Risking it all
An action-packed series following people around the world who take extraordinary risks to earn a living.
Last Modified: 27 Dec 2011 15:31

It is incredible what some people will do to earn a living. This action-packed series follows colourful characters from different parts of the world who take extraordinary risks to earn their daily bread.


In the Amazonian basin, the rivers are the main arteries for virtually everything. Ships from New Zealand come to pick up a consignment of tree trunks, the waterways a constant ebb and flow of people and trade.

Barges are the public transport system, bus, train and tram all rolled into one.

Brazilian children at the Tajaparu river risk getting cut to pieces as they fasten their canoes onto fast-moving tourist boats in order to sell their goods. They are risking death in order to make a few pennies selling sweets and jams.

They can neither read nor write, but they know how to count their profits. It is a contribution to their families income, often large families.


The Lowari Pass begins in the town of Dir in the tribal regions of northwest Pakistan. The road is 240km long and is the only supply route through the mountains to the small villages of the Chitral valley which is shared with Afghanistan. It is a road where even the slightest error can be fatal.

The holy city of Dir and its 20,000 inhabitants make their living off the road. Each day tons of goods are loaded and unloaded from trucks, the only means of transport in the region. The trucker's quarter provides most of the jobs here. Drivers, mechanics, assistants of all ages work here every day amid the dust and pollution.

We follow Pakistani truck drivers facing death at every turn transporting goods across mountain passes on arguably the world's most dangerous road.


In the Yungas region in Bolivia, jungle and steep cliffs, people do not walk - they fly. These bird men are known as 'cocaleros', coca harvesters.

They use ropes to swing across the narrow valleys, suspended from ancient rusting pulleys. It takes just 30 seconds from one side to the other. By foot it would have taken more than an hour.

It is almost a form of public transport, there are about twenty cables strung across the valley. All day long, people and goods fly across the river 200 meters below.


Things are hopping at the road terminus in Lubumbashi in the Congo. Traders throng around the only available transport; hoping to get a lift to sell their goods in the town of Bukama.

Eugene is one of the few truckers willing to risk the notorious road.

We follow Congolese lorry drivers who must navigate their trucks, laden with goods and passengers, through jungle floods where a journey of a few hundred miles takes a month.


Colombian pilots fly through storms in decrepit planes over the jungle to deliver food and goods to villagers isolated from the rest of the world.

It is one of the most perilous air routes in the world. Jumping off point is Villavicencio, a city in the foothills of the Andean Cordillera, the destination is any one of the number of Indian villages scattered throughout the jungle and cut off from civilisation.

The plane's arrival in the villages is a major event - it stops here only once or twice a month. Vegetables, beds, dogs, chickens, TV sets …In Colombia DC3's look more like rural buses. Without airplane's some villages would be completely isolated and getting enough food would become a problem.


Every year more than a million people flee the poverty of their own countries, crossing the river at the border between Guatemala and Mexico, and try their luck, on this road to what some call the impossible dream.

Men and women from Salvador, Honduras or Nicaragua are crossing the river into Mexico illegally - and they have another destination in mind: the US.

To reach the border with Texas, they have to cross the whole of Mexico, a journey of 2,500 miles. And a journey which for most heading North begins at the Arriaga train station.

Regardless of the danger, each one tries to find himself a little spot on the freight trains: on the roofs, on the axles between the cars, there can be as many as 1,000 hitching a ride.

But in order to arrest the maximum of illegal immigrants, the police stops the train in the middle of the countryside.

We follow four young Salvadorian immigrants who jump from train to train in a journey fraught with danger as they attempt to reach the promised land of the US.

Al Jazeera
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