We all have those days where it really is hard to decide whether one should laugh hysterically, or cry a river of tears, It transpired that today was one such day, and as I write I am still seething with frustration and at the same time wearing a grin as wide as the English Channel.
The reason is of course Puma related. I set off from camp and decided to walk west in the direction of Laguna de Los Cisnes, about a 3 hour walk, with pack and camera in search of a female with 4 young cubs, or a Puma with 3 young cubs and an older one from a previous litter.
Well the weather played ball, a slight breeze, clear sky and of course magnificent views, the problem was there were no Pumas to be found, my eyes ached from scanning the landscape, and once again a long day seemed to be about to come to a close with no images or film to show for my efforts. Just as I crested the last hill on road and the Park rangers hut, I noticed movement on the hill close to the water tanks behind the house, a quick look in the binoculars confirmed it was a Puma, and the bloody thing was 60ft from my bedroom window making it’s way to the side of the Lagoon and along it’s shore.
That is when the “ Shall I laugh or cry “ bit started whirling through my head, after 6 hours walking on the road, plus the numerous diversions to explore off road ( add 2 hours ) I return home empty handed to find the cat had come to visit me, I admit I was feeling somewhat sorry for myself, this was further exacerbated by the fact I had spent a lot of my day thinking about a girl I had met the year before in Chamonix and besides the hot shower I desperately needed, I kept thinking about being curled up on a sofa with the babe in question, enjoying a glass of wine and wondering how long it would be before the bubble burst and I would have my heart handed to me on a plate, I didn’t have to wait long !!
Meanwhile a 100 kilos of muscle tooth and claw with nothing other than killing a Guanaco on it’s mind, was now getting my full attention. The light was fading, the sun had sunk behind the Paine Massif, I might get a few seconds of footage, but with only a DSLR and an 80-200m lens and no accessories or electronic viewfinder to focus through I would be lucky to get anything. I was having to jog to keep up and every time I stopped to try and focus the cat had moved on, Oh my how I miss my Panasonic video camera, sitting in a box in Santiago beyond repair.
I managed a couple of clips, before calling it a day, my clothes were soaked in sweat, the temperature was dropping rapidly and my lungs, still not 100% after my bout of Pneumonitis , were letting me know it was time to slow down. I headed to the park rangers hut to say hi and get warm, but before I could even rub my hands over the hot wood burning stove, Hector, the ranger thrust his I phone in my face and began to scroll through a dozen close up images of the female and her 4 cubs that he and his 2 associates had seen down on the shore of Sarmiento at 5pm that afternoon, they had encountered the family among the calcium rock formations that are dotted all the way along it 25km length, they then followed them up the hill to the lagoon where they all sat on a rock formation just behind my house, it was the 2nd laugh or cry moment of my day.
I believe it was the female I saw at dusk going off to hunt, so this cameraman will be up early and walking the very short distance to the lake as I have no doubt the cubs will have been left there, so I am hoping to find them at first light, I will not be straying too far from the house tomorrow !!!