Thursday, 7 January 2010

Memories of the past, dreams for the future. Part 6

 Huanuluán & Yuquiche
(* indicates place name is marked on map in Part 2)

There were nine of us in two pick-up trucks, bumping slowly and crazily across the terrain with virtually no roads – Ringo, the driver in the pick-up I travelled in, knew the farm well and was keen that I should find all the locations I wanted to see.

L to R: Juan, the driver of the second pick-up, Patricia and Fabiana, schoolteachers, journalist Carlos with the white beard, next to him writer Ramón with recently purchased stylish woolly hat & coat, myself with ditto brown cardie & scarf, head teacher Bibiana, local landowner Oscar Díaz in blue boiler suit, and Ringo, driver of the first pick-up and local guide. Ringo’s son Carlitos took the picture.

I found that to translate this book I had to climb right inside it if I was going to do it properly – it became a part of me, and for brief moments I would also find myself inside the mind of the author Mollie Robertson.  She pulled the strings, and I saw what she wanted me to see.  And here at Huanuluán* I saw it.  I knew that stream, the gleaming pastures undulating in the fresh wind, the blue foothills in the distance, and all around me the young wildlife in spring which she described so well.  I wasn’t seeing it for the first time, but as if after a very, very long absence.  If my companions saw me looking misty eyed thankfully they didn’t remark on it, and I took as many pictures as I could.

Estancia Huanuluán*


Flamingoes and a bustard on the right

The most startling find was the sheep shearing shed, which had been abandoned as a workplace a couple of decades earlier following the introduction of more modern methods, and had been quietly sleeping undisturbed amid its memories and cobwebs.  The machinery said it all “Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Co. Ltd, London, England, 1895” – unchanged since the farm was established.  There were the holding pens, the back door full of cracks, and what Mollie called “Madame Guillotine”, the ceiling-high contraption which compressed the wool into bales.  After the shearing had finished she would play in the shed, now still, quiet and spooky as it creaked gently in the wind, and imagine ghosts lived there…

The sheep shearing shed as it may well have been in the 20's

...and no doubt the same gate!

"Madame Guillotine" - the baling machine

There were places specifically described which I wanted to see, and Ringo and local landowner Oscar Díaz found them – there were the prehistoric cave paintings where Mollie’s father had tried unsuccessfully to pursue the puma that was decimating his flock...

...which Oscar now guards carefully since so-called experts once hacked away at one of them to remove the top layer to take away, and left a heartbreaking terrible mess behind.

…And the waterfall where Mollie and her pony would refresh themselves after a long ride…

(Photo by Oscar Díaz)

…located within a gigantic rocky amphitheatre.

There had also been certain petrified trees in the twenties, but we learned that they had long since been removed piecemeal by visitors and souvenir hunters (no tourists in those days).

On the following day Fabiana and Patricia, the two schoolteachers, took us on “a mystery tour” as they called it, to see the lands known as Yuquiche*.  They’re hoping to set up a tourist trail through (low) mountainous country with strange rock formations...

...ancient native burial grounds, the cave of the last milodon...

... and more prehistoric rock paintings, with a stop at a remote self-sufficient farm whose natural spring has made the dry steppe bloom.

At Las Tres Golondrinas (the three swallows, after his three daughters) we met Sr Balbontín -

...Mrs Balbontín... of his daughters and grandaughter...

...some of his livestock...

...a trout farm built by him...


They noticed us "aaahing" over the little newborn kids, one of which had been brought into the kitchen in a basket to warm up by the stove, and told us they can't afford to get fond of these sweet creatures because they are eaten when they've put on a bit of flesh... (It makes me flinch to even write this, I must admit.)

In winter when there's so much snow that they can't really venture outside, the picture below shows what Señora Balbontín and their daughter do - they discovered by chance one winter when idly playing with dough, that both of them had a knack for modelling, and using clay started to fashion little animals, baking them in the compartment of the cooking stove where the coals are, and then painting them afterwards.  They have found a ready market for them in Jacobacci, and when I tried to buy some, found that they were all spoken for, or weren't finished.  The naȉve designs and bright colours appear to conform with visitors' perception of the simple country life, and they can't get enough of them.  Their little cottage industry is helping them to buy a few home comforts from time to time.

On a walk round the property we were shown all the herbs which grow naturally, and one by one Sra Balbontín explained how they replaced most standard medicines, from antibiotics on downwards. We all have a lot to learn I think.

As part of their market research we were encouraged by Fabiana and Patricia to comment on the tour, and I know we all found it enchanting.  If I had one doubt, it was the assumption that toilet functions required no special thought and could be performed anywhere.  I’m not being squeamish – at least not in the way you may think.  There was a very strong icy wind blowing constantly and pitilessly, and it’s an area of massive boulders and green pasture – so you either chose very poor concealment in knee-high grass, or you climbed for a while and braved the icy draft round your exposed nether regions.  Just you try telling yourself to hurry up before your bottom goes blue and see how far it gets you…  And meanwhile your fellow travellers are waiting impatiently below…  But don’t ask me what the solution is – I have no idea!

Er - pit stop please?

WHAT???   HERE???



Ramón Minieri said...

Hermosa la selección de fotos, y muy interesantes los comentarios. Te felicito. Firmado: el señor que había comprado el gorro y el abrigo.

THE DASH! said...

Oh my gosh! Amazing photos - loved the horse one with the black horse jumping and the shots of the shearing shed: very arty!!!

Another amazing installment, Caroline. xx

Sandy Lee said...

These pictures are incredible. Did you take them. If so, you are one talented photographer. The portrait pics are phenomenal. Thanks for the updates. Sandy

Lonicera said...

Thank you all! Whenever the pix aren't mine, I put 'Google Images' underneath, or 'Photo taken by...', such as in the case of the waterfall (it was dry on the day we visited, and the contrast between dark rocks and bright sunshine was also too great).
I'm so glad you like them. I'm new to digital photography, and have to learn to curb my enthusiasm for sharpening the image on the computer, which becomes obvious if you see it full size on the screen....
And I'd love to return and do it all over again, and take twice as many pictures!

Nola said...

I just love reading your stuff Caroline!!! I look forward to every single installment and the pictures are to die for!!!
I have changed my email address too....sorry!! I still have it still avonetc etc? I will send one to that anyway and see what happens:)

Simone said...

Oh Caroline, this was brilliant amazing walking around the sheep shearing sheds, seeing Madame Guillotine and knowing this was where Mollie walked. That's such a special feeling isn't it - I felt very much like that when I was in Italy walking along the lanes that my father in law walked to school....very emotional.

Your photos are wonderful.....loved all the animal shots. It is not how I expected actually so seeing your photos has been really informative.

Just fascinating - you are such a great writer,


PS Loved the cleavage comment ;)

Miss Milo said...

Your photos are amazingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

Lonicera said...

Thanks again!

By the way - part translation of my friend Ramón's comment in Spanish: he declares that he's the person who bought the unusual woolly cap pictured in the this and the previous post.

He made his fashion statement!


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