28 Jun A Conversation with Patagonia Explorer and “Unbounded” Filmmaker Garrett Martin – Part Two
In 2016, four young travelers set off unaided into Chilean Patagonia. For four months the team trekked and pack-rafted along the longest continual trail network in South America, documenting their journey, the region, and the local people. During the post-production of “Unbounded,” Adventure Collection Managing Editor Sabine Bergmann spoke with Garrett Martin, the director and cinematographer of the film. This is Part Two of a two-part series: check out Part One here.
SB: Over those four months, as you’re wandering out into the wilderness, what does that do to your psyche and mindset?
GM: It’s very difficult. We did all the filming for the documentary ourselves. So we would wake up at 6 in the morning, film for an hour, and then hike for 8 to 9 hours during the day before putting down our hiking gear and setting up camp. Then we’d film for another hour or two before going to bed. So that definitely took its toll throughout the trip.
SB: One reason people choose adventure travel is to push themselves to where they are exhausted and breaking down — hoping that it helps them break through.
GM: People are always looking to find that breaking point in how far the human spirit can go, but I don’t think many people find it. On the trip I realized how far you can actually go. I was exhausted, and struggling, but at the same time I could have kept going. Mentally, people are so strong. It’s incredible to learn not just how far your body can go, but how far your mind can go.
SB: I read on your website that you describe these places as “untamed but delicate.”
GM: Patagonia — and Chile in general — is an extremely wild place: you don’t see people for ages, the landscapes are rough and intense, and then the weather can change within ten to fifteen minutes. It’s almost like the American West hundreds of years ago: It’s completely wild and there aren’t too many people. Just picture cowboys running around!
At the same time, although it has that unforgiving aspect it has a very calm and surreal aspect too. It’s so peaceful out there, and people are extremely generous. The people there are the nicest any of us had met on any of our travels.
SB: You interviewed quite a few environmental experts in your film. Were these people you sought out, or people you met on the journey?
GM: Both. We spoke to people all over the spectrum: kayakers, government officials, policy-makers, lawyers, locals, and environmental activists. Some of them we met on the road.
At the very start of Patagonia, we pack-rafted the Puelo River. It’s a beautiful, pristine river — it’s got that classic light-blue, teal water. You want to just drink it. We ended up meeting a local along the trail, and camping on his property. He told us there was a dam being planned up the river. Even though they didn’t have permission yet, they had built a road, and were dumping debris in the river.
When we did our interview with the man, that light-blue, gorgeous river turned a dark, disgusting, muddy brown. There were rocks everywhere. We asked him, “What’s going on?” and he said, “Oh, in the late afternoon, that’s when the construction starts.”
That had a huge impact on us.
SB: These companies don’t even have permission?
GM: Well, the government policies are fairly complicated. It’s a very long process to get approval. So companies go ahead and start construction — and the government lets them.
SB: So unfortunate. Dams can be quite destructive.
GM: These Mega-Dams completely destroy the landscapes, along some of the most beautiful, pristine, untouched, and powerful rivers in the world. They’re often implemented in places where there are indigenous people.
SB: I think a lot of people, when they weigh the consequences of a dam, think, “Well, it’s generating electricity for local people, and that’s a good thing.”
GM: The crazy thing is that Chile doesn’t need the dams. They have some of the best renewable energy options in the world. They have the Atacama Desert in the north, and it’s perfect for solar panels; I’ve heard people say that that desert alone could provide enough electricity for all of Chile. They have geothermal activity, wind power. I mean, the wind that comes in from the ocean and combines with the mountains creates wind unlike anywhere else.
SB: That’s true. One of our writers describes winds strong enough to knock a hiker clean off their feet — even when they’re weighed down by hefty backpacks.
GM: Exactly. There are so many alternatives and opportunities, that there is no reason to build hydroelectric dams. It’s really just for the corporations to receive a profit.
SB: So is your hope for the film to raise awareness about these issues?
GM: We’re hoping to raise some money through the film to contribute back to these environmental organizations — especially the smaller ones. A lot of them work with lawyers and government officials to implement new policies.
SB: Is it working?
GM: While we were down there, the Tompkins Organization, which we love, made a historic agreement with the government to collectively contribute 11 million acres to create new national parks and add to additional ones. Tompkins would contribute 1 million of those acres, if the government provided the rest. And they did.
SB: Incredible. And when you’re measuring the progress of your life by kilometers, you get a sense of how much 11 million acres really is.
GM: It’s hard to fathom: 11 million acres, in just one agreement. It’s mind-boggling. It was the largest private land donation in history. It was really cool to be there during that time and realize how big of a movement is happening in Chile right now, and to be a part of that.
SB: Well I wish you the best of luck! Will you be going back?
GM: Without a doubt. I have other places that I might like more, but there’s something about Patagonia and Chile that is completely unique. I mean, I haven’t traveled everywhere, but I have to think that there’s nothing else like it in the world.
Learn more about “Unbounded” at the film’s official website.
If you’re inspired to see the awe-inspiring waters of Patagonia, try one of O.A.R.S.’ 6 Epic Patagonia Adventures, including kayaking through Marble Caves and rafting the Futaleufú.
You can also take a nature-focused Patagonia trip with Natural Habitat Adventures, a carbon neutral travel company that partners with the World Wildlife Fund on conservation efforts around the globe.