Salgado, Tompkins and life

Yes my friends. This is an existentialist post which one would usually expect from Andy. But here I am wanting to talk about the lives of Sebastiano Salgado and Douglas Thompkins. And soap.

About a year ago now, Andy and I went to see “the salt of the earth“. A movie which was highly recommended to me by my Dad and Deppy who are keen cinema goers. The movie by Wim Wenders, a favourite, chronicles the life of Salgado the illustrious Brazilian photographer who after a couple of years of working as an economist for Breton Woods institutions picked up his camera to tell stories about people and nature. His photos are mesmerising, mostly shot in black and white. His work focused on the impact of industrialisation on people as well as nature before he turned to document the Rwanda genocide. In the film he talks at length about the impact that those trips to Africa had on him and his disappointment in the human race. So much so that he gave up photography to return to his native village only to find it deserted; the deforestation of the Amazon had destroyed the local economy. Undeterred, he and his wife set up Instituto Terra, a foundation focused at replanting the rainforest with local species he and his wife are growing.

Now on to Douglas Tompkins; Founder and CEO of North Face who died last year. A keen environmentalist and conversationalist, Douglas bought 3,000sq km (yes… kilometres) of temperate rainforest in Northern Patagonia and set up Parque Pumalin in an effort to preserve the forrest. It is one of the largest private parks in the world, home to the now active Volcano Chaiten, a glacier and a 4,000 old forest. The Parque is open to the public with a handful of camping sites and marked walks. It’s unbelievably well looked after, you can tell that immense thought and care has gone into setting up and managing the site; it’s a Disneyland for outdoorsy people.

When planning the trip we enquired about working in Salgado’s forest. Unfortunately they don’t welcome unskilled volunteer labour. We have however spent the last couple of days in Parque Pumalin.

Which brings me on to soap. And the question of what am I doing to make the slightest positive mark in the world. Because selling soap (what I’ve been mostly doing for the last couple of years) is not really making a difference in the grande scheme of things…

If you haven’t seen it, do check out “the salt of the earth”. And have a look at the Pumalin website.

Pichilemu

Breaks directly on the reef in waist deep water. Not for me today, not yet
Breaks directly on the reef in waist deep water. Not for me today, not yet

We arrived in Pichilemu around 3pm on a hot Saturday afternoon, having driven for a good couple of hours through the mountains on the north of the Central Valley.

Pichilemu is a small costal city renowned  for its surfing. The architecture is oddly reminiscent of Melbourne or Marin County. Small, single storey houses with a garden set back from the road. All facing (or trying to) out on the Pacific. My morning run along the coast reveals a big Edwardian hotel now under refurbishment set on a cliff with the inevitable pristine park next to it (perfectly mowed grass and pine trees).

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Leaving Santiago – Act II

Act II

This picks up the story later that day. We had driven through the ‘smokey mountains’ south of Santiago. Not a clever name, the wild bush fires we had seen on the previous night’s news were in the next valley creating a dense blue pall obscuring the spectacular Andean peaks to the west.

We cut off Ruta 5, heading for wine country. High spirits, glad to finally be moving and underway. But night was coming in fast so we decided to sniff out a place to park-up over night. Obviously, chances are higher off the main routes so we roll through a small village, past the small square, the community building and out the other side. Spying a dirt track with an old building behind trees we bank it for later, U-turn and park up back by the square. Like some kind of organised bus tour, we happened to arrive minutes before the annual ‘village procession of the waring grapes’. Four floats, two red, two white, obviously, drove down the main street followed by kids with balloons, cars honking horns and various dignitaries. Stopping only to wave at old mamas, for a photo in front of the community building and when Rafael the float driver stopped to get another beer from his friends, the parade passed through the village and, as far as can tell may still be going.

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Settling in

First proper night in South America. I say ‘proper night’ because on our first night we got into our Lima hotel in a jet-lagged induced daze and then last night we only got into our tiny AirBnB apartment at midnight (still in aforementioned daze) and spent the first 30′ trying to figure out how to silence the alarm.

This morning, after a good night’s sleep we took a leisurely walk down Av Santa Isabella to go find the young Aussie couple whom we bought the car from. Yes we bought a car. More details on how to buy a car and pictures of the car coming soon.

Suffice to say that it took us all day to find a mechanic, have the car checked, negotiate with the mechanic in broken spanish on which of the long list of repairs (totalling £2,000) we would actually go ahead with, patiently wait in a nearby cafe for the agreed-to fixes to take place, and then find a place to safely park our new prized possession. But alas it’s all done, we are the proud owners of a green 4×4 which is surprisingly clean and well maintained given that in the last 4 months it has been driven through Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, down Argentina and then over to Chile again. Name for the car is still TBC – I am sure separate post with full details of its christening ceremony will follow.

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