Here we go again!

by Luke, in Mexico
22nd July, 2009
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These trips are coming thick and fast – can’t believe I am off again. The big case I am leaving behind on this trip is Lily. She’s a beautiful collie who was unfortunately run over by a tractor last week. Her pelvis was shattered and I’ve done my best to repair what I could the x-rays in the pictures show what was done – unfortunately I couldn’t save her hip bone, it was impossible to fix all the fragments so I had to cut off the top of her femur. I am hoping with all my heart she is walking on my return.

Leaving has been a wrench because five weeks at home has been bliss. Noah is now fluent in about a hundred words and is endless fun, I really felt it when leaving this morning; but the show must go on and I have a really exciting trip ahead of me – I’m off to Mexico!
The travel is probably the worst bit. The guys at work have ribbed me about jet setting around the world but the flights are epic. I’m not flying in luxury but live in hope. I’m writing this on a packed plane and have about minus three inches of leg room and if it wasn’t an aisle seat I would be weeping at this point. I had just sat down when the man next to me leant over and apologised in advance because he has a bladder problem and has to get up and urinate every five seconds and just after take off the seat in front of me shot back to full recline. Loving the celebrity.

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Great to see Bruce and Marc at the airport again, really nice to be with the same team but sadly no Adam. He’s been called off this series to film for a programme with the Environmental Investigation Trade which sounds exciting, so Scot is apparently joining us on this trip and will be meeting us over there. He is currently on his way from New Zealand and I guess it will be a good experience to work with a different cameraman.

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Come Fly With Me

by Marc the Producer, in Mexico
23rd July, 2009
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I really don’t want to complain about flying around the world, filming these great programmes in far flung corners of the globe, but the fact that I actually don’t like flying makes the journeys twice as hard. In fact, neither Luke, Nathan nor Adam like flying. Considering that we are going to film six more programmes all over the world, this is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is that we start talking about crash statistics and most common malfunctions on planes every time from the moment we check in until take off.

It was quite a bumpy ride and after a gruelling 12 hour or so flight we arrived safely in Mexico and met up with Scottie, the cameraman that will replace Adam on this shoot, at the airport. Scottie is a real laugh. I have worked briefly with him before in the UK before he moved to New Zealand. I have no doubt that he will get the hang of how we film these programmes quite quickly.

Arrived!

by Luke, in Mexico
23rd July, 2009
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What a journey. We spent about 2 hours clearing customs and then a three and a bit hour car journey to base. The biggest news though is that Agatha, Alberto, Pablo and Daniela are about the nicest family you could hope to meet and they have bent over backwards to make sure everything has gone smoothly on our first day. Alberto (the father) and Daniela (daughter) met us at the airport and kindly ferried us to the hotel. The hotel is 7km from the shelter and is lovely. Agatha (founder of the charity and Mother of the family) sorted it all out and after a few hours sleep we met her and Pablo (son) who took us to their home. The home is magical -it has a wonderful warm feeling and the animals seem so happy – they must realise how lucky they are to be living there.
 
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We spent the first couple of hours getting our bearings as they live on a farm, and introduced ourselves to the rescued ostriches, donkeys, horses, dogs, cat, rabbits, turtles etc to name but a few of the animals they have resident there. The rest of the day was filled up with an operation on a poor cat that had an aggressively growing tumour on its back, meeting Raul (a crazy Indiana Jones type character who rescues the more exotic species of animals that are about in the area) and examining some injured birds of prey that Raul is rehabilitating.

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Scott is a great guy as well. I was quite worried when Adam said he couldn’t make this shoot because I know and trust him but although it felt that we were missing a core member of the team on the flight out, Adam had assured me Scott was in the zone and he definitely is. I have a feeling it is going to be a brilliant trip.

Real Dedication

by Marc the Producer, in Mexico
24th July, 2009
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Had a fantastic day. Luke went up into the Mexican blue skies to go paragliding with red kites. Fabo, a paragliding acrobatic champion and Luke’s tandem pilot, really took our ‘talent’ for a ride. We had to repeat certain shots and after the third flight, Luke touched down and starting throwing up straight away. Fabo said it is very common. Luke had motion sickness, similar to seasickness. I know it’s not fair, but I have to admit, I was grinning and smirking away.

Leaving Luke on his own for a few minutes to recover, I looked at the shots with Scottie and after checking the footage we looked at each other and without saying anything just raised our eyebrows. It was clear. We didn’t get the shot we both wanted.

I walked over to Luke and broke the news. I felt really bad (though admittedly chuckling inside) and said to him that we might need another shot. His first reply was:” You are joking!”. I told him he doesn’t have to do it again as I didn’t want to put him in any more discomfort. To my surprise he got up, wiped his mouth and said “… I’ll do it, no worries. If you need the shot, you need the shot!”.  That’s what I call real dedication!

Luke told me later on that he was already sick in the air and Fabo might have been hit as well. Poor guy … I mean Fabo!

Tengo Hambre, Quiero Comer Ahora!

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Mexico
23rd July, 2009
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We have spent the first day at la Cienega animal shelter in San Jose Itrubide and what a pleasant experience. The animals look healthy, the land is absolutely stunning and the people are welcoming and extremely friendly.
 
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With the new cameraman Scott Mckinnon on board we’ve got off to a brilliant start: filming a scene with an injured hawk and an endangered eagle yesterday morning and an operation on a cat with a huge tumour growing out of its back. Despite the jetlag we’re firing on all cylinders and it looks as though this is going to be another cracking trip.
 
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For regular readers of the blog you’ll know that I started a campaign to save my own name. This hasn’t gone all to plan as Luke keeps on calling me various different things on every trip we venture to: from Bruce in Malawi to Narinder in India. And when we arrived at the charity it didn’t take long for Agetha, who runs the sanctuary, to call me Bruce (in fact it was the first thing she said!) Last night I was christened with my new Mexican name of Lupe. Which I have now found out from my Spanish girlfriend is actually a girl’s name, so this is wonderful. Not only have I lost use of the name of Nathan, but I’ve been given a new one which is used for girls… oh well…

Whilst in Mexico I’m also working on my Spanish. The most useful phrase for anybody working on a film crew is the following: tengo hambre, quiero comer ahora! (I am hungry, I need to eat now!)

All Creatures Great and Small

by Marc the Producer, in Mexico
30th July, 2009
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The working days are very long and we are on the go about 13-15 hours a day. Everyone has a cracking attitude and wants to get the job done, whatever it takes. Think we got really good stuff, but you never know until you get the footage on a timeline in the edit suite. Though I must say that the tape-less workflow we are using comes very handy as we can edit little clips at the end of the day back at the hotel… if time allows.

There is a pattern emerging on these trips. Luke always cracks on treating animals after we stopped filming and whenever I can I am assisting him. Really enjoying it. My mum would love it. When she was young she used to be a medical assistant for a vet. I grew up watching “All Creatures Great and Small”. The show was a big success in Germany and yes, James Herriot, Siegfried and Tristan were all dubbed.

Flying High

by Luke, in Mexico
24th July, 2009
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The big question today was how on earth can a vet on a charity mission end up flying with the Mexican National Acrobatic Paragliding Champion? What an incredible day. Nerve wracking doesn’t quite cover it and after the fourth flight I was throwing up everywhere which I am certain the guys will never let me forget, but the adrenaline rush was amazing. Fabul was the name of the pilot I was flying tandem with, and he took great pleasure in swirling me around thousands of feet above the mountain so I could experience proper ’G-force’ – but the point of the trip was to show me the red kites in their natural habitat and to try to ‘fly like a bird’. It was amazing – albeit a bit nauseating on the spins. Definitely makes rollercoasters seem like kindergarten rides.
 
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Late afternoon we headed back to the sanctuary so I could catch up on some ops. I took seven teeth out of a small terrier from which I also removed a small mammary tumour under inject able, it went really well considering the little dog was nine years old with a raging heart murmur. There was also a beautiful Labrador cross that had been dumped at the shelter with seven puppies and Agatha was so upset. It was really sad because she is a beautiful sweet natured dog and was simply dropped off at the shelter without us even knowing her name. When I examined her because she wasn’t eating, she had a bit of a temperature and a touch of metritis so I got some meds into her and I am certain with the amazing compassion and care available at the shelter, she will pull through. The puppies are about six weeks old and thankfully are relatively fit and healthy despite being riddled with fleas.

Carlo and the swamp

by Luke, in Mexico
25th July, 2009
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Epic . What a start to the day – an emergency call to rescue a donkey that was stuck up to its neck in a swamp. The call came from a young man called Carlo who is only fifteen but is a complete force and champion for animal welfare. He heads up a rescue charity of local youngsters which saves animals. I was absolutely amazed when I arrived. Carlo was submerged in the swamp with he donkey, his 12 year old brother was behind the wheel of a large digger and a friend of his was on the bank assisting as required. The defeated park ranger who had called them for help was a mere onlooker having failed to save the donkey. My assistance was simply to lend some muscle in getting it out, all the good work had already been done by Carlo whose quick thinking in keeping the donkeys head out of the water and mud, saved its life.

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Once we had taken the donkey to a shelter and made sure it was okay, we headed off to a community clinic in the mountains. It was a fantastic afternoon with a few challenging cases; a collapsed calf which need a drip, a horse with a lacerated knee which I stitched and a few other bits and bobs. Agatha and her family were once again amazing because behind the scenes and unbeknownst to me and the team, she rescued two puppies which were found in a sack and also an injured bird. None of the those cases will make the programme because we didn’t know it was going on but it goes to show what tireless, caring people they are and how focused they are on helping animals. Agatha took the puppies back to her already full shelter where hopefully they will be adopted in the not too distant future.

What a great day. Exactly what it’s all about.

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Mexican cowboy

by Luke, in Mexico
26th July, 2009
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Scott, Marc and Bruce had their work cut out today. They had to walk up a mountain to film me examining some cattle that roam the plateau. I had it easy because I rode up with the Mexican cowboys. Lupe was the leader and he is very much the real deal. They gave me a steady horse and aside from bouncing around a fair bit as the guys demonstrated how to weald a lasso, I absolutely loved the ride. The scenery was breathtaking and we treated a couple of cows that had a couple of problems. To be honest, the cows were generally in great condition and I guess only the fittest survive. The cowboys tend to be utterly self sufficient – they cut their own stallions for example (without anything other than a knife) – so I think the meds I gave were a rarity. I don’t think this is because they want to cause the horses pain, more because they have no choice and no drugs.
 
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After the work, we built a fire, had some tacos and a good chat. Long journey but fascinating to go with the cowboys and live the experience. I am sure this will be a highlight of the trip. Can’t believe how much effort and work Agatha and Alberto have gone to organise all these community days and activities – they do so much in the community and know so many people it is amazing.
 
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Lupe es un hombre!

by Nathan the Assistant Producer, in Mexico
26th July, 2009
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Mexico is an absolutely beautiful country. We spent the day riding into the mountains with traditional Mexican cowboys (vaquero in Spanish). It was absolutely mind blowing. Filming it was a bit of hassle as there was no power supply. The day ended when the batteries died, which I think we were all glad of as the past few days have gone on until after sunset (in Mexico that is 9pm). It’s quite nice to be back at the hotel, have a shower, chill out with a beer and have a look through the footage.

Two days ago we filmed Luke paragliding. It was a long day, but very satisfying. Especially when Luke screamed like a little girl and then promptly threw up over one of the best paraglide pilots in the world. I think he was slightly embarrassed. I managed to go up in the air myself and it was incredible. Seeing Mexico from such a height was a real privilege and I would like to thank Salvador for taking me up there.

On a final note the leader of the Mexican cowboys was called Lupe. He was one of your typical rock hard cowboys – the ones from films were they can open beer bottles just by looking at them. And he was called LUPE! So now I’m quite pleased to be called Lupe. I might even use it myself.
 
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