Simon Reeve’s South America episode 4

Simon Reeve's South America episode 4

Simon Reeve’s South America episode 4: Simon travels through three of the world’s most extreme environments: the salt flats of Bolivia, the Brazilian Pantanal and Paraguay’s Chaco Forest. In Bolivia, Simon meets a family who makes a living carving salt from the vast white expanse of the Uyuni salt flats, so huge it is said to be visible from the moon. He learns that beneath the salt could lie huge reserves of lithium, the metal so crucial for the batteries that will fuel the next generation of electric cars.




Crossing into Brazil, Simon visits the world’s largest wetlands, the Pantanal, and has a close encounter with South America’s apex predator, the jaguar. Drought and fire threaten the Pantanal, but so too does excessive flooding, and Simon meets a farmer who has spent years building dams to hold back the rising waters and save his family farm. The last leg of this journey takes Simon into the little-visited Paraguay, where he meets a unique community which, despite their small numbers, has had a huge impact on the economy and environment of the country.

Mennonites originally hail from Europe but they have spread throughout the world. In Paraguay, many live in ultra-conservative communities and eschew many of the trappings of the modern world. They drive around in horses and carts and speak their own language, known as low German. Simon visits a school where traditionally clothed children are drilled in bible texts and there are no smartphones to be seen. But the Mennonites have been hugely successful farmers, embracing modern methods where necessary to found vast cattle ranches and soy farms. They have chopped and burned huge areas of the Chaco, the unique dry spiny forest, which is twice the size of Spain and dominates the centre of the South American continent.

Perhaps inevitably, this economic miracle, which has turned Paraguay into a major player in the global food market, has had its victims and Simon ends this leg of his journey with the Ayoreo people. Following a history of persecution and having lost much of their land, the Ayoreo now mount armed patrols to defend what remains. Others have given up the modern world altogether and returned to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of their parents and grandparents, living in the harsh dry forests of the Chaco.


Simon Reeve’s South America episode 4


Simon Alan Reeve is a British author and television presenter, currently based in London and Devon. He makes travel documentaries and has written books on international terrorism, modern history and his adventures. He has presented the BBC television series Tropic of Cancer, Equator and Tropic of Capricorn.

Reeve is the New York Times’ best-selling author of The New Jackals (1998), One Day in September (2000) and Tropic of Capricorn (2007). He has received a One World Broadcasting Trust Award and the 2012 Ness Award from the Royal Geographical Society.

Reeve was born in Hammersmith and brought up in west London, attending Twyford Church of England High School. He rarely went abroad until he started working. After leaving school, he took a series of jobs, including working in a supermarket, a jewellery shop and a charity shop, before he started researching and writing in his spare time while working as a postboy at the British newspaper The Sunday Times.

After the attacks of 11 September 2001, Reeve began making travel documentaries for the BBC. Tom Hall, travel editor for Lonely Planet publications, has described Reeve’s travel documentaries as “the best travel television programmes of the past five years”.

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