24 HOURS IN LIFE OF A CAMERAMAN TRYING TO DO JUST THAT !!!
I have left the extreme warmth of my sleeping bag, it is still pitch black o’clock outside, but not before painfully and somewhat awkwardly wiggling contortionist like into the clothes I rammed into the bottom of it the night before. This ritual, performed only on the coldest winter nights, is done in order to slip into fabric that does not resemble the frozen sheets of the Campo Hielo Sur ( Southern Patagonian Ice Cap ) the a short distance to the west of my lodgings, a place nightmares are made of, and one that is responsible of late, for so much of the misery inflicted on my person as I wander the vastness of the Torres Del Paine National Park filming Patagonian Pumas.
It is those first 30 minutes that are the most painful, as one waits for the water to boil, or not as the case has been of late, due to the fact the gas in my small bottle struggles to rise due to the extreme cold, and the result is a flame so small it would take a week to fry an egg. The solution, is simple use gas canisters that lay horizontal and fit into the side of a unit that comes with a small meal hob, and produce a stronger flame in cold weather, but I ran out of those when the weather was somewhat warmer, and I am left with lots of gas in vertical use bottles that has no desire to be burnt, and contribute o my caffeine intake in the wee dark hours.
So lighting a fire in the wood burning stove, is my fastest option yet a somewhat chilly one, as it was this very morning as I sit and write with fingers void of sensation at their tips, and occasionally look at the coming dawn through the frozen windows, decorated with the intricate patterns of the ice particles that the frozen night has deposited on them, their pleasing patterns will soon fade, as the sun rises over the hills and brings with it a tiny burst of warmth, a sign that I am way behind schedule, and should already be off with pack on my back, tripod over my shoulder, eagerly scanning from the road and surrounding hills for any sign of the elusive Patagonian Pumas I have come so far to film.
I am not alone in my endeavours to film the cats at this moment in time. A famous Emmy award winning Chilean cameraman Christian Munoz-Donso is here with a large crew, and they too are seeking these beautiful felines, only they have somewhat more resources than I, but I am still getting results, and Christian has very Kindly lent me a radio so we can share information and add a measure of safety to my wanderings, just in case I get into trouble. Winter is most certainly here and I am most happy that my decision to buy a very expensive sleeping bag, came to pass, because it is to put it mildly ,very very cold in my little hut on the prairie, a hut lovely little wooden dwelling that CONAF, the Chilean Forestry Service, that run the National Parks, have very kindly allowed me to live in, I will be eternally grateful to them for allowing me spend my nights in the luxury of a solid dwelling as opposed to my tent pitched near the huge wood pile around the side of the vegetable garden. It was - 10 in the night and the forecast is for lower temperatures, so the ability to arrive at camp after a long days filming and light a fire and cook with a roof over my head and a couple of windows to peer out of at will, is truly a luxury I will not take for granted.
I have just finished a large mug of fresh ground coffee and the usual kilo of porridge and honey, so it is time to head off and locate our 4 five month old cubs that are eagerly awaiting their mothers call to lead them to a kill, as the family has, as far as we can tell, not eaten for 12 or more days, and with these temperatures, the cubs and their mother are in need of their protein. A huge blanket of mist has just drifted across the peninsula where I am based near Lake Sarmiento, and the cats can use this get closer to the grazing Guanaco, so it is time to leave the luxurious warmth of the park rangers hut, and head off into the mist………
To be continued