Arriving in Patagonia

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A lot of people are wondering why I'm not spending what promises to be a warmer than usual summer in the United States and instead writing this blog during winter in the Patagonia, Chile. The short answer is that my two sons, Trent (18) and Alex (15), are both avid wildlife photographers. They are spending ten weeks in the Torres del Paine park looking for wildlife, especially puma. I'll report on their success periodically. They are currently trekking with a guide and two porters, trying to get a sense of the area, while I am hanging out in the nearby town of Puerto Natales. Even with porters, they'll have lots of camera gear to carry! I have my projects, too, this summer. I'm preparing a course on Climate Crises which I am planning to co-teach with Dr. Diane Husic in 2008. So when I'm not chasing after mountain lions, I'll be collecting information on glaciers and climate change here in Chile.

Getting to Puerto Natales (seen in photo from our hotel on the sound) is a bit difficult. Our goal was to arrive after 50 hours with all of our luggage. We travelled with two tripods and ten bags -- approximately two bags of outdoor camping gear, four of camera gear (including one large backpack for the 500mm lens we rented for this adventure), a 50 lb. box of two large 12V batteries for the spotlights (scooter batteries), one bag of spotlights and other assorted electronics, and two bags with books, computers and clothing. (We are very minimalist on the clothing – three outfits each with an extra two shirts.)

We drove to Washington, DC, and then flew (changing planes in Miami and Santiago, with an additional three stops in Chile) to Punta Arenas (the southern most city in the world – jumping off point for the Antarctica). Finally, a bus ride of three hours brought us to the town of Puerto Natales where the driver from the hotel was waiting for us. Only two problems occurred with our luggage: the day before we left an embargo on boxes was announced by the airline. But they didn't want the batteries in the duffel bags either ... so they agreed to allow the box if TSA would approve it and the batteries. The special line for TSA clearance worked just fine. We had arrived three hours early on purpose, which turned out to be a good thing. And when we arrived in Chile, the 500mm lens (approximately 2 feet long) got us sent over to the customs police section. After 15 minutes of dicussion, in Spanish, they decided to let us take the camera equipment with us after we filled out a list of every piece of photographic equipment we had in our possession along with serial numbers. We were also told to allow extra time for another visit with the customs police when we depart. We then ran to catch our final connection! All in all, pretty straightforward.

After some unpacking and sorting, the boys were already to leave with the prearranged guide, leaving me to explore the town of Puerto Natales!