Lonely Planet Writer

On the road with the documentary crew trekking the longest trail in South America

A four-man documentary film crew from the US and Germany is currently trekking and filming the 3000 km Greater Patagonia Trail, a linked route that runs north-south down Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia.

An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin
An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin

If you’ve never heard of the trail, which is the longest one in South America, you’re not alone, but Garrett Martin wants to change that, and he’s willing to break his back and go hungry for days to do so. “I’m really drawn to extremely remote and isolated places.” says Garrett. “And Patagonia is kind of the ultimate of that.”

An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin
An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin

In December 2016, Garrett, an aspiring documentary filmmaker from the US, convinced three associates to join him for a four-month trekking and filming adventure along the GPT. Their goal is to make a feature-length documentary to raise awareness of both the trail and environmental risks to the region.

An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin
An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000 km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin

The GPT is a linked route of existing horse trails, foot paths, and dirt roads mapped over the past four years by Dutch hiker, Jan Dudeck. It’s now reportedly the longest continuous walking system in South America. There are currently 33 sections, beginning at the last metro station in Santiago, Chile, and ending at a glacier south of Fitz Roy in Argentina. “How it’s set up,” says Garrett, “is that you complete sections and end up at a town or a bus stop that takes you to a town.”

An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin
An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin

In these towns, hikers can find accommodation, food, and supplies for the next section of trail. While on the trail itself, however, food and shelter is more unpredictable. “We’ve camped at a gaucho ranch,” says Garrett, “Where we had a nice little store next to us where they sold us bread and cheese. But on the last section we had to clear areas on the trail to fit two tents. Basically we had to put two of us in each tent with all the camera and backpacking equipment in there as well.”

An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin
An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin

As this is a hiking and film project, the list of camera and backpacking equipment is shockingly long. This comes on top of the backpacking equipment that is needed for the trip. Aside from the occasional gaucho with cheese to sell, food is usually little more than dehydrated soup. Getting enough calories each day, especially on the long sections that can run for ten days, has been a major issue for the team. “The most difficult thing for us is that we aren’t just hiking, we’re pack rafting as well,” says Garrett. “I am carrying one pack raft and it takes up almost half my pack. With that and my camera equipment, normally stuff that backpackers don’t have, I’m unable to take almost any food.”

An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin
An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000 km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin

Garrett and his team are now about halfway through the four-month trek. It definitely hasn’t gone as expected, but the setbacks haven’t discouraged them. “Its been a lot of back and forth,” he explains. “Chile was hit with the worst forest fires that they’ve seen in modern history in January, so we had to move out of the area as all the national parks were closed.”

An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin
An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000 km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin

“I think the best way to sum up to this trip would probably be the classic Murphy’s Law. Yes, we have hit a lot of obstacles and it seems as if we are constantly being beaten down, but that kind of adds a really cool aspect to the film and to the adventure itself. The whole point is testing ourselves mentally and physically as much as we can.”

An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin
An independent documentary crew is trekking the 3000km Greater Patagonia Trail in Chile. Image: Garrett Martin

Garrett posts regular updates on Facebook and on the Unbounded website. He also talks every couple weeks on a podcast.

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