Peter Hartmann, activist leader, standing above massive rapids on the Rio Baker. “The biggest problem is that [the HidroAysén hydroelectric project] implies destroying everything, taking everything out of the region without leaving much behind…These projects are immense, on a scale that is absolutely unmanageable for this region. They’re unmanageable because this region is very fragile, ecologically, geologically as well as culturally. For example, in the area where they want to build the HidroAysén mega-project, there are as many people living there as the company is going to need to build the dams. So imagine what that means – practically doubling the area’s population.”
Please see more information on how this project basically shits on Chilean Patagonia.
And please also see more photos of what will be lost if the dams are constructed.
Kelly and Shea were at the terminal de bus.
We greeted each other Argentine style¹, a reflex.
I thought later how we were American men kissing each other, but that we’d all been down here so long it was like none of us was fully ‘American’ anymore.
Is anybody ‘fully’ anything?
There was a somber onda there standing by the buses.
The season was over.
Kelly and I had led kids down the river a couple days earlier.
Now he and Shea would be heading back to North America to guide rafts.
Layla couldn’t get comfortable on the bus.
I tried making up a story about a fish called ‘gaman.’
Halfway to Foyel the gears started slipping, then worked again.
In the bus terminal in Bariloche I held Layla above the toilet.
An old man ripped off a paper towel for us while we were washing our hands.
Outside the terminal were two American kids about to fly-fish the Limay rivermouth.
I had the biggest bags of anyone on the local 72 to the aeorpuerto.
When we got to the airport I appreciated the automatic bathroom sinks.
Inside an office marked “swissport,” two middleaged men and one woman were processing our boarding passes without, apparently, a computer.
Mami bought Layla a white lamb doll from the gift shop.
In the cafeteria we ate french fries 2-3 at a time.
I help Mica with one hand while drinking coffee.
After lunch he was fussy, needed walking.
Two Argentine ladies complimented him on his peinado. ²
The monitors showed “Delayed / Demorrado,” then switched to 5:20, more than two hours away.
Back at the table, Lau and Layla were drawing creatures.
On the other side of the glass it looked windy.
We bought an alfajor to go, went for a walk.
Three American men wearing camo were checking their shotguns as baggage.
Outside, a taxi driver and airport clerk kicked a soccer ball on new-looking pavement.
One wore a sweater vest and button down shirt, didn’t seem to worry about getting dirty.
In the wind and sun I felt less tired.
I looked at the ridgelines above the steppe, wondered what names people used to call them.
A windbreak of ponderosas made white noise.
I saw an oddly camouflaged color entangled in the fenceline trash, realized it was a hawk feather.
A policeman walked down the embankment where we sat and asked for my identification, what I was doing, what I was writing.
I held up these notes and said ‘poemas mias.’
¹ a single kiss on the right cheek, more just leaning in cheek to cheek than actually pressing lips against person’s cheek.
Josh knew the opening chords to Ave Maria. Earlier we’d eaten choripánes, cones of french fries, drank El Bolsón and Auracana beers. There were maybe 5,000 people. We’d walked in from the barrio along the airstrip. I kept pointing out elementary school age kids running around in packs at 12:45 am unsupervised. Jung talks about the need to see elements of your unconscious manifested in reality. The sound system was cranked so loud that Ave Maria was distorting. Jairo (the singer) had a smile we discussed as ‘skeletal’. I told Josh what Lau had told me about him: he’d been a popular folk singer during the 80s but had to go into exile (Paris) during the military dictatorship. We were on our second liters of beer now. A TV monitor showed a loop of hops being cultivated. Packs of police wearing chest plates and carrying outdated automatics stood in circles texting and talking on cellphones. Smoke from the food vendors’ carts blew horizontally southward. We all had on heavy coats. I pointed to the cordillera and told Josh we’d have good weather for going up there tomorrow. Pedrito, the 5 year old from across the street,, was trying to ollie his brother’s skateboard. Josh said something about it not feeling like he was traveling. I thought about him recognizing Ave Maria and remembered he’d told me once that as a kid he was a youth pastor. This was the first time a friend had come to visit in the 18 months since we’d moved to Patagonia. I sort of waved my arms around to indicate everything: the kids, the smoke, the wind, the runway, Ave Maria coming through all distorted. I told Josh, “if you could only write like a tiny bit of how this actually feels.”
ON – OFF DRIZZLE. The cairns and talus slopes just right there getting slicked. We decide to call it. We can finish breaking down camp and then hike out together, parting ways at the turnoff back to Hue Nain. More wind gusts, as if confirming the decision. We eat freeze dried bacon and eggs. Astronaut foil pouches. Kind of nasty liquidy runoff.
A break then. Temporary clearage. We finish camp breakdown and decide to just walk up into it. If it starts dumping we can always retreat. Up first into this boxed in section of waterfalls. All of it running down from the snowfields and glaciers up near the ridgeline. This massive bowl of all different sized talus. Purple and brown and white boulders with treeline tapering away in these little pockets of lenga forests. The water dripping through all of it in meltwater channels, some dropping straight down from snowfields 1000 feet vertical, turning into spray on the mountainside. Others streaming together to form Arroyo Teno. The walking sticks feeling good on the talus. Basic rockhopping. We stop and take a pic looking back from the waterfall (above).
Coming back down the L knee starting to feel it. But then there’s the flag, these other cairns leading up higher into the bowl. We decide to get a view from the next section of cairns. This feeling of moving fast and smooth but knowing on the way down you’ll pay for it. Each step adding another foot to the more than 3,000 ft of descent in the hike out. What do you think? Josh tells me we should head up another 10 minutes and re-evaluate.
We never planned to hike up to the glacier but at the pace we’re scrambling it’s as if this unspoken decision was made. This kind of nervous energy in the scramble now and I’m leaving Josh behind.
I peel off layers. I reach this mini-throne-rock. A massive view out from the pocket. Sitting up there waiting for Josh and just looking around. Up high enough to see layers of mountains back to the east and Piltriquitron. Home.
Falling water sound everywhere. Up above, another flag, maybe 150m, then a big turn where the route goes up steeper. No sight of Josh scrambling up yet. This feeling that right now the flow is just going back down. That this is the Apex. The turning back point. Not because I couldn’t easily make it to the top. Not because I’m really worried the hike out will be too long and I’ll be limping by the end (although that’s part of it.) I’m not sure why exactly but as I think about it, it occurs to me that whenever I’ve had these feelings I always tell myself I’ll come back.
A little sun-break opens and then quickly closes up. Josh will stay up here tonight. He’s still ‘up here’ while I’ve got a ‘travel day’ ahead. He gets to go on up to the glacier, to get that for the team. More falling water sound. If you could just keep hearing it always. If you could stay up here. If you could remember they’re all travel days.
This thought now that when he gets up here I’ve got to tell him that I’m heading back down, even though me busting away right now just below the final push for the glacier is incongruous with the unspoken flow we’ve locked in to this morning of just fucking going for it. But after a while he scrambles up and as soon as I say I’m rolling back there isn’t any feeling of judgment or worry or anything else but just a sudden sense that the part of this trip that led to this moment has already ended and his trip and mine are changing, morphing into something else, and I say “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a sick parting ways spot,” and on my way down and on Josh’s way up we both turn at various places on the mountainside and give each other a few victory arm raises from what’s quickly become thousands of feet across the bowl.
The actors had their Citroen 3cv modelo 74 parked inside the circus tent. They’d driven down from Buenos Aires. Their show was the ‘6 stages of a relationship.’ Layla was with me. One of the actors was Mexican. In the first act he played the waiter. The other two actors were from Buenos Aires. They drank wine. The circus tent was their restaurant. Que estan saying papi? I don’t know baby. All week this strange deadness. I told people to watch out for writers talking about nature like some kind of ‘magic on/off switch’. But then how do you tell anybody what to think? All of it just wasted scenes and lines in stories and your own shit. The second act they were now married. In post honeymoon extended stoke. Talking and living as if things could just be gastado. That kind of energy where everything is still yours. The way you occupy a street or backyard or ramp or wherever when you’re a kid. Layla said Quiero algo de comer and we went to the grocery store. When we came back it was the third or act and they had a baby. They didn’t look tired enough though. They needed to look way more fucking tired. There had to be crying to the point where it was breaking your heart because you were blocking out the crying sound because it was breaking your heart. There had to be moments where they were in bed looking up in the ceiling and there were no more spaces between anything. In the fourth act they were fighting. The man lost his job. Now he worked at McDonalds. The Mexican came out between acts and asked the audience for commentary. He had a mustache and hair slicked with aloe vera (he said). He wore a blue suit and small well-polished shoes. Earlier in the day I had 18 tabs open. I was listening to r.e.m. on GrooveShark. The oldest tunes, Chronic Town. The song ‘Stumble.’ It made me think about walking around Athens Georgia during college. There are more variations of nostalgia than there are words to describe them. I opened a blog that analyzes every r.e.m. song. It described ‘stumble’ as a drunken walk round about midnight through ‘hipster town.’ There was a lyric clarification from Mike Mills – the indecipherable words in the chorus are ‘fallen chant.’ I thought about a short story based on the protagonist having an aneurysm and dying and the narrator describes what tabs were left open on his computer. In the sixth and final act they wore grey wigs and moved arthritically. They were back in the restaurant. Their 50th anniversary. They finished their wine. They talked loudly. For me it’s the knees going first. I can’t imagine the hearing. Goddamn. To not hear wave sounds? The Mexican played minor chords on the guitar. They finished their dance. Now they’d be driving their 3CV somewhere else. The Mexican stayed up on stage passing out cards. On the way out I asked for one.
Shade tarps hung over the Feria. El Bolson maxed out with kids from Buenos Aires. High school age, 16, 17, sometimes younger. Backpacks leaning on restaurant walls, table legs. Something about being able to drink and travel during adolescence as a part of your culture and not as somehow fucking up or ‘taking time off’ or ‘finding oneself.’ The absence of camps. Life lived out on the streets. Long lines at the ATMs pushing towards the shade. A thick-assed policewoman walking quickly in combat boots. The cooler at Los Girasoles empty except for Isenbeck. Waitresses and bartenders at Jauja, Hummus, Roberto at the verduleria, everyone moving in slowmo. Back at the barrio, all the younger men with our shirts off. Cutting grass and fixing cars in the morning. The brightness of tin roofs. Nobody out between 12 and 4. The skin from the Colques’ New Years cordero still flayed up in the shed. A cat flattened out in the shade of their truck, kittens nursing. Waiting till late to go on runs. Grasshoppers in the retamas, bees on the Hypericum. Where the trail meets San Martin, a couple of Gauchos asking if I’d seen a horse. Dense dust rising from car tires. Hosing down garden and self post-run. Kale, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce visibly taller. Evening drives to the river. On the way through town, a woman with breasts loose in a sun dress shoveling dog-strewn garbage. Water in the Azul warm enough that you don’t gasp anymore. Low flow, the snowpack nearly melted out. Learning to recognize the rocks that have fossils. At sunset, the wetlands full of dragonflies. A daughter three, a newborn son. Something switching to minor-key when folding up the blanket and walking to the car. Back at home, opening all windows and doors. Dinner, 10:30 pm at the earliest. Hours later, the house finally cool, everyone asleep. Curtains pushing in from the west. Sound of the river across the runway. Dogs barking again, then a clopping sound. A horse running towards the fields.
The hottest day so far. Brisa and Noel and two of the younger Colque grandkids squirting hoses at each other at midday. Now they stop. Now they’re all lying belly down on this plastic tarp that covers a pile of dirt. The way they’re positioned is like soldiers behind a bunker, and I figure they’re hunkering down or something, waiting for Maxi or one of the older boys to come running out with a hose or water balloon. But no, they’re just lying there together in the sun, quiet for a second.
Awoke this morning to the Colques burning trash. Maxi with headphones on kicking the barrel. By lunchtime the paint all burned off. I thought about 22 different attitudes I could take towards the smoke. Bruce Lee reflected in Enter the Dragon mirrors. On a run at sunset, the shadows getting longer. New snow on the ridge at Piltri. Earlier this week, writing about Menorahs. Segundo back in New York reading Snyder, something about tribes. Nobody left at his Moms to rake leaves. The oldest, the oldest, the oldest son. Inventing words today, the panz. Lau in the shotgun seat coming back from Epuyen, peaceful, smiling. I kept imagining a barrel for burning thoughts. Seemed to work, I was less nervous than usual. The girls in the other room now watching a movie. At the beginning of my run, chased by teros . Epuyen at midday, nobody around. Snowline maybe 2,600 feet, where were the condors? One thought not burned: a plastic bottle I’d found after almost drowning. So far off the map I was happy to see it. The grandkids were all over at Adelas pitching shit into the fire. Meanwhile I sawed lengths of fenceboards to block where the dogs keep nosing into our trash. This whole week scowling at fucking dogs. Sol pregnant again, who will take care of this next litter? Epuyen at noon, jumping in after looking at the snowline. A cold yelp echoing into the valley, into the universe. The smoke from the shit fire 10 miles to the north. Signs on the climb to Epuyen: TERRITORIO MAPUCHE RECUPERADO. Asking Lau if that recovery was ‘official.’ Segundo there raking leaves would understand. We need tribes if only to share jokes. The shadows gone now, the sound / smell of chicken roasting. Falta mucho? lau says from the other room. On the way home, buying 5 more strawberry seedlings. Plant 20 cm apart, trimming the roots to keep from curling. Sitting naked after swimming, thoughts burning. Ground level, the shape of the beach. Got dressed, went back to car and saw him. Down here, always, the one starving dog. ‘S’ok buddy, his snout down, tail wagging tentatively. I dumped the cup of Layla’s half-eaten strawberries. He was old but could still walk all day. No wolves here 100 generations ago, it was all glaciers. His ancestors from somewhere else, where? Back in the the garden at sunset planting strawberries. Wind finally calm but the barrel still smoldering. Image of fur, ribs, eyes.