast becoming Central American celebrities,
'as their message of Pan-American friendship
'was welcomed everywhere they went.
'Indeed, in 1956, El Salvador became the first Central American country
'to complete their section of the highway.
'In those days, San Salvador was a stylish, affluent city
'of 200,000 people, and after posing for photos,
' "the fools" stocked up on provisions at the central market.
'Today, two million people are crammed into the capital,
'and the market is one of the biggest and craziest
'in Latin America.
'Dara thought it would be a good idea to drive through it.'
-Are you sure you don't want anything?
-I am sure.
I'll buy a gun off this guy.
Toothpaste? Perfecto. Come, quantes?
THEY SPEAK SPANISH
HE SPEAKS SPANISH
'We've decided to ditch the car
'and hook up with local resident Donald Magana.
'He's going to keep an eye on us
'as we've been warned things can get a bit rough round here.'
SHE SPEAKS SPANISH
-What does one use an armadillo shell for?
Like this one, they sell it for the cough.
If you cough a lot, so they sell it in a...
And do you drink it? Do they grind it up? Do you rub it on yourself?
-You drink it as a tea, basically, but you do...
-So you grind it up?
Yeah, and then you boil it, and then you turn it into a tea.
By which time your cold has probably passed anyway.
That's the best thing about the armadillo medicine.
It takes so long to prepare that you've healed.
'This market seems to sell everything,
'from the exotic to the downright weird.'
-That's snakeskin, is it?
-Well, actually, no, it's snake meat.
-Oh, this is witchcraft.
-This is witchcraft?
If you have a loved one, I guess you talk to her, you know,
in the middle of the night, and then your loved ones can come.
If you talk to the snake, the desiccated dead snake...
-..that could make your loved ones come back?
-So she says.
What if the reason your loved one left is
because you kept talking to desiccated snakes?
She was sick of the smell of snake in the house!
Ah, so that's the testicles and the penis.
That's the testicles and the penis.
That's so the one you love will only think about you.
And do you burn it? Is it a candle or...
It is a candle. Es una candela?
So, a woman will do this so that you don't get excited...
-Over another woman.
-..over another woman.
And will she carve your name into that
before setting fire to the wax penis?
-It's the only way you're going to...
There really is everything in this market!
Oh, my lord! We've been waiting to see the wax vaginas for a while.
That is...a very accurate anatomical rendering of a lifeboat.
I think I'll take one of these wax penises for my wife, to set her
mind at ease next time I go on one of these long adventures.
I think it's a lovely gift,
but I also hope that you get stopped at Customs
in the next four countries we go to
and have to explain the purpose of your wax penis.
'Wax penises aside,
'there is definitely a serious atmosphere here.'
There's quite a reasonable armed presence.
I notice there's a lot of, like...
I mean, it's kind of dangerous, that's why.
'Paramilitary police on the streets are a result of El Salvador's
'particularly violent recent history.
'After years of oppressive regimes,
'in 1979, a vicious civil war broke out between the US-backed
'right-wing government and a left-wing guerrilla movement.
'During this 13-year conflict,
'over a million Salvadorians fled the violence,
'many of them travelling up the Pan-American Highway to the States.
'Donald's family sought refuge in Los Angeles,
'only to be faced with another kind of threat.
'Their neighbourhood was controlled by violent street gangs
'who began recruiting the young Salvadorian immigrants.'
Did you get involved in crime or gangs or anything in California?
-Were you part of that...?
-Yeah, I was part of a gang up there.
I mean, you've got to be a part of something
so might as well make it a gang.
-Really? That was the philosophy, was it?
-Was it a sort of self-preservation kind of thing?
-It was, yeah.
And how long were you involved in gang life, as it were,
in California, then?
A little over ten years, yeah.
What was the name of the gang you were in?
-What does MS stand for?
'The feared MS-13 gang
'was set up by Salvadorian immigrants in LA.
'After the civil war ended in the early '90s, many suspected MS-13
'members like Donald were deported back to El Salvador,
'along with rival gang members.
'While Donald left gang life, others quickly regrouped
'and continued the extortion, kidnapping and murder
'they'd practised in the US, making El Salvador
'one of the most violent countries in the Americas today.'
When I got deported, it was kind of difficult, yeah, cos then you
learned that, erm, over here people don't really live, they survive.
-Day by day.
-Was there a temptation to go back into the old life, though,
when you landed back here?
Not really, cos over here things are way different, yeah.
Over here, mainly, if you look at the streets,
they just kill each other for no reason.
-So it's more dangerous here?
-Yeah, it is.
Is there any chance El Salvador's going to get out from gangs?
I don't see it happening, not within the next ten years.
'You can't help but feel for people who are just trying to lead
'ordinary lives here.'
Er, una yucca, por favor.
Oh, is that, erm, papas fritas?
-The fries are great.
-That is just very good.
I'm not sure about the yucca.
I think it's been very aptly named, the yucca.
D'you know what? I want part of this journey
that involves being in El Salvador
to be about anything other than just gangs, right?
For the simple reason that, being Irish, how many times
did foreign news teams or documentarians come to Ireland,
go to Northern Ireland, and it's all about the murals
and the violence and the Troubles and, you know...
Clearly, this is a country with six million people,
-it's not just about gangs.
Despite this being the undercurrent
or kind of the hum of this thing being always there,
people continue their lives.
It still would seem remiss of us
not to investigate it, at least to a certain extent.
I know, but you've got...
You've got to still feel some empathy for people who...
El Salvadorans who might watch this and go,
"God, is that the only thing
"we're ever going to see about El Salvador?"
No, we went to the lovely market.
You're right, you're right, and bought a wax penis.
-Bought a witchcraft wax penis.
-Yeah, you're right, you're right.
-So we've balanced the messages out, haven't we?
I think, between the two things I could've gone home with,
I'm better off going home with that than a massive gang tatt!
'But much as we try to avoid focusing solely on the gangs,
'as we leave the capital,
'it's not long before that reality creeps back in.'
Look at that. Look at that over there.
'A dead body has been dumped on the side of the road.'
-He's being bagged up now.
They don't tent it off, you know, like they would back home.
Thrown into the back of a pick-up truck.
And they've just shoved him in the back of a Toyota pick-up,
-not even into an ambulance or anything like that.
It's just... It's quite unceremonious,
it does make the whole...
..notion of life being cheap...
And it's gone, he's been driven off.
They're already taking down the police tape.
It's hard not to think that life is just valued slightly less here.
'Inspector Astrada of the Salvadoran police
'is in charge of the crime scene.'
We've just seen you load a dead body into the back of a truck.
Can you tell us anything about who he was or what happened to him?
We don't know his name, you can't tell us his name?
Hector Antonio Aquilar Rivas,
Hector Antonio Aquilar Rivas,
-37 years old.
'We later find out that Hector Rivas was a suspected
'member of the 18th Street gang, and was reportedly shot dead by
'the rival MS-13 whilst waiting for a bus -
'one of the 36 gang-related killings
'that took place during the three days we spent in El Salvador.'
You see armed police everywhere,
and then a murder victim on the side of the road.
You try not to make this all about gangs...
..and then you drive past a body that's been shot.
'Leaving El Salvador, it feels that here at least, Sullivan's dream of
'Pan-American friendship and peace is a long way off.'
'From El Salvador we enter Honduras,
'and now we begin to understand
'what Central American bull cart trails are going to be like.
'No automobile had ever gotten through Honduras and Nicaragua,
'we were told, and now we begin to understand why - dust.
'Choking clouds of it.'
'By the time Sullivan, Ken and Arnold entered Honduras,
'they had been on the road for 139 days.'
Let me read for you the first paragraph in its entirety
-Have you got the time to spare for that?
I absolutely do.
"Honduras was a disappointment."
-Yeah, that's a great opening line, isn't it?
-End of paragraph.
ED LAUGHS That's it!
'Sullivan's disappointment was fuelled by the fact that the
'millions of dollars given by the US government to build the
'Pan-American Highway in Honduras had been diverted into other projects.
'So when the expedition arrived in March 1941,
'they were forced to crawl along for mile after mile in intense heat.
'At least we've got a fair road and something
'to take our minds off the searing temperature outside.'
Shall we have some music?
Go on, that CD there.
# Round, round, get around I get around, yeah
-# Get around
This is almost taunting us.
It's hotter than the Beach Boys had to put up with, with no water!
-I would kill for a beach now.
Well, well, well.
-That's a bridge with...
-That's an interesting...
-Shall we nip down?
-Yeah, go on, let's have a look down.
# My buddies and me are getting real well known
# Yeah, the bad guys know us... #
Watch that big rock, ah-ah, and...
get past this difficult bit. Lovely. OK!
-How far do you want to go?
-Oh, now we're like...
-I say we just stop it here.
-This is suitably weird.
Do you want to get out?
-Do you fancy a paddle?
-Yeah, of course I do.
'With the temperature close to 40 degrees,
'we aren't the only ones cooling down in the river.'
Oh, look at you. Aren't you a fine figure of a man?
-Ohhh... That is cooling.
That is cooling and soothing.
Dara, come on in, the water's perfect!
Oh, no, a merman has been washed ashore.
Paint me, I am Venus of the River!
You look more like amoebic dysentery of the river.
Put it away - and by "it", I mean all of you!
'At the end of their first day in Honduras, Sullivan,
'Ken and Arnold pitched camp here on the banks of the Nacaome
'to wash the dust off and catch a few hours' sleep.'
'We're moving on down the Pan-Am Highway,
'following the original trail of the expedition through Honduras.
'By the time they reach the town of Choluteca,
'the intrepid adventurers have travelled over
'3,500 miles from Detroit
'and driven the Plymouth further down Central America
'than any other motor vehicle in history.'
-This bridge is an impressive piece of kit.
-It's a good-looking bridge.
'To kick-start the building of the highway in the 1930s,
'the US government decided to build a series of steel bridges
'along the proposed route of the road.'
It was built in 1936.
'The Choluteca Bridge is still here today and it's a lifeline
'for Hondurans like Mario Gutierrez.'
America sent down the Marine Corps to build this,
-so it's a military bridge, to a certain extent?
It was given as an extension of the Pan-American Highway, just to
-make sure that the road was going to be here.
-Was there a bridge before?
I mean, did this replace an older, more rickety bridge,
-or was there...
-There were certain bridges, smaller bridges,
but they always had troubles
in terms of dealing with floodings and things like that,
so that's why they decided to build a huge bridge
that could last for more than 75 years.
'US engineers designed the bridge to withstand the tropical storms
'which plagued this region
'and in 1998, it was put to the ultimate test
'when one of the worst hurricanes in Central American history
'descended on Honduras.
'It was known as Hurricane Mitch.'
We had so much rain that the river started flooding
and the first thing that got blown away were bridges
so we were, like, isolated communities,
-we couldn't go from one place into another.
So, if you're a very decentralised country, then you need the roads
-more than other countries do.
Many communities were destroyed along the river.
Houses, complete neighbourhoods were damaged either by mudslides
or by river flooding,
and the whole infrastructure was completely destroyed.
'Hurricane Mitch claimed over 6,000 lives in Honduras,
'and washed away more than half of the country's roads and bridges.'
What happened here, then, when Hurricane Mitch hit?
Because obviously the Choluteca Bridge withstood it.
Obviously something good happened with this bridge
because you got 75 years later and the bridge is standing
in one whole piece, it did completely survive Hurricane Mitch.
-That's astonishing, just the bridge left standing on its own.
-Oh, my Lord! Oh, my God!
'As we approach Nicaragua,
'the usual welcoming committee of border hustlers is here to greet us.'
-Ah, one of the great traditions.
-It's OK, we're good.
-No, no, no, we're OK.
-OK. It's OK.
'After swerving around potholes and the hustlers,
'we are free to drive straight into Nicaragua.
-picking the music.'
This is Managua, Nicaragua. It's a beautiful town!
MUSIC: Managua, Nicaragua by Guy Lombardo
# Managua, Nicaragua What a wonderful spot
# There's coffee and bananas and the temperature hot... #
There's coffee and bananas and the temperature is hot!
# ..Go sailing away across the aqua to Managua, Nicaragua, ole
# Ole, ole
# Across the aqua to Managua, Nicaragua, ole... #
-It's very pretty, Nicaragua.
-Genuinely is lovely.
And the roads are quality so far.
After Honduras, these roads are awesome.
'the bad road and picturesque countryside continues.
'Friendly natives with big-wheeled carts, pigs wearing pokes,
'one interesting scene after another.
'Time after time we're forced up into the bush,
'where we have to cut trees out of the way which block our progress.
'Once in a while, however, nature is kind
'and bends the tree in exactly the right spot.'
You don't have to go far off the roads
-to see the old Nicaragua, do you?
Don't mean to wax lyrical, but this looks like a way of life
-that has not changed in a long, long time.
Look through there, right, look through there.
-What does that look like straight ahead?
-What do you mean, what does it look like? It looks like a road.
-Yeah, but what kind of road does it look like?
-Are they mangrove trees?
No, no, no! It looks like a tunnel, Ed, it looks like a tunnel.
Doesn't look as much like a tunnel as a tunnel.
It looks like an avenue, is what it looks like.
"We crawled into Nicaragua through a funnel. Even today, we still talk about those low trees."
Does it say anything about a cow standing?
They didn't say anything about a cow
-but I'd imagine they would say, "Don't hit the cow."
OK, that was nerve-racking!
'We've come this way to see the fearsome Cerro Negro volcano,
'whose eruptions over the last 50 years have covered this whole area
'in a carpet of black volcanic ash.
'It's one volcano too many for Dara, though,
'so local guide Rigo Sampson and I are going it alone.'
We're going to walk to the east side terrain, go around the rim.
-It's really fun.
-It sounds fun. Is it dangerous?
-Not really, it's quite safe.
When I'm supposed to do something dangerous,
I like to hear, "Not at all". That's a phrase I like. "Not at all!"
'Cerro Negro has become something of a Mecca for thrill-seekers
'in recent years, not for its eruptions but for the new sport
'that Rigo and others have developed here.
'All you need is a boiler suit and a plank of wood.'
I'm hoping the actual volcano boarding is going to be a cinch
after putting on overalls in gale-force-ten winds.
OK, here goes nothing.
'While it's taken us an hour to get up,
'the journey down is going to be a lot quicker
'and some descents have been measured at over 50mph.'
Oh, ho, ho!
And you look like a political prisoner.
Look at that, there you go.
Look at you with your little legs flailing around.
Like little chicken legs going up and down as you're coming down!
What I like about it is you earn it,
you know? There's no namby-pamby chairlift to carry you to the top.
-No, no, you have to walk. You have to earn it.
-Good for you.
We're going to eat the same breakfast now.
-Which you didn't earn!
-I don't care.
-My breakfast will taste...
Well, actually, my breakfast will taste like volcano ash
-because that's what's in my mouth.
'In March 1941,
'as the original expedition headed south through Nicaragua,
'the country was in the grip of yet another US-backed dictatorship
'led by the brutal Anastasio Somoza Garcia.
'The Somoza family were in power for over 40 years,
'but in 1979, a battle on the Pan-American Highway,
'just outside the city of Leon,
'was to play a key role in their downfall.
'Dara and I are meeting two of the fighters
'who joined the Sandinista uprising against the Somoza regime.'
'Jorge Martinez was just 18 when he joined a small group of guerrillas
'to confront Somoza's troops on the road leading into the city.'
Jorge, your role in the battle for Leon
-started on the Pan-American Highway.
-Tell me about that.
So you pushed back 300 national guardsmen, three tanks -
how many of you guys were there?
45 men repelled 300 national guardsmen with full military gear
and three tanks. That's amazing.
'Despite the superior numbers and firepower
'of the US-trained national guard, Jorge and his fellow revolutionaries
'managed to pin them down on the Pan-Am Highway for several days.'
Buenos dias, Senor Sanchez.
'Juan Jose Sanchez was only 16 when he took part in the battle.'
-Is your photograph somewhere here?
Ah! That's you!
And you fought in one particular important battle
on the Pan-American Highway.
'Juan and his fellow revolutionaries liberated Leon
'on 21st June 1979.
'It was the first city to fall to the Sandinistas.
'Within a month, the Somoza regime had collapsed
'and the guerrilla army marched down the Pan-American Highway
'and entered Managua, to be met by cheering crowds.
'It's taken us three weeks to travel the 3,000 miles to Managua,
'the capital of Nicaragua.
'Without the benefit of the Pan-American Highway,
'the original expedition arrived here on 27th March 1941,
'four months after leaving Detroit.
'Despite Nicaragua's turbulent past,
'today there is hope of a brighter future, and we're meeting a man
'who symbolises this new era.
'They call him El Presidente, even though he's never held office.
'In a country obsessed with baseball, Dennis Martinez is a national hero.
'Thanks to his extraordinary pitching skills,
'Dennis escaped poverty in Nicaragua to become
'one of the greatest Latin American stars in US baseball history.
'And every young player in his academy
'dreams of following in his famous footsteps.'
-Nice to meet you, Dennis, very nice to meet you.
-Welcome to Nicaragua.
How many Nicaraguan kids do you think are going to be
coming out of this and going into the big leagues?
Well, this is a game where...
-It's a game of failure, you know, and not everybody making it.
Out of thousands and thousands every year, every year,
maybe one, maybe one.
So if one out of these guys make it to the big leagues, hey,
we have that, we have done our job.
How long were you playing in the States?
I played 26 years altogether.
-Three in the minor league and 23 in the big leagues.
-God, it's a long career in baseball, isn't it?
Listen, you were working in America from the early '70s,
so through the revolution, through the Somoza era,
that relationship between Nicaragua and America, you must have had
a unique viewpoint of that.
When I left this country, I was 18 years old.
I'd go, "Oh, my God, my country, they're fighting out there,"
you know, and I was pitching
but also I was just thinking about my mum, my family,
and it was tough, it was tough.
But baseball, it was great to me.
-So America was great to me,
because they gave me the opportunity to be somebody
and that's why I'm now in my country
to try to bring there what I learned down there
-to be able to help here to the people.
And hopefully they will understand, because that's the only way.
-That's what you do.
-One of those balls landed perilously close.
-Very, very close.
-I know, I saw! You see?
'Dennis and his academy are part of a new relationship
'between Nicaragua and the US.
'These days, instead of bullets, the former enemies trade goods
'and baseball players, up and down the Pan-Am Highway.'
BUGLE CAVALRY CHARGE
'Before we go, Dennis has agreed to let two absolute beginners play ball
'with his young academy stars.'
Yeah, here we go!
'Somewhat incredibly, it appears that I am a natural.'
THEY WHISTLE AND CHEER
I have nothing to prove now.
-You've even scored.
-I have nothing to prove.
-Is he bragging about it?
Now you've got to go hit, and hit it out.
BUGLE CAVALRY CHARGE
-Here we go.
-Hit it out.
Ah, come on! I can do this with a hurley.
I shouldn't... I shouldn't gloat yet.
Eyes on the prize!
Yeah, go, go, go!
'And thanks to a youth wasted playing ball games,
'Dara soon gets into the swing of things.
'Hot on my heels, he scores a home run.'
BUGLE CAVALRY CHARGE
'But I'm not worried - this is Byrne time.'
-Nice hit. Nice hit, though, nice hit.
THEY CHEER AND WHISTLE
-Thanks very much, Dennis.
We've had a great time. Thank you for introducing me to the sport.
-It was a pleasure.
-Did you see that last hit?
I mean, I know he caught it
-but what a beautiful hit.
-It was the hit of the game.
'As we approach the Costa Rican border,
'we've got one final stop to make,
'at the largest freshwater lake in Central America.'
-'Along Lake Nicaragua, we try to follow
'the hard sand on the water's edge.
'The first day, we find ourselves stuck many times.
' "Come on, now, give her the gun," we yell at him.
' "Come on, come on and don't you dare let that thing stop."
'The car lurches, bangs,
'slides sideways, roaring like an aeroplane and the sticks just fly.'
You're not really going to try to convince me
-this is actually the exact point.
-Yeah, where they stopped.
You can't tell me that you have narrowed it down to the exact point
-74 years later.
-Judging by the view that they described,
this has got to be it.
Because they even said it was a beach -
everywhere else is all rocky along this shore.
74 years, you know, other beaches might have popped up.
-Well, don't be taking the good out of it.
-I won't, I won't.
It's nice to be here at Lake Nicaragua.
Seems like a nice place to finish off our journey
with a little bit of a parallel to the lads.
'Sullivan, Ken and Arnold reached Lake Nicaragua
'on 1st April 1941. It was their final stop in the country,
'and more than 70 years later,
'it's our final stop too,
'before we head on south down the Pan-American Highway.'
Having gone through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras
and Nicaragua, four places that you haven't been...
-..we're now going to Costa Rica, where you have been.
Oh, so many happy memories.
So we're going back to "Oh, I remember when I was here!"
Course it's not the same now, it's gone very commercial now.
But when I was here once, oh...
-At least there's the jungle to look forward to.
-Is that the same monkey?
Is that the same monkey I remember from my holiday?
-You're already boring me, it's not even episode three yet!
-I hope it is.
I remember once, Ed, waking up and there being a spider in the room.
It was quite a story, let me tell you...
'Next time, we'll be riding with Costa Rican cowboys...'
Ed, stop showboating.
Dirty cow protest, is that what it is?
'..and crewing on the Panama Canal.'
'And as we near the end of our adventure,
'somewhere in the Panamanian jungle,
'Dara puts his foot in it.'
Do you know, I recommend a dry rot expert to come in
and spray this place.