lunes, 8 de febrero de 2010

Tracking Patagonia on Tour: Part 1

After a full weekend of screenings in Cerro Castillo, we pack up a truck and head south to retrace our original route as far south as Caleta Tortel. In Bahia Murta, we stop to visit Werner and Ninoska, who generously fed us and put a roof over our heads during the arduous bike journey. Werner has grown out his hair and added rather large Patagonia Rebelde (Rebel Patagonia) flag to the barn. In Puerto Bertrand, the blue headwaters of the Baker River still shock me as if it’s the first time I’m there. The water level at the confluence of the Baker and Neff Rivers is higher than I’ve ever seen it before, and we stop to watch the sun set over the Neff valley.

In Cochrane, we crowd into the kitchen of Don Cecilio Olivares, one of our most memorable interviews and a 91-year-old pioneer of the Baker valley. He struggles to remember us, perhaps because my hair is shorter and Rob’s longer, but we open up my laptop on the kitchen table and press play. Don Cecilio sits at the table with his granddaughter by his side, and watches as he himself speaks the powerful opening lines. He nods his head and blinks with his characteristic intensity. His wife is cooking lunch on the wood-burning stove. She moves with the grace of someone who has undoubtedly spent thousands of hours feeding the fire, lived endless winters in a drafty house, and served countless rounds of mate to family and friends. Every so often she abandons the stove to watch a minute or two of the documentary, murmuring in agreement.

As the film ends, Don Cecilio turns to me. “These days, people are trying to fill up entire suitcases,” he says. “Back then, we were only worried about filling our pockets.” He raises his voice and gestures for emphasis. At 91 years old, Don Cecilio is still one of the strongest and most forceful people I have ever spoken to. And although he probably won’t live to see far into the future of Patagonia, he defends it with the strength of ten people. As we drive away, Don Cecilio and his wife stand in the door waving, his stare unwavering. In the truck we are all silent, each overcome by emotion in his or her own way.

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