April 2, 2007

Patagonia via the back door

part one: going local

We were trekking to the glacier in Lolo Escobar's backyard on a trail he created with a hand-axe. That in itself seemed incredible. Patagonia’s backyards feature few swingsets but some include a thorny wilderness inviting adventurers to get hopelessly lost. That’s why you go with a local.

Among even them, Lolo is considered an anachronism. Compact and quirky, we can say he’s serious and sincere but not above a prank. He helps run the family ranch, carves ingenious animal shapes from discarded roots and studies the Guide to Native Plants and the Bible. Given his scant contact with the outside world, it doesn’t seem incongruous to call himself both ecologist and evangelist.

My friend Tara is an experienced hiker, so I found her aghast watching as the pack horse was saddled with 60 kilos to head up the mountain for a few days. She had already cocked a brow when Lolo’s sister packed us glass jars of honey, four kilos of breadrolls, homemade fruit preserves and marmalade. But we did stop her short of including a whole raw leg of lamb.

At these times, I remind myself that we live under local norms here, not modern ones, and are mostly content for it. It helps too to remember that people of this valley died of hunger in not-so-distant past. Thus these hulking grain sacks amounting to a portable Frigidaire were something of a comfort to Lolo (but not to his horse).

We started in the meadows and climbed to a forest of moss-covered boulders dubbed the houses of stone, up a river valley to huge southern beech and thick stands of lenga and ñirre. Lolo walked attentive to surprises in our path: a blue mushroom, a giant spotted moth, a rock in the shape of Easter Island moai.

Given the storybook setting, I would not have been surprised should we happen upon wood nymphs or trolls. Light streamed through the forest in glittering pillars. Big trees grew straight out of granite hunks. The river was transparent and ice cold. I’m telling you, it was that good.

And if there were no gingerbread house at the end of the trail? At least we packed the cherry preserves.

1 comment:

Travelburro said...

Yeowza!! More Patagonia pictures! And how big is your floor?