Few people can say they have walked in the footsteps of the world’s most powerful drug lord, even less can say they rode in his tracks.
But today we were granted the first exclusive look inside Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s secret mile-long tunnel in which he fled to freedom on a specially designed motorbike.
As he becomes installed – again – as one of the world’s most wanted men, we were taken deep beneath the Santa Juana soil by Mexico’s attorney general’s office.
As authorities still remain clueless as to the whereabouts of the billionaire head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel – despite offering a £2.4 million reward for his capture – we were shown just how the most audacious jail break in history was carried out.
From the dirt road leading up to the house where the tunnel was dug, its looks like any of the homes in the area occupied by poor local farmers.
But behind its unassuming facade it hid a highly trained team of mining engineers who tunnelled their way for more than a mile to within the exact point their boss showered each day in the Altiplano prison – 55 miles west of Mexico City.
The breeze block home, which authorities have said was not lived in, provided the perfect cover in which to dig out more 3,250 tonnes of earth – an amount so huge it would have required 379 dump trucks to transport.
The only sign any mining may have taken place is the height of the soil within the three acre compound.
It clearly sits much higher than the surrounding land hidden by a crooked cinder block wall, one of the first things built by the miners.
The tunnellers’ planning was incredibly meticulous – as even the armed police now at the compound admitted.
“Genio, genio,” is all they could say. The men, who worked tirelessly for more than a year, would have needed blueprints and maps while plotting such things as knowing where the tunnel entrance should be to be beyond the view of security cameras at what was believed to be Mexico’s toughest prison.
The enormity of the operation to free the 46-year-old can only been appreciated at the ramshackle farmhouse where underneath the tunnel began and from where Guzman was walked into a waiting SUV – possibly never to be seen again.
Making your way in to the cinder block barn that hid their work, many of the tools used to spring their boss free still lie place – as well as the empty bottles of water to hydrate them as they toiled away.
Huge industrial grinders, drills and diggings tools are still scattered around the sand like floor, which, as more than a feet in depth, helped muffle the noise of the work being carried out underneath.
The teams of engineers who dug the getaway for more than a year were also aided by the huge construction operation surrounding the area as heavy duty vehicles came and went.
It is an innocuous house but when that is now guard day and night by heavily armed Mexican military.
After squeezing into the tiny opening and descending 10ft, an underground bunker opens up were to the tunnellers kept their generator, oxygen supplies, winches and mining tools.
A few feet further however lies their real genius.
Accessed only by a makeshift, although solid, ladder down in to the dark, it appears like a never-ending black hole.
But after climbing down a 32ft shaft at the bottom the enormity of the narrow tunnel can be seen for the first time as it disappears into the distance and towards the now infamous Altiplano prison.
Although the feeling inside the tunnel is claustrophobic, the level of sophistication used by the engineers to provide oxygen and lighting is like any commercial mine.
As 6ft 2ins I had to crouch to avoid hitting my head, but I was allowed to walk as far as I wanted into the tunnel but stopped short of going all the way to the prison.
The floor had clearly been levelled to allow the rails to be made for the motorbike but what was also visible was the system they had in place to remove the earth.
It appeared modelled on the system known to millions from the war film Great Escape – but unlike many in the movie who were captured, there is little hope of finding Guzman again.