Chile is ...
26 January 2012
If Africa is the land of animals as our cruising friends Micki and Rowland from South Africa say, Chile is the land of birds. Chile is also the land; of water in all it's forms, of mariscos or seafood, of ferns named "cow ribs", of wine and pisco sours, of curious friendly and kind people, of towering peaks that make a backbone of ragged stony teeth, of long lingering lavender twighlights, of Cueca the national music and dance, of barbecues, of fiercesome storms and williwas, of immense natural power napping for now, of breathing volcanos, of quiet, of silence, of land and water carrying on a conversation, of a land in the process of becoming. Sven, a native Chilean and a fifth generation German descendant, says Chile is, "all weathers and safety". He means all ecosystems from deserts to mountains to tropical to oceans to rainforest. And he means it is a safe place because of the good people. For me Patagonia, where we are sailing in Chile, is a land of wonders. I am enthralled by it's sensuous being. Always there is something to delight, surprise, ponder over. Always there is water; salty or fresh, falling or waving, hanging in misty layers or rushing madly down steep slopes, dripping drops or still in boggy pools, held by the spongy land or slamming spraying crashing into rocky shores. Water is a constant shaping creating sculpting this land this place. We move by water. Hekla needs enough water to float her. We need water to sustain us. Chile is said to contain a third of the world's fresh water supply. Having visited, I have no doubt of this statistic. What will happen when the world gets thirsty for her fresh water? I hope by then we will have learned to work with our mother, with nature, not just take and take never minding the consequences. I hope, but I fear we don't learn lessons easily. A book I highly recommend, Four Fishes, by Paul Greenburg tells the story of four fishes that humans particularly like; salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna. Here's what Paul has to say about salmon in Chile, "the aquaculture companies operating in the frigid fiords of southern Chile now produce almost as much salmon per year as all the world's wild salmon rivers combined". We have sailed past many of these farms. The buildings look creepy like a menacing floating prison. They are often several stories tall. People who work for the farms spend two weeks living in the floating salmon hotel station and one week home. They filter their human waste through giant tubes of gravel. They tend the fish. They receive good benefits. Paul says the salmon from Chile is less likely to be polluted because the southern hemisphere is less populated and therefore less polluted with PCBs, farmed salmons' main contaminate. It is an introduced fish in these waters and we have fished for salmon es caped from these farms. We have even eaten salmon from a farm. Now that we are farther south we haven't seen any farms. Today we see one other boat, we think it's our friends on El Vagabond, but we can't raise them on the radio. We haven't seen other boats or people since we left Isla J´chica January second. That is ten days. I am enjoying the solitude. The feeling like we are the only ones here, maybe the first humans to have been here even. Yesterday when Jeff and I were hiking over stony mossy covered hill and dale, I said excitedly, "I bet it's been a long time since any humans have been here, if ever". Just then Jeff steps on a leg sized log weathered gray with sharp, clearly man made cut ends. That is Chile. It looks very natural and undisturbed. It is not. There was an attempt to tame her by fire centuries ago and she is still recovering from that. The difference of the forest in steep rocky ravines where no fire reached is noticeable compared to the recovering young forest. Big tall trees tower over a dense unpenetratable co ver. I am selfishly glad for the recovering landscape because we can walk and through it. The tallest trees here being only a few feet taller than us. And except for thickets, widely spaced and easier to hike through. We did do some repelling down steep slopes using handfuls of thicket as our lines. Feeling like a kid again, it was lots of fun.