Sometimes I just can't help myself, I have a big mouth at times, sometimes it work in one's favour, other times well...... anyway only 2 days ago, I had to muster every ounce of energy I had left in me, in order to not burst out laughing and go off on a whopping rant when I was asked a question by a person I never dreamed would be asking me for such information, but as the universal saying goes " shit happens" . So there I was all tarted up in my new Chelsea blue Salomon trail running shoes, dressed to kill in my new Nike roll neck long sleeve wick away moisture fancy design top, a clear blue sky, no wind , and acres of beautiful scenery to myself, what could possibly go wrong !!! I will digress, but let me ..
I love running, and my desire to run while still recovering from a horrid chest cold, picked up in the UK several weeks back has left me feeling somewhat under par of late, but somehow I managed to convince myself it was a good idea for a late afternoon run. Over the preceding 4 days I had been up at sunrise marching with my filming equipment to location about 30 minutes up the road from my base camp, where I had located a female Patagonian Puma and her 4 young cubs.
Sadly the somewhat better funded and rather larger National Geographic Wild film crew had got wind of the particular female in my sector of Torres del Paine, so in they rolled in two 4X4'S , full crew of 6 plus guides, so I decided my one man band would not throw the toys out of the pram, spit the dummy and pour sugar in the fuel tanks of the jeep's, no I had come to an agreement with CONAF, ( the Chilean Forestry service who run the park, and of course control the filming permits etc etc ) that I would keep out of their and not film the same cat at the same time, and so I downed tools, and cleaned my tent, wrote a few lines, then got dressed for the run.
My lungs got me a little further than the area where our female Mountain Lion is holed up in her copse of trees and shrubs, so on the return, I stopped to have a look if she was sunning herself or the cubs were rolling around and driving her crazy, no sign at first, but after a few minutes of stretching and pretending I did not feel like shit, and the whole episode was undertaken a few days to early, the female came waltzing through knee high grass towards me.
Now it should be known that in my 3 years of living in the park previously, I have encountered these apex predators at very close quarters on dozens of occasions, so I am somewhat familiar with the tell tale signs, that could, if you're a really unlucky sod, mean you're lunch, and there will not be a great deal you could do about it, if a large male of female decided your were a Wednesday afternoon "special". So there I stood, in the middle of the road , halfway through some yoga move I had picked up on youtube, when this total babe of a female Puma, walks towards me with a shoulder and hip sway movement, every supermodel from Billy Joel's ex mrs to Linda Evangelista, and whoever else would not get her skinny ass out of bed for less than £10,000, would kill for. I was in heaven, I was not at all annoyed that I did not bring at least my phone or Go Pro, as she stopped less than 10 metres away, sat down and with a gentle non aggressive growl , which was her way of calling her offspring, who were off to my right somewhere in the direction of the big lake, her under side was not hanging down as much as it was on the first day I had filmed her, as the 4 cubs had done a great job of draining the milk reserves, but I was so impressed with just how powerful she looked, she really is a perfect example of her species, her cubs all look healthy from what I have seen and filmed so far, and the thought of getting to spend months watching grow into 4 fine examples of the regions apex predator, leaves me lost for words, and will keep my attention level at it's peak, I can assure you.
I watched as her muscular form faded into the tall dry golden grass, her head and powerful shoulders creating this magical sight as the knee high stems moved apart like a liquid wave of glowing grass, courtesy of the saturated late afternoon light, then, as if by magic closing gently back into place as she moved with each graceful movement. It was probably the most magically intense moment I had ever experienced, and I have had many here, even closer than this, when a 12-14 month old cub once smelt my calf muscle while I was filming it's siblings, but those few moments with that female a couple of days ago were something else, and in a way having no camera was a bonus, as I got to experience it without having to look through a viewfinder, and the beauty of it all is by the time anyone gets to read this blog, I will be off searching for her and her cubs this afternoon, and I will get to repeat this incredible process everyday for weeks to come.
So she was off looking for the mischievous 4, I had finished my Jane Fonda stretching, and resumed my run, but I got no further than 300 metres up the road, before I noticed the 4x4's of the Nat Geo Wild film crew I had seen in the morning at the parks south entrance. My mind, still buzzing from my encounter only minutes before, suddenly started ringing alarm bells hoping the cat was far enough into the grass heading away from the road and well out of sight of the 6-8 strong film crew about to tear up the tranquility of the afternoon with radios and vehicles and manic directors and producers, making it feel like a circus.
I slowed, they slowed, windows were lowered and I being ever so polite in my latex leggings and finest new Nike stretchy top , popped my head in the window, where after an initial rapid hello, was asked by a man holding a whopper of a camera set up , I would happily commit serious crime to own, the inevitable question, and man did I know this question was coming, " have you seen the female with the 3 or 4 cubs this afternoon, " obviously they were not certain how many she had, which immediately told me they had not encountered the whole family on their morning filming session, so I decided to not spoil my own party and strained to bursting point to keep a straight and told the little white lie, which i truly believe they fell for, and just to make sure the female, who was heading south in the direction of Lake Sarmiento, had more time to get deeper into the swaying golden grass, I dragged it out as best I could about seeing her with 3 cubs a couple of days ago, but the last 2 days were Puma free, so to speak, I quickly rubbed the camera operators ego by taking a jealous interest in the staggeringly expense Canon zoom lens ( CN 50-1000 ) which was attached to a rather pricey Sony F 55, but for extra security for the cat to make her escape I stuck my head in the door of the 2nd jeep and introduced myself, a quick hi and bye, and then I resumed my lung busting run, knowing full well the cat would be out of the spotlight, giving her time to locate the 4 cubs.
I, the piss poor self funded team of 1, without transport , or 4K camera and lens , whose value would be sufficient for me to buy a piece of land round here, where I could build a wood cabin and grow rhubarb ( well it grows well around these parts ) am expected to part with valuable info about the species we are both trying to film, in a manner one would casually ask a stranger the way to Marble Arch from Hyde park corner, I THINK NOT, David and Goliath sprang to mind as huffed and puffed my way down the home stretch and much needed water and fodder. I have no doubt our paths will cross as they are here for another 8-10 days, but I will be nice......I just won't tell the truth.