We climbed the hill for a final tea with Luned and Tegai and quizzed them one last time (well for now at least) and their infinite knowledge of Y Wladfa poured from every pore just like the tea from their cello taped top tea pot. I spoke of my plans for PATAGONIA150 and their eyes sparkled, how I imagined interpreting the extraordinary achievements of their ancestors and how I was hoping for their blessing and support, as after-all it was their story.
I could feel Lewis Jones’ gaze upon me from a family portrait positioned on the wall behind, I am sure Luned glanced at him for a sign….
She smiled, winked and declared You Have it…cant a cant…Marc bach, it sounds so exciting !
Elated, we made our way once more to Dolavon and the mill, where since the 19th century it had processed the valleys wheat into flour. With out the invention of the irrigation system the land would not have flourished and the mill simply would not have existed. A further testament to the ingenuity, resilience and determination of the Welsh….with peristance and patience the land finally delivered its promise.
The mill had a great restaurant which was rather tastefully decked out with artefacts that included a cabinet full of arrow heads and boleros (stone balls used by the Indians for hunting).
Arrowhead: one shaped pebble amongst the millions. A missed shot. Or a successful shot around which the remains of the guanaco have long since rotted. Some sort of life then, out there…
The Tehueches were a noble, happy people: the inevitable pictorial fate of all extinct peoples. They lived for the day. They never kept food. If they didn’t catch anything, they didn’t eat. Bread appeared as manna. ‘Poco bara, poco bara’, they would cry. They would give a horse in exchange, or blankets, or lessons in hunting and fishing, or ostrich feathers.
Or they would just take it, walk in and take it. They blundered against civilisation, against the Argentinian army, like a dodo against the legs of a starving sailor.
The bread swelled in their bellies. It never nurtured them. Then came measles, mumps, chicken pox, scarlet fever, diphtheria…
However humane, in Welsh – in this aspect at least – were true Conquistadores…
We had our first taste of Patagonian lamb with home made pasta from the mill’s flour; delicious it was too especially with a glass of fine Malbec, De Valle der Riva, Chubut.
On our way back we made an attempt to find a place recommended by Luned, the house of Nel bach y books, she sketched out a map on a scrap of paper but we couldn’t locate it…the house that is not the map.
We somehow ended up back at Bod Iwan, Waldo’s farm, he was home this time and warmly welcomed us into the parlor where more Mimosa ancestors stared with curiosity upon us.
Including a charismatic photo of his father taken by Ken Griffiths.
Waldo added to Luned’s map but we still failed to find Nel bach’s place so we gave up and headed home….Helado/Hufen Ia time!
A lovely surprise visit from Luned over breakfast with a copy of Y Camwy from 1985 with a great article about the Los Rifleros, a group of explorers (known as Los Rifleros) who travelled across the Andes to procure minerals and discovered Cwm Hyfryd that become the next Welsh settlement. The chief organiser was John Murray Thomas from Bridgend, who as an eighteen year old had travelled on the Mimosa
He became a keen photographer and documented the expedition via image and pen, his journal was featured in Y Camwy therefore Luned’s gift was perfect as the next day we would be heading out on our own antur (adventure) across the Paith, destined for Cwm Hyfryd and the annual re-enactment of the Los Rifleros arrival and the Eisteddfod.
On the road to Puerto Madryn and Penizular Valdes in search of Penguins. Which are intrinsically linked to Wales.
It took us about three hours to get there across gravelled terrain which shook and rattled our sanity.
But in the end it was worth it as within five minutes of getting to a good vantage point we saw Penguins close up.
Elephant seals on the beach and Orca whales diving in the distance.
Here is Sian’s impression of a Penguin/Seal hybrid.
We stopped by at Puerto Piramida which strangely reminded both of us of Llangranog apart from the Killer Whales!
Then back to Puerto Madryn, both of us rather hysterical with fatigue as the trip all in all had taken 8 hrs.
At the sea front there is a monument dedicated to those that arrived on the Mimiosa in 1865.
Close up the statue looks remarkably like Luned which is most comforting…….she is omnipresent and looking after us.
Which is a very good thing as tomorrow we snake slowly towards the Andes….
Rees & Thomas, the new Los Rifleros…but in Panama hats not Stetsons.