Patagonia Day 2

Hi Everyone

I am currently in Patagonia and the hotel and town have horrible internet service. If this blog does not go through I will republish tomorrow. 

How did the day start at 3AM? I did not sleep much in BA and woke up before the phone alarm went off. We all met in the lobby at 4 AM and left for the airport. BA has two airports. We arrived in the one that only carries domestic flights. Next to the Atlantic and close to the middle of the city. Reminded me of the location of LaGuardia in NYC. At 4:30 AM, the Airport was very busy. We checked in and of course, my suitcase was overweight. What do you expect with winter clothes and all sorts of camera gadgets. The price was only $30US and I got off lucky. In Siem Reap, I was charged $175 for overweight. We then went through a round of security checks and boarded our flight for three hours. Fortunately, this was a jet. When I go on a photography trip and then take domestic flights on props, my camera gear and luggage become a major problem. On props, the overhead storage is much smaller than the jet overhead and my camera gear often will not fit and I refuse to have them put it in with the cargo. Normally, I unpack some gear and hold the gear during the flights. Not the case now. We arrived in the middle of nowhere. The destination was El Chalten, but I did not see any resemblance of any town nearby. We then all boarded a big comfortable bus. Photographers like to spread out and we are always given at least two seats per person to spread our gear out. We drove for about one hour over terrain that reminded me of Peru and Iceland. No trees and very barren. Stopped to take some pictures of animals that looked somewhat like alpacas and llamas. We finally arrived at our destination, a working gaucho ranch. We were met by two male gauchos and one female gaucho. They were cooking our lunch outside. A huge lamb carcass was stretched out on poles and huge in front of a wood burning pit. We were told that the lamb was already cooking for four hours. We then took pictures of the gauchos doing their daily chores with their horses. Got some great shots of these  beautiful people. We were served a local tea named “Mate”. The tea is grown in Northern Argentina near a rain forest and very strong and good. The gauchos drink this tea al day long. They drink it through a straw. Very unusual. It was then time for lunch. What a feast. One gaucho carved up the lamb carcass with a huge knife and served the pieces to us. The juices and taste was extraordinary. It was then time for another photo shoot with the gauchos, but this included their horses. How beautiful they were riding along the terrain. The terrain was mostly sand. Sort of a high desert. I have been in a desert like this in New Mexico and Arizona. They chased some horses through the terrain with their ropes out and yelling for the horses to run. A truly unique experience.

After doing lots of hiking and picture taking, we finally left for “El Chalten”. El Chalten is an interesting town. The town is in the foothills of a mountain named “Mt. Fitzroy”. Mt Fitzroy is one of the ten hardest mountains to climb in the world. It is a little over eleven thousand feet, but straight up with very few ledges and lots of glaciers surrounding it. The Chilean border is about fifteen miles from here. Chile and Argentina share a 3000 mile natural boundary down Patagonia. This is the longest natural border in the world. There is small bridge that goes over a river leading into town. Chile claimed that the border with Argentina extended to this bridge. The Argentinians disagreed and in 1985 built the town of “El Chalten” here and settled some people here. The Argentinians did not want to set up a military base and escalate the border dispute. The dispute was finally settled in the World Court and Argentina won the verdict. The town has since grown and tourists come here now. The road that we took into the town ends outside the town where there are ice fields that now separate Chile and Argentina. No border crossing. Quite interesting and something I never knew. 

We then had dinner in the hotel. Of course, beef was served and the steak was so big and juicy that I could not finish it. 

It was then off to a night shoot before the sun sets. Lets talk a little about clouds. I have formed a love relationship with clouds. I love to take pictures of them and always are aware off their shapes and colors. I had rated Iceland as the most beautiful clouds that I had ever seen until today. The clouds in Patagonia are unbelievable. Our local guide told us that the clouds are different since the air streams from the Atlantic and Pacific meet here and form these amazing clouds. How are they different? A cloud is a cloud. I have seen clouds here shaped like pancakes, flying saucers, and all other types of shapes and colors. These are the best. The sun set at around ten, but it did not get fully dark until around 11. The days are longer as we inch our way to the end of the world. Before the sun set, we went out of town to shoot the clouds and Mt. Fitzroy. I could not stop shooting. Took over seven hundred pictures and stared at what I was witnessing on the greatest stage in the world. Howe lucky I am to witness this spectacle. 

It is now time to call it a day. Am, getting up past 4 AM for our shoot and then back to the hotel for breakfast.