The Lady Fear
I hope that you don’t mind the fact hat I am using this slickly adjective which during the last century deteriorated because abusive and exaggerate employ. It is not in my intention to look for offenders, taking into account that I like very little mankind in general, but they were the Americans who depreciated the superlative by using it for items as strikingly plain as a pair of sun side-up fried eggs or the lobby of five star mammoth hotel or an extremely boring kindergarten reception. Curiously enough you will find gorge in French thesaurus under the mention vieilli (outdated) significant poitrine, seins de femme (breasts). Its origin, we are back to gorgeous, it is presumably from “gorgias” Old French also, having to do with beauty, bosom and roundness, female I mean. I found it astonishingly appropriate for the languorous formal outlook of the Atacama Desert. Curves all over venerable guardian…I know, all is in the eye of the beholder, but they were whipping the imagination in a conspicuous way……Let’s continue on more FIRM grounds, here in Atacama everything is falling apart, it is the kingdom of the gorgeous disintegration, I will say.
By the way, allow me to tell you that Sven Hedin, the great Swedish explorer of Central Asia and Tibet, was one of the heroes of my early childhood. I was reading his books with rapture and endless admiring his habitude to write his notes immediately, notwithstanding the state of exhaustion he was, at the end of the day. Adolf Hitler was another great fan of Sven Hedin! What I can do? And do I have something to do with that? Sven, himself was a Nazi who never relapsed like the philosopher Heidegger, Hana Arens’ mentor and lover. You see the connection? Let’s face it, Jewish people are ludicrous sometimes. ( As far as I am concerned I am Jewish too, half Cossack and half Bedouin). Sven took some heat after the war while numerous stinks (skunks) of the same intellectual stature or more who praised the Soviet regime, the Maoist insanity, the Khmer butchery, the Sandinistas daily shootings or other bestial dictatorial extravaganzas, mostly leftists, which are continuing till today for the best welfare of the little people, had never something to fear. This is not my business. The point that I want to make is that unlike Sven I have a terrible delay and write my copy months after the journey. That it’s all, please excuse me! While the image inserted here, noble protector, I more HEARD than actually SEEN it . As you know deaf people, I am one of them, hear, like dogs, all kind of sounds, even voices, the regular blokes can’t. I cannot swear in spite of my Balkanik origins but the dialogue took place in Hell. Never mind!
I fell in love with Atacama at the first sight, more precisely even before I have seen it. The fame you know! It is the driest desert on earth…I never check this kind of statements: Atacama the driest spot, Verhoyansk the coldest, the Dead Sea the deepest, Mombasa the wettest, etc I took them at their face value and after all Earth is such an insignificant spot….cosmically speaking… But let’s come back to my rapture…Already at the borders one gets nose to nose with a chromatic spell. The ground, lays in various state of consistency from dust to rock and from flat to craggy. It comes in ochre, red, yellow, buff, grey, brick (and I miss some hues) tints. It is also speckled with green – trees or bushes, mostly bushes, sometimes vivid sometimes mat! The shapes I already spoke, I do not want to insist. Gorgeous indeed! The desert is 1000 kilometres long, 3 million years old, the oldest desert on earth they say (again, don’t check) and has 170 abandoned miner minuscule towns. That you can look for! There are few things in life that I like so much as abandoned towns. Even a hamlet may make me happy. There are also some little settlements of natives toiling there since more than thousand five hundred years to make a miserable living; people are so stubborn! They are not numerous but they have plenty of names such as atacameños, or kunzas, likanantaí and some of their villages, indicate continuous occupancy and security concern. Hmm, they are not very liberal… There is also an ultra-modern famous astronomic observatory; there are scores of thrilling sterling sites and views, amazing birds and one of the most gracious animals on earth, I mean the vicuna. Of course, there are also tourists, but the desert is so big…and San Pedro is so cute…..and the Salar so glamorous…The ride from the airport of Calama to San Pedro Atacama where I was going to establish my headquarters brought me already in an enthusiastic high gear. The red and ochre desert was inebriating. The next day, after that I run away from a miserable hostel to a fair to good one, I got in saddle (bike not rump!) to explore the surroundings. Certainly I took neither water nor a map; I had my camera that it was enough. Sure, noting can be more stupid than a “ smart” fellow. Under the wild sun rays rain I speed on dirt roads along the high walls of courtyards and houses made of adobe bricks painted white or blue. I noted stores, restaurants, hostels, acacia trees, stray dogs and tourists. Plenty of them, but they didn’t go where I went…straight into the desert. in a fantastic plains, moon kind of surface, bordered at the east by the young Cordillera des Andes and west by the old costal mountainous range. It is them with their peaks, sharp rims and elegant ridges, everything high up, more spikes and spines and spires than in a flamboyant gothic cathedral, that keep the clouds away and kill the land between. Vicious orographic system I may say.. The desert is crossed by endless paths. Where they lead? Well, I want to go back, but how? I never lost from sight the village but I am less and less sure that what I see is San Pedro or a neighbour settlement. They are neighbour settlements? They look all alike. And the dry river bed full with bad stones make the approach very difficult. Suddenly the desert lost any similarity with a giant lady voluptuously lying down on the elbow. Baudelaire spoke of one of the kind –La geante– do you remember? The desert went up like a snarling tiger and exhibits sharps fangs, slave drool and hideous moustaches. One vision more and I see my elongated bones strayed in a loose but mysterious ideogram, telling absolutely nothing, bleaching under the ruthless sky. I reject the Fata Morgana and drag furiously my bicycle behind me across the dry arroyo. Let’s look for a hole in the fence made of nasty thorny branches and inflated cactuses. Bio-fence? Dogs, big like elephants, are barking with rage. Finally the owner of the little farm came forward but she does not let me in. What for God’s sake do they have so much to defend, to protect when they are supposed to be poorer than church mice and live in earth homes? A kilometre away from here – she said – you have to make a right turn and reach the Promised Land .I turned in around for more than one hour and arrived at tprecariously hanging rocks. The guide told us that no rock fell during his life time but nothing is fool proof. And can you trust people? What it was sure was that not rock fell on him! However, I start to feel cocky, they were not going to fall NOW on me who I already crossed the more famous Death Valley of Nevada. Hope makes live… The guide told us he hostel with soft legs. And I have an excursion in the after noon. Life is so difficult!
How many times I promised to myself not to take more than a project a day? Didn’t Nietzsche say that his books have to be read into a cow’s mode? And he was not hinting to cows pollution of the air, he was asking for mental rumination: let’s the things settle down, think about what you have read, done, seen or meditate. Yeah! the hell is paved with peonies and smells sulphur. So naturally that afternoon things became tougher. I didn’t know that I will have a date with the Lady Fear. Sheer fear mixed with pure beauty. So, I joined a group, again the doyen but not the only veteran and straight we made for the Valle de la Luna! Moon here and moon there but have you been on Mars? If not I can tell you that scientists believe that the Atacama surface is very much akin to that of Mars. You realize the economy by going into this blessed desert at discount price instead of landing on the Red Planet after astronomic expense!. Medium high ragged hills dressed in great ochre, red and violet mix bordered, a kind of open circle, a wide, more or less flat, arena. UFO could land there lightly. The guide after giving us a little speech upon the geological background of this gem so to say (the view is stupendous) encouraged us to climb the stiff slope and admire from the top of the ridge the glorious landscape. The ensemble was built up of felsic magma ( I just learned the word) producing amazing rounded shapes, but also a lot of spikes, and nasty cracks and altogether the whole hill seemed ready to crumble and fall apart in endless little flakes. Primitive man, sorry to call him like this, Mr. Neanderthal I mean, used probably these natural blades to shave if he would be caught by the envy to get a date. As you see I was ruminating full steam. Especially I was afraid that my ankles, will refuse the climb and that I will miserably slither possibly on the way up and certainly on the way down. Multiples fractures were looming. Nothing happened, God or probably you were with me but I felt le embarrassed. From there we went without hesitation into the Valle de la Muerte.I see that the locals have the knack for ludicrous appellations. Assurance took hold of me again, we moved through a narrow and dramatic canyon on an even path, here the yellow was the dominant hue, under arches of precariously hanging rocks. The guide told us that no rock fell during his life time but nothing is fool proof. And can you trust people? What it was sure was that not rock fell on him! However, I start to feel cocky, they were not going to fell NOW on me who I already crossed the more famous Death Valley of Nevada. Hope makes live… The guide told us about deserted mines and meekly proposed to plunge within an underground tunnel, once belonging to a salt mine, bowel of sorts, a kind of winding channel to reach the main dug out cave and from there to climb up a narrow burrow and eventually came out alive on the plateau above. It sounded heroically and there were many young girls in the group. So, in I went through the smooth and dark sand devilishly narrow winding tunnel with doggy determination and great speed till a sequence of nasty apnoeas and madly claustrophobic anguish pinned me on the knees somewhere in the middle of the conduit. Everybody passed me by and I had to crawl crestfallen back to the entrance. Second defeat? Who cares? There I shamelessly enjoyed the light of life together with the guide’s explication about the singing rocks. Stones containing lots of salt expanding in the day under the sun heat produce at night time while shrinking a creepy sound, kind of a squeak…You are free to pass the night in the desert, enjoy the boreal sky and the stony whine…We went to a sunset picnic on the mirador of Kari a kind of plateau that hangs over the Moon Valley, had music made by a lovely group of Argentinean youth, followed the erotic manoeuvres of a Chinese lady to get the attention of the good looking guide, and sunk in the dark violet consistence of the ethereal pair less, silky surrounding. Night was coming… All these delicate perceptions, concomitantly apprehended and processed, concurred to soothe my humour and to make me happy with what I got. Wise attitude, tomorrow I will do better.