It's a 4 hour drive from the tin pot airport in Patagonia to the forests that Darwin's frog calls home. They are like something out of a fairy tale - a surreal mixture of dense bamboo, wild fuschia trees, giant gunnera plants (an oversized relative of the rhubarb with leaves big enough to live under) and lofty trees dripping in moss, all surrounded by snowcapped peaks. A thick mist hangs in the air. It's all very Lord of the Rings.
So we're looking for a 3cm, perfectly camouflaged frog in this vast national park. The words needle and haystack spring to mind but Claudio is confident we're going to succeed. Last year he combed southern Chile for Rhinoderma, checking pristine wilderness locations that were all thought to have healthy populations. He found nothing for a month and was on the verge of despair when he set up camp in this enchanted forest. Nature called and he finally stumbled upon his first specimen by the campsite toilet. It seems Darwin's frog is the George Michael of the amphibian world and likes nothing better than hanging out by the gents. So it's our job to do the same for the next 3 days - which could take some explaining if we get busted.
So we head straight for the loos and within 5 minutes Andrew has spotted his first Darwin's frog. A juvenile no more than 1cm long.
The discovery of baby froglets makes us all even more excited about the possibility that we might find a pregnant male - the holy grail of the herp world. Others follow - impressive adult specimens including one that looks like it might have eggs in its throat...it's all very exciting.