April 10, 2006

ends of the earth encounters

I researched all of Patagonia for the guidebook and had a lovely time doing it. It was nice to relearn what I love about Chile--the incredible hospitality of strangers, folks with simple means, and the crazy unfettered landscapes.

I am now am firmly grounded and sulky to have to write 150 pages in a month. So I apologize if I disappeared! I'll run the highlights, that way I can relive them and bring a speck of joy to this restless desk-bound life. These are the most recent flames of memory from a bumpy, interminable trip:

In Puerto Guadal I met an ancient oak of a man who shared some of his stew with me when I stayed in his tattered hostal and told me of the old days, when he was a young sailor afraid of whores, til when he met his wife to be in a dusty outpost of Patagonia (he remains there today, and all for "a sweet face" as he put it). Kemel was his name, part arab, world-traveler, knotted with adventure and a few chuckles left.

I met a Belgian-Chilean whose parents emigrated after WWII and built up a ranch in the middle of nowhere. He was about six and a half feet tall, icy blue eyes, with a thick cowboy accent. He talked about ranch life coming to an end for many, his doubts about this so-called cash-cow called tourism, and shared the utter solitude that for these folks is so comforting.

I met an ex-barmaid at the last village on the continent--in Puerto Williams, across the beagle channel from Tierra del Fuego. She had a salty view of men and a whipsmart maternal instinct that had her popping in my room at 3 am incensed because I came home late without calling!

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