You may call me a liar. Go ahead; get it out of your system. Feel better? Good. I know I promised this post would be about the protests in the Aysen region, but I have been in National Park Huerquehue outside of Pucon for almost two weeks now and I don’t have much of a desire to leave. However, I only have very limited and occasional access to the internet here and in order to write about the protests I feel I need to do more research. I also do not want to neglect my readers so I will jump ahead to bring you this post. At least it takes place in the same region, so it’s not like I’m taking you to Argentina and then back to the protests…yet. I am really a double liar, for I also promised (myself) that I would post once a week. I have the same excuse though, no internet = no posting. So now that you have forgiven me (thank you), let’s get on with this shall we?
Futaleufu. My cousin asked me once how I decide on where I am going next. Sometimes it is word of mouth. Sometimes it is simply because I am heading in a certain direction and I try not to stay on a bus for too many hours at a time. Often it is because the name of a place sounds good when it moves off my tongue. I have always wanted to go to Madagascar because I love the way it sounds. I don’t know much about it and I wouldn’t mind finding out after I get there. Puyuhuapi was another place I chose for the feel of the name in my mouth. Futaleufu is the same. It is also a place that three of my friends have raved about. They are river people, and this is a river town.
The mighty river Futaleufu winds turquoise and aquamarine through the valley it has carved. Dense green vegetation rises sharply up the sides in such quantity there is no soil to be seen. In parts the walls that hold it are straight rock sentinels. The town itself is tiny and has the feel of a tourist destination waiting to happen. Scattered amongst the more rustic parts of the town are larger, fancier lodges that could easily have been plucked out of the Alps. After the adventure on the Carretera Austral I was pretty excited to be in a place with regular buses heading into Argentina. Daily. With actual tickets being sold. This was such a comforting thought I decided to stay a few days. I pitched my tent in a campsite that was really the yard of a house that had been turned into a refugio. Aside from the questionable bathroom accommodations (which had redeeming hot water), the refugio itself was lovely. With hard wood floors, wood burning stoves and hand carved wood furniture it felt like a mountain cabin.
We arrived in the midst of a local festival and the first day there was a rodeo. I am not usually a fan of this type of thing but felt I could not miss the chance to see such a display of local custom. The town was virtually shut down, stores closed and streets empty. Everyone was at the rodeo. We took seats in the grandstand and waited. Eventually, the show began with a group of young girls and a chicken. Yup, you read that correctly. The first attraction was these little ladies chasing a chicken around the arena trying to catch it. They were awfully cute, especially the one donning war paint.
After the men, it was the women’s turn. I am sorry to say they were not as agile in the pig catching department. They did, however, put on a better show. The pig, in my opinion, won despite being caught in the end. He had outsmarted the women for a while before it was over.
Once the women had caught the pig we waited. Then we waited some more. Some kids started taking turns climbing a pole on the other side of the arena, so we watched. No one seemed to be leaving, and nothing seemed to be happening. I thought I might have fallen back into the Twilight Zone, after all, I hadn’t really left the general area of that phenomenon. I walked back to my tent for a snack eventually, and then slowly walked back. I picked up the pace when I heard cheering, thinking I may be missing some main event. Reaching the arena I asked what the commotion had been about. A kid had made it all the way up the pole, and I had missed it.
After what must have been an hour the crowd started moving. They were leaving the arena and gathering on the street behind it. I saw this guy and thought maybe he would do something really manly and rodeo-like and cool.
I don’t really know who won, and that was it for the rodeo. I must admit I was glad there was no animal roping and throwing to the ground or things of that nature, which always seem to me to be things the animal would not choose to take part in. Granted, I doubt the chicken, pig and oxen were delighted by their day but at least they did not appear to have any pain from their ordeals.
Later that evening I walked down to the river to sit with it for a while. As the sun was setting I headed back home. Turning a corner, I saw a beautiful woman with long, straight black hair wearing a red full length dress that could have been Scarlet O’Hara’s. She sat atop a gorgeous black horse as it trotted down the street. I sped up my pace to try and catch her. Turning the corner I saw her climb off the horses back and I called out, asking her if I could please take a picture of her with her horse. She was so beautiful. Sadly, she looked irritated at my request and shook her head while backing away. I apologized for asking and went home, left only with the picture of her in my mind and a sunset over verdant mountains.