South of the equator in Ecuador, in the rugged Andes mountains near the border with Peru, lies the valley of Vilcabamba.
GV: The Valley of Kenara and Palmira. (2 shots)
GV: Church in the village of Kenara.
GV: Buildings with woman and dog in street. (2 shots)
CU: Senor Jose Maria Roa, 126 years old, sitting outside his home, twining rope.
CUS: Feet, face then hands of Senor Roa twining rope.
SV: Senor Roa seated with wife and grandson.
GV: Land Rover crossing suspension bridge, approaching the Valley of Vilcabamba (2 shots)
SV: passing shot of village hut.
CU: Senor Augustin Reinoso, aged 138 years, sitting outside hut showing CU: hands and Senor Reinoso smoking (3 shots)
CU PAN: from Senor Reinoso's feet to Italian Doctor Luciano Sdraffa and members of his team examining Senor Reinoso, for blood pressure and heart. (5 shots)
CU: a reproduction of Senor Reinoso's birth certificate, showing his date of birth as 11th May, 1838.
GV: Senor Reinoso walking outside his home
CU: Dog barking
SV INTERIOR: Dr. Sdraffa with colleagues giving Senor Augustin Mendoza, aged 105 years, an electro-cardiogram (3 shots)
CU: Senor Mendoza with doctor examining his back (2 shots)
CU: wife of Senor Mendoza - aged 100 years, undergoing hearing tests. (2 shots)
Senor Manuel Patino, aged 90 years walking with family from fields (2 shots)
There are two other well-known pockets of longevity in the world, both of them also situated at high altitudes. One is in the district known as Abkhazia in the Caucus mountains of the U.S.S.R and the other is at Hunza in the Karakoram range of mountains in Pakistan, on the borders of Afghanistan and China. The people of Hunza have received world-wide publicity because of their diet of vegetables, grains and fruits, while many people who live to great ages in the Balkans and the U.S.S.R. attribute their good health to eating natural live yoghurt.
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Background: South of the equator in Ecuador, in the rugged Andes mountains near the border with Peru, lies the valley of Vilcabamba. It is a place that has been singled out by nature for special privileges - indeed to some people it is a sacred valley because its climate is equable - all the year round it stays between 18 and 25 degrees Centigrade (64.4 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit), its air clean and pure, its vegetation lush and varied and its people almost unbelievably healthy and long-lived.
SYNOPSIS: Visitors to Vilcabamba have to pass through the valley of Kenara and Palmira. Many claim that there is "something special" about the area and yet its inhabitants are in many respects like millions of poor country-folk everywhere - hard working, uncomplicated and relatively serene. They live hard, sparse lives and as far as earthly goods are concerned they are well below the poverty line.
Jose Maria Roa is 126 years old and like everyone in his village he has worked strenuously for survival all his life. Yet, in common with the extraordinarily high proportion of centenarians and over living in the region, he seems to have been blessed with a special brand of gentility - a freedom from the corrosive effects of hatred, violence and competition.
The road to Vilcabamba has been improved recently - but the people still live mostly in reed and mud huts and there is no plumbing, electricity, telephones, newspapers, restaurants, hotels, television or radio.
But men like Augustin Reinoso aged 138, care little for the trappings of the 20th century. They treat the doctors, journalists and sight-seers who find their way into the valley with polite tolerance - and attribute their long and healthy lives to the many medicinal herbs that grow on the surrounding hillsides. Recently an Italian scientific mission, headed by Dr. Luciano Sdraffa, undertook a study of Vilcabamba's "viejos" and found that all of them were completely free from any signs of heart diseases, had normal blood pressure and showed no indications of being susceptible to diabetes.
Senor Reinoso's birth certificate - he was born on the 11th of May 1838 and has lived happily ever since without the benefit of medical check-ups. Doctors who visit Vilcabamba and examine its inhabitants are interested in knowing if factors common to exceptional longevity can be identified.
But the "viejos" say that although the doctors are curious about their fit bodies, they themselves are more interested in the human heart. Their society is oriented towards the mystical, the religious and the romantic. Some of the man compose poetry and say that love gives "spirit" to their lives, while 90-year-old women talk without embarrassment of the happiness that comes from lying in the arms of the man they love.
Senora Mendoza aged 100 - convincing the Italian team that her hearing is still perfect. In 1969 an Ecuadorian medical mission reported that they found the people of Vilcabamba "amazing" and concluded that the valley was indeed a natural island of immunity from the physical and psychological problems that shorten lives elsewhere. A comparative youngster, Manuel Pating aged 90, walks home after a day's work in the fields with his family.