Story by Lacey Howell
Tallapoosa County has been inflicted with gold rush fever. The History Channel’s latest television series, Bamazon, captures the triumphs and tribulations of eight locals who fight the Amazon Jungle to mine for gold. The TV series chronicles the adventures of Darryl Haynes, Chris Gamble, Clate McDaniel, Julius Reed, Chantz Meadows, Steve Hudson and John Wilson under the leadership of real estate mogul Tim Evans. Not for the faint of heart, this rough and tough group of Alabama boys faced unimaginable obstacles and disasters in their quest for gold in one of the most dangerous and remote places in the world.
Local designers Tish Fuller and Phil Spraggins launched an initial preview party, held Dec. 3 at the remodeled Graves Building in Alexander City, in honor of the cast. They captured the essence of the Amazon, complete with libations, plastic snakes and jungle-inspired hors d’oeuvres. Party revelers decked out in leopard print clothing, furs, boots and jungle-inspired attire for the event.
“There is a sweetness about our town, and the preview party coupled with the parade brought a lot of community together,” Fuller said. “Bamazon and Tim Evans are creating this incredible, positive attention for our local area, and we wanted to express our excitement. The party was absolutely fantastic!”
Tim Evans was excited to share what viewers can expect out of the eight-episode first season.
“We were truly in a remote place,” Evans said. “I had been mining in Guyana and various parts of the Amazon for about four years, but I had never taken Americans down until this trip chronicled by The History Channel.”
A compound was built several months prior to filming to accommodate what would be a 52-person camp, including cast members, film crew and staff. Camp operations were managed by Benjamin Russell High School alum Joseph Berger, who also served as a translator with the Venezuelan locals and was instrumental in handling the flow of supplies into camp.
Evans fell into the mining business by accident. When the real estate market in Alabama declined in 2007, he leased pieces of his unused heavy equipment to an American businessman in Guyana. When the businessman fell ill, Evans proceeded to purchase his mining company, New River Holdings.
The History Channel heard about what Evans was doing and approached him. Their reality shows are more comparable to documentaries than other networks’ reality shows.
“We didn’t change the way we did things just because they were filming. What we did do for The History Channel was move to a pristine mining location. One of the most interesting aspects of working in the jungle is when you move from one place to another. Mining is not that interesting, but traveling through the jungle is! Nothing was staged or fake. All the camera men would say is, ‘We are not here.’”
Not only is Guyana the only English-speaking country in South America, but according to Evans, it is also the friendliest.
“It is open for business. The country has a lot of tax advantages and government incentives for companies that want to do business in South America. It was a natural fit for us. I encourage anyone with unique business opportunities to consider Guyana,” Evans said.
One thing that Evans said he cannot emphasize enough is the natural beauty of Guyana.
“The Amazon jungle in that country is pristine and beautiful, unlike other areas in other countries that struggle with deforestation. Many other TV shows about gold mining do not seem to care about the environment. Our company is licensed under sustaining mining policies. We reclaim every mine site by closing the pit and planting new trees. We make sure the vegetation regrows. Guyana polices their rainforest well. Remember that a rainforest grows 12 months out of the year. You replace the topsoil, and three months later you cannot find the site.”
Bamazon premiered on The History Channel Sunday, Dec. 9. Evans, cast members, friends and family all gathered once again at the Graves Building in downtown Alexander City to relive their time in the Amazon.
Donna Brown, one of the nurses in camp, recalled the medical issues faced by everyone in the jungle.
“First of all, there is such a need in that part of the world for quality medical care. We tended to many of the locals, often working 24-hour days. Malaria and malnutrition affect many children there. It was amazing to see what something as simple as Advil could do for those people. We actually left a lot of medical supplies with the locals.”
“The biggest problem our group faced was jiggers[not ‘chiggers’]. Jiggers are sand fleas that would lay their gel-like eggs in everyone’s feet. People would remove their boots in camp and walk around in flip flops. We had to dig them out with needles.”
The first episode of Bamazon chronicled Evans and his crew’s arrival in the jungle. The men struggled to hastily make camp, and Haynes and Wilson were assigned the daunting task of recovering the excavator and moving it downriver. The foundation was laid for a wild adventure enhanced by the thrill of striking gold.
Cherie Kloss, executive producer with the show’s production company, Red Line Films, is thrilled with the program’s hope-filled message.
“To me, this is a really unique reality show—it’s authentic,” she said. “All of the problems these people face are genuine and all real disasters.”
Cast member Chantz Meadows was excited to finally see the show.
“I had never been in front of a camera before, and it is definitely different. Nothing is easy down there. It rained so much that first week when we were trying to build camp,” he said. “We accomplished so much over the course of the show. The brotherhood we all formed; it became a family, and that means a lot. It was a great experience, and I would not trade it for anything in the world. I hope to go back.”
Meadows recalled a fearful encounter with a bushmaster, one of the largest and most dangerous snakes in South America.
“It was about a 25-minute walk from camp to the mining site. I was walking alone, with my head down—it whipped across the trail. I couldn’t see head or tail, but it had to be at least seven foot.”
Evans will not give anything away but says the show is about courage and hope.
“My crew left their families and homes to travel here. I introduced them to a great opportunity, but they worked hard and stepped out of their safety zones. You have to watch the show. We accomplished our goals. The first season is largely about finding the location, testing the site and finding the vein,” he explained.
Evans is in the process of putting together a second team to return to the jungle and is looking for able-bodied people who are not afraid of adventure.
“If you want to go on one of my adventures, I will consider you. Send your contact information to email@example.com.”
Bamazon airs at 9 p.m. (Central Time) on Sundays on The History Channel. Visit history.com for more information and video regarding Bamazon.