Friday, 6 December 2013

Watching the Dream

There out there out there, only they're hard to find. Those that are throng and swim against the tide of conventional thinking and those who lead, remain true to their beliefs, only nobody seems interested in following.

We're on a long descent, down from the altitudinous watershed, slipping down through a series of bio-spheres, finding plants that look vaguely familiar. Antecedents to many in a garden centre's flowering display. When a roadside signage claims our attention. An eye can be easily attuned to pick out from the surrounding melange of information, that which it wants to find. I can spot the word: 'camping' or the associated triangular icon at any distance. Then I notice the converted rail carriage that would grace any spaghetti western, the array of wind turbines and photo-voltaics, the artistic adobo walls and the general aura of 'alternative'.

Alex, Andrea and their family moved up to this apparent sterility of desert over twenty years ago, at a time when being different was taken to be a form of dementia. They tell the tale of the visit by the then British ambassador who came with an offer of photo-voltaics for each household. They were the only ones to put their hands up, the rest just wanted the cash hand-out.

He's the beachcombing sculptor artist as well as the local air traffic controller or at least a radio amateur with a scraped out landing strip. She, the enthusiast for education, both for her own family and for a nation. When we meet, she's busy plant-naming and creating a trail through their back country. For in the afternoon members from Tarapaca University are due to arrive for a field visit. We tack along behind. If ever there was good reason to be using botanical names, and given our primitive Spanish, it is today. Now we have some names for the flora that edge the road verge and hillsides. There amongst those scientific nomenclature is another small gem. The Bromeliads, the air plants, non parasitic growths that can colonise other shrubs and trees but also telegraph wires. This particular specimen goes by the name 'clava', the nail. Both a physical description as well as an apt requirement for tethering to a surface, given this wind scoured place.

That icon for a tent, wasn't quite what we had expected. Chilean camping is on occasions different. More akin to an African Safari tent. A row of ex-army metal bunk beds, a stack of box folded blankets, all under a construct of scaffold poles and heavy canvas. Only and sadly on this occasion a storm had passed through recently, shredding the accommodation to tatters. They both feel that it's another manifestation of a changing climate, one that they're seeing in various ways, with each successive season. We end up pitching in the lee of their shade clothed garden, under the constant chatter of the whirring wind generator, a noise that must spell free savings in this hard tack environment. The conversation turning to the iniquities of politicians and international corporations, and in particular, the mine companies and their own national government. They have their axes to grind, and even if only half that we're told be factually true, then I can understand their frustrations. They're showing a way, but not many are ready to follow. Today they are still different, still considered 'loco'.

Yet there is a real feel of adventure, of hope of achievement. It's a privilege to be a witness for a few moments to another's living dream.