Sunday, November 27, 2011

Caleta Tortel

A tiny town of boats and bridges, wooden walkways and half-built houses in a land of mountain-made fjords. Where Patagonia meets the sea.

"south without dams"

Morel Season

Volcán Hudson

One of the many peaks in the area decided to blow off some steam last month. While back at the administration there was an emergency meeting to review protocol for the case in which the valley recieved a heavy load of ash, the trail crew up in the mountains was left to guess at the strange cloud patterns to the north. The seemingly sessile thunderhead was blown to gentle wisps that fled east to Argentina.

Monday, November 14, 2011

La Carnicería

While in theory the senderistas are on a 12-on 3-off schedule, much of the first month involved uninformed waiting and days of confusion making for more of a 5-3-10-7-12-5. That said, the butcher suffered his second head injury at a rodeo final across the border. The rivers were too swollen to ford. The cows were on the the side. The meat had to be portioned and paid to the families. The task was ours for the taking.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spring Snow

While the sun and calm winds of Oct. 25 warranted the first lake dip of the season, the banks of the high camp jewel were still spotted with snow and the surface had not long ago been covered in ice. The month of October has seen the the valley floor slowly turn from beaten brown to green, though the trees on high- buds at the ready- have been waiting out the vernal snows that have gently laiden the mountain tops in white dress every 10 days or so.
Some days after setting up our high camp, we woke to this winter wonderland. While it only lasted hours, it was the stillest of mornings.

High Camp

The plan for October was to finnish up a loop-trail that was started last season and begins at the main administration area on the valley floor. Most of the remaining work was a few hours hike from the ranch headquarters so we set up a high camp. The four horses seemed to do fine with a half-barrel stove, chain-saw, mattresses, and a couple hundred pounds of food, though the gringoes were left to slug their own backpacks as the Chilenos skipped up the hill.
While working with our local compañeros has taken some patience and letting go, as more often than not our apparently western intuition and work-sense seem to conflict with theirs, breaking a smile or laugh around the campfire isn't too hard. Learning to "tranquilo" or just chill has been one lesson not unwelcome.
While we are all sleeping in our respective tents, we built a communal kitchen area known as the "Casa de Palo" (House of Log). As the sun already sets towards nine, long evenings in the Casa, sipping tea to the sounds of fuzzy radio coming in from Argentina and the crackling of fat rendering on the stove (or bread cooking in that fat) make our austral routine.

Our gaurdian lamb carcass- comes down at meal times.

The Gringo Senderistas

South Again

Four score and some 200 weeks ago I arrived in a wild land that inspired words of exceptional grandeur and excellence. While the time since then has been full of more words lost in the netherlands of academia, I have since returned and the pristine waters and imposing peaks of Patagonia still produce an affluence of hyperbole that somehow fall short of reality.
Upon my return I am slotted to be the sole cook and chef at the future Patagonia National Park's restaurant, though as it is under construction I am working with the 'Senderistas' (trail builders) and helping out in the Lodge kitchen. Early in October I arrived at the start of a three day weekend which the other gringo interns and I kicked of with some camping at the Rio Baker and fresh fish on the fire. A Chilean rodeo in the nearby town of Cochrane was to follow. Two of the ten or so riders left in a stretcher.