Coming off the back of a photography expedition down to The Falklands, South Georgia Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, I held little hope for poor desolate windy Patagonia. Sure it has Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre and the Pireto Moreno Glacier, but really how could it compare with the sheer mass of wild life in The Falklands/South Georgia Island and exotic draw of Antarctica …. well 10 days in Patagonia blew my mind.
We started our journey in El Chalten. Fitz Roy in all its glory can be seen from town, looming in the distance. Wisps of cloud traipsing and caressing is bulbous peak. Calling out to the inhabitants of this small country town. I must say, its way more impressive than I expected.
I’ve never been a climber nor shall I ever be. For starters I’m not a big fan of heights and my main limitation, power to weight ratio is back to front. Yet the the peaks of this region were calling to me. Did I go don my climbing shoes, grab a rope, some cams and a harness? Not a chance. But I did pack a hiking pack, a few days clothes and my camera gear and set off on the trails in the region to photograph this beautiful place.
Trekking in Patagonia can be a bit of a hit and miss. The weather can change at the drop of a hat. We had rain, snow and sunshine. And it’s windy. Very Windy. Always Windy. Did I mention its windy?
To get to all the good vantage points there is quite some walking and a not insignificant amount of rock hopping. Overall the knees coped, the back coped with my pack weight and the company of my fellow trail companions made the trip light hearted and enjoyable. Though I must say I do miss the Australian experience of sitting around a camp fire at night, with Patagonia’s high winds and dry fallen timber, fires are a no no.
On our last night of viewing Fitz Roy, we had dinner, a glass of wine and were relaxing watching the sunset. The sunset wasn’t particularly awe inspiring but I was there, relaxed and enjoying the experience. I was shooting a few frames of Fitz Roy. The clouds were covering the peak and I was talking to our marvellous guide when he squeals with excitement “I think I saw a puma tail! Its a puma!!!”
I replied “You’re pulling my leg surely David?!?” and out from behind a tree across the river strides a Puma. It stops, looks at us for 20-25 seconds and then disappears back into the forest.
I turned and looked at our guide. The look on his face said it all. Flabbergasted he splutters out …. “I’ve been guiding for 14 years and never seen a Puma”
I managed to capture a number of frames. I only had a 70-200 at my side and the Puma was across the other side of a glacial river. But I still captured some frames. Its fair to say I won’t be winning BBC Wildlife Photographer of the year with this one. But I’m just happy for the experience.
Post the sighting we were discussing rare animals in the area and our guide told us about the Andean Deer. Sadly, or luckily, I saw one within the first ten minutes of setting out hiking. In my ignorance I didn’t make much of it so I didn’t inform my fellow hikers. Our guide looked at me and said “Now you’re pulling my leg!”.
After the excitement and joys of a Fitz Roy and the Puma we headed over to photograph Cerro Torre. We had a few days in this region photographing the peaks from a few different vantage points. Our best shoot was on the last moraine before the glacier at the base of Cerro Torre. Rising at 3:55am to hike out for sunrise, it was a cold blistering wind coming down from the glacier. But it was worth every moment of discomfort as we were award a beautiful warm glow as the sun kissed the peaks. Returning to our campsite at 6:30am there was no way I could sleep after this experience. So a few cups of coffee and some biscuits and I powered through until breakfast before hiking out of the Glaciers National Park into El Chalten for a celebratory dinner.
The next day we headed out to El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier. What a marvellous and accessible glacier. The weather wasn’t the best but there was a break in the weather to walk on this magnificent mammoth glacier and having a wee drab of Whisky during the walk, before heading to the balconies to shoot it from another vantage point. We retired to town to our new favourite restaurant for another great meal before flying out to Ushuaia.
Patagonia was an amazing place. Better than I ever could have anticipated. I’ve walked away with some beautiful images which I will share at a later stage when I have finished processing them back at my studio. Will I go back to Patagonia? I’d love to. Those majestic peaks are calling me.
So I’m now sitting here in Ushuaia writing this last blog post for 12 days in a cafe as Joshua Holko and I prepare to board for our 12 day Spirit of Antarctica expedition. Another ship full of eager photographers chomping at the bit to get down to see the amazing wildlife and scenery, to set foot on the content and relish the surreal experience that is Antarctica.
Thats it from me for now. Signing off for now!