Monthly Archives: April 2011

Annabelle leaves Patagonia

April 9th, 2011

The First and Final Question: The Legacy

Some are lost. Everybody wants to be found.

The drive to Parque Patagonica takes seven solid hours, through the most obscenely vast, open landscape in the world. Volcano ice-tipped tops, with crimson covers at the foot, slowly ebbing into the turquoise riverbeds. Steep high hills, cut like glass shards towering into the clouds. So I see: why Patagonia? “Because it is the benchmark for what is wild in the world”, is what Yvon Chouinard says. Perhaps one of the only places left to view what people thousands of years ago saw, a land untouched, and unsoiled by human development.

In April, the colors turn, from ash green to deep crimson and neon yellow. We leave the Evergreen at Pumalin and cross the border into ______. The drive encompasses a lake that lies directly on the Argentinean border, and meets the Baker River a few miles from our destination. We arrive two hours late, dinner on the table. Doug has us staying in the Butler’s house, with some rearranging from Carolina, our trip organizer and Chris Tompkins’s (Doug’s wife) personal assistant.

Here is the thing about the Butler’s house: it’s a **** ing mansion. Doug’s obsession with aesthetics drives people crazy. “It’s almost over the top”, one of the American volunteers says to me. “We spend days rearranging rocks the size of a toddler’s fist.” I get it. In his interview Doug explains to us the value of beauty, and how its power is vastly underestimated. Again, I get it. It has the power to sway minds, evoke feelings and create a sense of place. And that’s what the Butler’s house does. Though the gushing hillside adjacent to the mountain the house is tucked away in, helps. The landscape is completely different here from Pumalin Park. All of a sudden it is dry, the mountainside is orange and barren, large llama-like animals called guanacos roam freely. The completion of the park is almost half of what it is in Pumalin, partly due to the fact that a miniature Ahwahnee stands halfway furnished and windowpane-less in the small valley. Shacks from the former farm are still inhabited by the workers here to finish the building and restoration.

In the morning Dave gets news that one of Chloe’s friends has committed suicide. It’s unclear how much his death affects my good friend, she seeks solace the only way we can a world away ~ in her friends back home, via Facebook. I grieve a little, too, for my generation and the unnamed burden we all seem to bear. For the many deaths in families, friends and acquaintances we endure; I am frightened by this reoccurring trend that is surging though the nation. More and more lost young souls give up the will to live on; I see it come closer all around me, I can almost feel it, perhaps that is what it will take to name it.

I climb to the top of a small peak rising from the valley’s depths, with nothing in hand, and a clear mind. The sun sets at the end of its shallow arc.

When there is nothing more in sight but jagged horizons I look out toward the darkening sky. Here I see things that bring me back to center, hope revives. And if there is one answer to death, I am certain it is this: Nature’s unyielding gift of wilderness. The last of the warming sun, the crystal air, the impeccable silence. I count my blessings; wander back down in a Z line, accept my opportunity, my responsibility to live on. For I am found.

Annabelle's last photo sent from the field


Encounter in Patagonia

April 10th, 2011
The Encounter

Sunrise. (My fingers are still shaking. I feel hot from all the blood pumping through me adrenaline-fast.  Nature comes close. A little fox sneaks up and growls at me. I freeze. We stare. It’s love at first sight. Instinct gets me scared; first thing: unlatch my camera from the tripod.)

You can sense my hesitation. I like you, long-nose and pointy-ears, I like your brown fur and little white teeth. There are myths about you dear, and the mischief that you drive in the village. The cats are scared, the people are scared and the bone remains still lyine in the mellow grass. Today you want to come and play with me.

It’s a hunger, for danger. The quiet approach and the growl. The stare. And I salute. This is your land, this is your terrain. I know little but that of which you have granted me a glance. I know what I see from behind my window, in the pictures, through the legends. I live only a fraction of the wild that you call home. And for that I grant you the upper hand, consider me an ally. I shan’t trespass anymore.

— Annabelle

Annabelle encounters Wild Life

Chloe in Patagonia

The following post and photos are from Annabelle’s “little sister in Patagonia” — Chloe O’Hare, whom Annabelle is traveling with. If we are lucky, Chloe will join FtG in a semester not too far from now.

Chloe’s impressions

April 3rd 2011

This is our third day here in Parque Pumalin and it is absolutely stunning. The paper thin grey clouds hang over the bare-backed mountains. The fluorescent green grass lights up the acres and acres of this amazing park. Although I do not speak the native tongue, the people who live here are some of the most welcoming and gorgeous people in the world. There is a man named Dan staying here at the park who was born and raised in Costa Rica, he has been deemed “The Translator”. Everyday he has shown us around the property and taught us things that once were just fantasized dreams. His ability to interpret and communicate with the locals make him more of a “god sent child” to us.

Being here in Chile still seems like a dream. I never thought that I would have to take four planes in the course of 24 hours to arrive to my final destination. The first we took from San Francisco to Dallas but that plane was delayed for a few hours because of a ventilation problem. We all had to exit the plane and re-board once again; only this time they did it by name. The second plane was from Dallas to Santiago and that was a nine-hour flight. The third was from Santiago to Puerto Montt, which was roughly two hours.
 The final plane held only six people. When we finally arrived at the private hanger, and I saw the plane we were going to fly in, I thought it was a joke. I said to everyone that there was no way I was going to get into that plane. Contrary to my wishes, it was reality. The pilot Rodrigo (who also took us shopping, as we looked like lost ducks in a giant pond) started to wash the plane. The only way I could tell that we had taken off was by looking at the ground, because the takeoff was like dragging your finger through whipped cream. Smooth.  As we flew over the mesmerizing Chilean mountains it felt so good to get away from everything. The plane has to have an equal amount of weight distribution. That being said I was in the very back squished against the luggage, my cheek against the window forcing me to look down at the breathtaking scenery. I felt like I was flying through the spacious clouds and over the high mountaintops.

I have always taken the fact that I have food for granted – when we need food we buy it. Being here in 800,000 acres of Parque Pumalin there is no way of going and buying food when there is a shortage of it. When we were in town we bought food for only a few days because we were told that there would be food provided for us to dig in after our long journey. Unfortunately there was a misunderstanding; there was no food here in Parque Pumalin waiting on our arrival. There are, however, a few gardens here, so for the last two nights we have had huge green salads with all of the different components of the plentiful gardens. There were bushes and bushes, rows and rows of blueberries which I ate almost two pounds of because that was all we had to eat for a good two days. I have also always taken for granted the fact that I have electricity. Here in Parque Pumalin, the electricity only comes on from 7:30 pm to 11:30 pm which the only time to charge our camera batteries and such. Not having electricity has made me realize and be more conscious of all of the problems eating away at our world. These are some of the many life lessons I have learned here, but NEVER take anything for granted. Now I see how lucky I am to live where I do with so many plentiful resources right at my fingertips. I could never have dreamed of something like what I am living at this very moment, and it still doesn’t feel real.


More pictures from Patagonia

Low tide over Parque Pumalin

My parents, Dave and Yvonne, in the six-seater, flying over Pumalin

Me at sunset