Like a Sherpa in Patagonia Park
GONZALO GRANJA · PHOTOGRAPHER
I was always moved by documentaries with scenes of Himalayan Sherpa tracking snow leopards, reading the ground, searching for clues, following the trails, feeling the wild so close that their breathing is intensified and shortened. What indescribable adrenaline.
We had been out for two whole days looking for fauna with guides in Patagonia Park’s Portals —a must stop in my journey along route forty. Even though we didn’t see any pumas, we walked a good number of kilometers of dramatic landscapes feeling a particular tension, aware of everything: the wind blowing, the type of vegetation around, the animals that appeared. You are alert to every detail in a state that makes the experience unique and exciting.
Gon Granja at the unmissable Land of Colors (Tierra de Colores Trail) in Portal Cañadón Pinturas. Photo: Canoa Films
That day, I was with the Rewilding Team of Parque Patagonia, a group of guys working to recover the puma and other native species and make them allies for local communities using nature tourism. Patagonia Park blends past and present but also gives an encouraging future.
We walked from nine in the morning to eight in the evening. Most of the time, you walk with an addressed tension, with sharpened senses, on edge; an actual search. Fede’s antenna marked a gain level of two, which means that Puna, a female puma wearing a satellite monitoring collar, was five to ten meters away.
We were sitting in a row on the slope of a small, shallow steppe valley. The three of us unmoving, exploring with our sight every meter of rock, every molle tree, and every cave in absolute silence, searching for the big prize.
Local wildlife played a crucial role in the life of the nomadic peoples who inhabited this region between nine thousand and two thousand years ago. This relationship rests depicted in the fantastic rock paintings of pregnant guanacos, seemingly invoking fertility, complex hunting scenes of this large herbivore, rheas, and pumas in different places across the Portal. Photos: Gon Granja
I am a photographer because I am curious. I feel that photography plays a crucial role in nature conservation because it creates a bridge drawing attention to the importance of these spaces, flora, and fauna. No one cares about what one doesn’t know, and images can be the first step in this chain. In the beginning, I worked for brands, but I felt something was missing. So, I started going to natural isolated places to spend time, and that is how I took my first steps into nature and outdoor activities’ photography.
However, I had never walked after the trails of a big feline, like the Sherpa. And that was what was happening right then in Patagonia Park. We decided to go through the valley around a group of caves created by big rocks to look from the other side: nothing. Fede, whose priority is to respect the distances and times of the puma, said that Puna had probably been watching us from the upper moraine in which our valley was carved. That same situation of Puna watching us from an inaccessible point out of our sight occurred once more surrounding the north face of Caracoles Canyon, a rocky and labyrinthic otherworldly landscape.
Even though we didn’t see any pumas, we found everything we were looking for: the encounter with the wild. I will come back, though, and give this outing another chance to take a photo of a free puma in this different Patagonia.
Gonzalo was born in Córdoba, Argentina. He spends his time producing audiovisual content focused on nature and the outdoors. He traveled over 15 countries, recording experiences in natural environments like hiking, skiing, swimming, or camping in remote places. He uses photography to share moments that invite people to get out and spend more time in nature and thus help raise awareness about its value.