In order to film wildlife, it goes without saying patience in abundance is needed, and fortunately I am blessed with it by the container load, but sitting around Puerto Natales, as I have been for a week awaiting permission to set up my tent in an area of Torres del Paine National Park, where this is not permitted, driving me to my absolute limits. The fact I once lived in a tent, on and off for 3 years during my visits here between 1998 and 2003, does not mean I ca just waltz up and carry on as before, if only. I am fortunate I still have friends in CONAF, the Chilean Forestry service who administer the parks, so this is a blessing, as I am not starting with a blank canvas.
This morning the rain hammering on the roof and windows of my hostel in town woke me early, so the only option was to drink nasty Nescafe instant coffee in the reception, as nothing in town is open that early, but I was lifted from the depths of my mild depressive state, when Alejandra Olivares a Conaf ranger called to tell me the head rangers and regional director asked to set up up a meeting this afternoon at 4pm, what a relief that was.
I should add that yesterday I accompanied Alejandra and Alvaro, another park ranger to the Milodon Cave, a national monument outside the town about 25k, where in 1892'ish, Captain Herman Eberhardt, a German citizen and sea captain arrived in the area after leaving Punta Arenas a month earlier. On there wanderings in this area they discovered the skin and bones of a Grizzly Bear sized sloth in a huge cave know called the Milodon cave. It is here that in 2014 Conaf placed some camera traps in order to try and capture some footage of the very very rarely seen Gato Montes or Geoffrey's cat ( Leopardus Geoffroyi ) as we English speakers know it. They managed to capture a couple of adults, and on some occasions during the breeding season the female appeared with 2 kittens, a real bonus for them, and the best news of all is I have permission to set up a hide in the woods to film them. The cats are returning to 3 locations on a very regular basis to defecate and pee, and luckily for me there are several suitable places, I can safely sit without disturbing them, as they go about their toilet duties.
All 3 locations are under slight conglomerate rock formations, in a beautiful wooded setting, and I have even have a clear line of sight to all 3 toilet locations. I am of course over the bloody moon at being given permission to film such a rare species, especially one so rarely filmed in the wild. I have seen several clips from the trap cameras, both day and nighttime footage, which of course is usable for a program, but the chance to film with a my camera during the day at much higher quality is fantastic. In the future if I can get the funding through my potential producers, I could return with a thermal imaging or infra red camera of much higher quality, but first we have to see how we fare with my present camera. Wondered town for a while yesterday and sourced some army camouflage material to make a hide in the dense undergrowth, about 25mtrs away from the locations. The surrounding bushes and trees are perfect to build a hide in, so I just have to get set up, sit tight and wait for them to stroll by. This truly is a pleasant distraction from my main goal of filming the Pumas, sadly I have no car at the moment, but I will be able to catch rides with the rangers , some of whom live in town and drive out everyday.
So by 4pm I will hopefully know my fate, as far as my request to camp at my old stomping ground near Sarmiento, which to be honest is the the only place I can set up camp for numerous reasons. I have far too much equipment to leave in an official campsite, full of tourists, and a long walk from where most of my filming will occur, and then the dreaded issue of security for my equipment, I am a one man band so my basecamp has to be secure, and pitching next to the rangers hut, in an area where no hikers go is my best option, lets just hope they see it that way. On past visits I spent a very long time based here, and will be the happiest camera operator in South America, if I get too return here for the winter, which is not too far away, I have all the gear of course, I just need a patch of ground to drop it all on, then I can get down to the serious business of walking with and filming the regions apex predator...........