Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Memories of the past, dreams for the future. Part 4

The Patagonia you don’t see in postcards
(* indicates place named on map in Part 2)

After a late night asado with friends in Viedma* when the success of the evening and the presentations had been analysed from every angle, we had another early start to head west 600 km.  I was still running on adrenalin, and hardly noticed the burning behind my eyelids.  My two companions were always entertaining, alternating at being the straight guy and the funny one, and they made me laugh a lot.  I was fortunate that they too enjoyed photography, and whoever was driving willingly screeched to a halt if someone saw a good subject, though I think I tried their patience a little with my enthusiasm for dust pictures.  (I may try yours as well.) 

Valcheta Police Station – I was told that in out of the way places the police station was always built to look unusual and imposing, so as to inspire respect.

When we stopped for lunch in Valcheta, I had another first – I was recognised by the restaurant owner from the article in the paper and the brief item on the evening news the night before, and they made me feel like a minor film star (WHY hadn’t I put on make-up? Should I just smile?  Should I check there was nothing stuck in my teeth before smiling?  What intelligent remarks could I make?  How does one eat and look famous AND refined at the same time?) 

From here onwards was the area known as La Travesía, literally ‘the crossing’ the drought-ridden, windswept, unforgiving steppe which would lead us to the outer reaches of the foothills of the Andes. 

If you have an image in your mind of Patagonia, perhaps it’s the majesty of the snow-capped Andean chain, the surprise of a pale green lake and the torrential rivers in the midst of the purple haze and the blue ice of a glacier, the breathtaking danger of its precipices...?
That is certainly the postcard view of the Andes west of route 40, the north-south highway that roughly divides looking up from looking down:  you look up at this unattainable beauty, pay homage to it, climb it, photograph it to death, do jigsaw puzzles of it. 

As you travel east from this point, you find yourself admiring the gentler colours and shapes of the foothills by looking into the distance at shoulder level.  Still further east - the land we were traversing now - the unique and special raw beauty of Patagonia is appreciated by looking down at your feet, by keeping quiet, crouching down and listening to the life going on around you despite the wind.  Nature’s perfection is there:  you just have to slow down to see it. 

And at night you are dwarfed and awed by the Milky Way sweeping from one horizon to the other, uninterrupted by mountain or city light, the velvet background black as ink and the Southern Cross pointing the way…

During the afternoon we reached the main road opposite the entrance to Talcahuala*, the first farm where Mollie Robertson had lived between 1916 and 1918.

The next picture is a view of the old house where she lived, which I took 18 months ago.  Today we had a long road to travel, and didn’t stop for very long.

From here we gazed at the view at shoulder level –

("Simpsons" sky?)

…and came to a juddering halt when we caught sight of these horses and I fell instantly in love with the foal.  He was nervous yet curious as to what I was up to, and pranced hither and thither, wondering whether to stay or flee...

(At my camera club a new member once asked about a technical term he had heard us use - "High or Low R Factor" when describing animal and baby pictures, and what it meant.  We had to explain that it was "Aaaaaaaah!!" factor...  This foal's aah factor is stratospheric as far as I'm concerned...)

Shortly after that the paved road ended and we were enveloped in dust again.  (Try not to cough). 

When they're coming towards you, you roll up your window and pray the windscreen won't take flying stones...

But when you get behind one of these monsters and you’re travelling in a tiny Vauxhall Corsa, you wind up the windows, change down and charge….

Next time I'll tell you about the next presentation in the town of Ingeniero Jacobacci* and how I almost found myself cast as a scarlet woman...


Tina said...

Ahh is right on the foal photo. He is adorable. I love your dust pictures too!!


The Dash! said...

Love your travel diary!!! The pictures just amaze me - love the police station (I thought it was a whacked out church at first lol) ..and the pics of the foals? Just beautiful!!

Zanna, travelling tart said...

Oh Caroline I'm loving this story - the photos are just amazing and your descriptions fill me with delight. Thank you so much Zxx

Simone said...

Oh, I am loving this story too.....I was mesmerised by your description of Patagonia, brilliant writing Caroline.

The dust is quite amazing....as is the colouring on the foal....a definite R factor!

A scarlet woman....ooooh, can't wait to hear about that LOL!!

Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my blog, the one today about George made me hoot!

I wish you many many good things in 2010 Caroline, you deserve them,

Simone xo

Lonicera said...

Thank you all! I'm sorry the entry just posted has so few pictures - I never thought at the time "this is for the blog" or I would have taken more record shots of the places I visited, or something to illustrate what I'm telling. I've got to learn to do that.

Ramón Minieri said...

Usted ya está emergiendo como escritora de pleno derecho, vea. Me alegro. Las fotos elegidas dan realmente idea de la vastedad, la soledad, los espacios magníficos, la transparencia del cielo de la Patagonia. Es un nivel de trabajo que entusiasma e inspira.

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