Monday, 28 February 2011

If Only - We Could Harvest Noise

If you could harvest noise, what a wonderful resource it would be.  We’ve been blown off the road on two instances - literally.  A nor’westerly that has a hot sun and a cold coming out of a clear blue sky, coming at us from the Chilean Humbolt and accentuated, chilled further over the high tops to our north.  We’ve fought the blast for the better part of a morning, the forward momentum little better than a brisk walking pace.  It comes in blasts, catching the front panniers, pushing them, then, as you compensate, the wind gives a little and you’re in the gravel or over the median line.  Either way it’s not safe.  The countyside up to this point is completely devoid of shelter.  Not a rock, bush or tree large enough to hide or hunker down behind; it’s all tooth, hook and claw.  So when a decrepit wooden sign appears like divine magic and announces ’camping’, you pull over and investigate.  It’s an estancia of deceased farm machinery, piled logs and barking dogs. Skins of goats are strung up on the washing line, hoofs of a cow beside the track.  Not very promising.  But ’yes’ we can camp, the charge is a little over a quid, of course we stop.  I hope I’ve learned my lesson, for there are lined out rows of tall fastigate poplars.  It has shelter, the one commodity that we crave at this precise moment.

At first glance, it‘s hard to tell if this ‘site’ was a hoped for, optimistic project or a has been, had-it enterprise.  Football posts outline a weed strewn patch, municipal style park swings are disappearing under a spreading willow tree.  The baños are dry, the stalls doorless there’s no water in the tap.  Two round, slab sided, bamboo thatched shelters, for sun and not rain, are mouldering amongst a litter of rusting garbage. Rotting sardine cans and twisted corrugated iron suggest an age to the place, yet the charcoaled graffiti states that Raul y Ani from Zapala were here on the 11th, the spent fireworks and empty Cava bottles suggest a party at New year. So the ’site’ must get used, possibly at week-ends, perhaps as a fish camp.

Given a choice we might have been tempted to move on; prior, surreptitious inspection before paying and we would have pushed back into that head wind.  We’ve paid, we’re tired, we need the refuge, we’ve not got a great deal of choice.  So we pitch, on the novelty of thick grass and set up home in one of the casitas, filter water from a flooded ditch, and as in all situations of desperation, brew up a pot of coffee.  It’s remarkable how one half of the brain can convince the other and we can persuade each other, that it “really isn’t such bad place”, ’it could be raining, the dust could be flying, we could be stuck in the middle of a motor bike rally.  At least we’ve got shelter.  Shelter that is increasing by increments in volume, in noise.  Poplars are not the most silent of trees, they can rustle up a murmur in the slightest of breezes.  These are no soft, light, innocent flurries, these are full blown furies, a Patagonian wind storm.  Normal weather for hereabouts.  Each squall builds and adds to the next, each encouraging the other to further spasms and rages.  The noise and the violence keep building, and just when you thought that a crescendo has been reached a further ferocity, another savagery of wind sweeps in and whips at the tall trees.  The noise level is incessant, a constant oppressive offensive, an attack that never lets up.  An onslaught on the senses.  It’s not the fear of falling branches or of toppling trees - the trunks aren’t even moving, there’s no uprooted roots, even the leaves aren’t being shredded, - this is normal Patagonian weather.  Rather it’s the numbing of thought, the hampering of speech, the slaughter of silence.  You want to plead with it, “please stop, just stop now”

Rain, hail, snow even the heat of the sun are physical entities, against whom you feel that you have a more fair and equitable battle.  All have the potential for harm, but at least you can see them, pull on a Gore-Tex, stand under a tree, book into an hotel.  Wind is too amorphous, too intangible to grab a hold of and there’s little point in fighting it.  Just give up, give in to a superior power, for today it’s in league with the devil.  It’s nature’s final rejoinder to man’s perceived mastery and command of the environment. 
An imponderable wind that’s rendering us insensible.