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Argentina's Path of the Condor

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Uploaded on Sep 7, 2009

Patagonia, in Argentina, is a land of immense glaciers, active volcanoes and incredible natural beauty.

It is also home to the Andean condor.

A new documentary has captured both the beauty of the Patagonian mountain scenery and the majesty of the world's largest flying bird.

"El Camino del Condor" or "The Path of the Condor" shows the birds in their native habitat, thousands of meters above the mountains.

One of the stars of the documentary is paraglider Martin Vallmitjana. He first started copying the condors flying patterns to improve his own agility in the air.

The 30-year-old says he feels more at home in the air than on the ground. He says the knowledge gained from the condors feels like a great reservoir of rediscovered wisdom.

[Martin Vallmitjana, Paraglider]:
"To start with you get goosebumps and a sensation that you have discovered something that you still don't understand. It is like you still have to process it; I think there is still a lot more to be learn. This is the goosebumps that pioneers feel. It is the possibility to reach a place that you never imagined and that no one ever imagined to exist but that does exist. It is like rediscovering something that has already been discovered. It is incredible."

The documentary combines Vallmitjanas instinctive admiration for the condors with the expert knowledge of one Peruvian ornithologist.

Lorenzo Sympson lives in Patagonia and has been studying the condor for decades.

[Lorenzo Sympson, Ornithologist]:
"I was a bird watcher as a very young boy, but once I started observing the condor, I was really entranced. I was entranced by the way it lives, the way it flies and from then, up until now, it has been part of my life."

The outgoing Sympson might seem an odd partner for the more serious Vallmitjana. But the scientist says hes learned a lot from the adrenalin junkie.

Out of all of man's flying machines, the paraglider brings humans closest to the sensation of a soaring bird.

Its lightweight canopy fills with surges of hot air that radiate off the mountains.

The pilot has to soar from one surge to another to stay afloat.

The condor has an average bodyweight of weight around 14 kilograms and flies in exactly the same way.

It can remain in the air for many hours without ever flapping its wings.

It was director Christian Holler's idea to bring Sympson and Vallmitjana together for the film to explore the incredibly energy-efficient flying style of the condors.

[Christian Holler, Director]:
"My dream is to tell stories. Lorenzo's dream is to know more about the condors and to be able to study them.

And Martin's dream is to be able to fly more and better and to learn how to fly from the condors."

Holler says the team now wants to invest some of their resources into conservation.

They are planning a series of free school screenings of "El Camino del Condor" in Argentina to create awareness about protection of the condor, especially in communities that border on the Andes mountains.

The world's biggest flying bird is endangered by deforestation, pollution and hunting.

Scientists estimate there are no more than a few thousand of the species left in the Andean ranges.

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