"Mineral Explorers - Bolivia" Behind the Scenes with Thomas Nagin
Don't miss the television debut of "Mineral Explorers - Bolivia," Thursday, April 11 at 6:30 p.m. This adventure travel program takes viewers to some of the richest and most remote mines around the world. In the Bolivian episode, host Thomas Nagin leads viewers to the Anahi Mine on a quest for amethyst and ametrine. Below, he shares a story from the journey.
The sun setting on the Pantanal rendered us all speechless; the oranges and reds reflecting on the glassy water ... the fear of being stuck out here after dark.
We were on our way to the Anahi Mine, located deep in the jungles of eastern Bolivia. The last time I visited the mine, we flew in on a small plane, but this time I thought we'd take the scenic route - traveling by boat through Pantanal, one of the largest wetlands on the planet. The sunset was amazing - as though God and Van Gogh had discussed it over coffee that morning - but with night closing in on us and no lights on our small, flat-bottom boats, we were all getting a little nervous. Through a wad of cocoa leaves stuffed in his cheek, our driver tried to console us. "It's right around the next bend," he said. He'd been telling us that for hours.
We'd set off early that morning under perfect skies for what we thought would be a six-hour journey. But our engine soon began sputtering and we were forced to make several stops - sacrificing ourselves to the hoards of mosquitoes that descended on us in dark, hungry clouds.
We were still having a good time though, excited by all the wildlife we were seeing - herons flying over the water, caimans sunning on the banks, monkeys sitting in the treetops. And when the sun started sinking behind the mountains, we were all transfixed by the natural beauty, momentarily forgetting the impending darkness.
When night fell, there was only a quarter moon to light our way, and we nearly collided with the other boat. We careened to the right and lurched to a stop. A mass of weeds was entangled in our propeller, holding tight with the force of an ancient sea monster's grip. I plunged my hands into the black water - trying not to think of what might be lurking beneath its surface - and played a game of tug-of-war with the stubborn plants. Thankfully, I had my pocket knife and was able to cut us loose.
After we looked up, the other boat was nowhere to be seen. We scanned the darkness and spotted a flashing light signaling us ahead. It was a small Navy camp at the mouth of the Laguna Mandiora - the last stretch of water we had to cross. The rest of our crew was already there, huddled around a big fire to ward off the mosquitoes. We thought maybe we were going to get a different boat or some lights, but the drivers were just checking on the conditions of the lagoon. If it was too choppy, we'd have to camp there.
Fortunately, they gave us the green light and we sputtered across the water beneath the thousands of stars that had exploded in the night sky.
A couple of trucks were waiting for us on the other side to carry us to the mine. Famished but happy to be on dry land, we bounced along the bumpy road through the jungle to the ancient and mythical mine, where some of the most basic elements combined to form one of the most fascinating places on earth.