I like to hike, and thus the appeal of this movie. The movie commences on Day 81 of their 120-day hike, with some serious slipping and sliding on a mountainside. I was quickly convinced that this is a hike I would never do. Of course, I am very far from my early 20’s, which is the ages of the four participants of this journey. Many times, I found myself saying “Bravo” for them, for undertaking such a journey, with, as was readily admitted, very little wilderness experience. At some level though, it was also a bit foolish… but many a journey, famous or not, has been. In the end, with a bit of luck, including that of the group dynamics, they made it. Bravo, redux.
Why Patagonia? “Isolation, unknown, and raw beauty.” Well said. The director, Garrett Martin, at the amazing (to me) age of 22, captured the beauty of Patagonia, brilliantly, and that is the true strength of this movie. Many kudos for lugging all the camera gear, in addition to all the necessities of life in the wild. Another strength of the movie was showing their very positive interactions with the welcoming natives of the region.
In those 120 days, they walked along the Greater Patagonia Trail, from just south of Santiago to Patagonia National Park, recently created by North Face billionaires Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and her husband, Douglas Tompkins (the latter recently died in a kayaking accident in Patagonia). The “greater” in the trail’s name could be an ultimate in aspirations. There are no trail markers; many places the trail is simply “conceptual.”
Problems? They had a few. They aimed to walk 16 km a day. For the first five days they averaged only six, and ultimately would have to retrace their entire route. Bluntly, as was said in the film: “We were not prepared and had to walk back.” They had no sunhats, and even the British woman, who served as the interpreter, had bad boots from the very beginning. Temperatures might range from 80 F to freezing, with hail, in a single day. There were scenes in which they were literally bushwhacking through jungle (I believe they even called it a jungle, instead of a rain forest!) And there was some sickness, particularly the female interpreter, who stated that she had never camped before.
To me, there were a number of issues that were not covered. Mainly, their food and fuel logistics. For sure, one cannot carry 120 days-worth of food. But there was virtually no mention of resupply via towns, and did these towns carry the supplies they needed? The four hikers were drawn from at least three different nationalities, but there was no mention how they met, and more importantly, how they were vetted for such a trip. Finances? Nary a mention also. And almost all the filming was done on sunny days, with rain shown only for Day 59. How many rainy days were there?
The youthful hikers embraced “no trace” wilderness ethics. They also recognized that the worse thing is to see a country through a lens. But I was stunned when they proclaimed that tourism is a tool for preserving culture! I’d recommend they all read Norman Lewis’ “Voices of the Old Sea.” And should a culture that is poverty be “preserved”?
For the beautiful photography, the positive interactions with the natives and the fact that they DID it, fully prepared, or no, 5-stars.