From Pulling Fence to Enlightenment

Rob Bon Durant
Holiday 2007

High above Valle Chacabuco on a massive sandstone bluff, I spy a hundred miles distant the northern ice fields, their jagged and unruly peaks unnamed and almost entirely unclimbed. I see lush river valleys below and the rising Patagonian steppe as it moves into Argentina. Above me, a lone adolescent male guanaco screams and spits at me, annoyed by my intrusion. And above him, two condors soar on thermals, their 10-foot wingspans barely moving.

I run on a dusty guanaco trail, around me slow and fat horseflies buzz. Two hundred feet below, I gaze upon an ancient beech forest. On the limbs of their sun-bleached, gnarled branches lay reams of Spanish moss. I veer down, into the forest where temperatures feel cooler, where the driving sun does not penetrate the low canopy.

Now, winding my way through the short, stubby trees, I see to my right a family of brightly colored parakeets. Off to my left, I hear the tap, tap, tap of an enormous Magellanic woodpecker, his outrageously red head pecking rhythmically on his favorite beech tree.

And then, several hundred feet later, I hear absolutely nothing. I stop again. The loud cries of the parakeets, the booming tap of the woodpecker, the bleating of the guanaco – all gone. Enlightenment of the worst kind washes over me. The high hills belong to the guanaco, the skies to the condor and the forests to the puma. I run again, perhaps now for my life.

We are here to remove fencing, 400 miles in total at the rate of roughly half a mile a day, restoring natural migration paths. Today, a baby guanaco got caught in a fence, suffered and died alone. The fence he died on is the same fence we are pulling, but pulling too late. I hike out to see the body, but the condors have already stripped him to bone. Nature is ruthlessly efficient in Patagonia.

Über den Verfasser

Rob Bon Durant, a Patagonia employee, traveled with a group of other employees to Valle Chacabuco to pull fences. He came away with the knowledge that he had helped the effort along the path to national park. But he also came away with much more.