We climb aboard The Patagonian Express.
The smell of the native herbs as you hurtle past the wild west scenery is intoxicating and I catch my first glimpse of an armadillo, scurrying across the sand in search of a place to hide. Sian misses it, even the though I shout ‘Armadillo’ really loud and excitedly.
When we get back to the Hosteria there’s a note from Margarita to call the farm urgently. She has arranged a visit to a corrugated iron hanger that I saw upon arrival (like the Galpon in Gaiman) that houses forest fire fighting helicopters and small planes. Margarita has arranged it all, (what a woman, what an asset!) somehow she’s even managed to get them to empty it and they are all lined up outside as we arrive, the aircraft and the flying bomberos in their fetching overalls and aviators, I feel like Kelly McGillis in Top Gun….
The hanger does take my breath away, (I know, mucho corny!) It’s perfect but wether we could use it is another matter. Margarita makes a call to the Mayors office and sets up a meeting for Thursday morning!
We then go and see the local council’s secretary of culture who shows incredible photographs of the original settlers which their archiving, 3000 images already and there’s many, many more. I could spend weeks there! Its amazing material. Heres one of a family who moved from Dyffryn Camwy to Cwm Hyfrd which took a staggering 3 months to cross the Paith!
Its fantastic material to support the choral composition and animate the installation, key stimuli, similarly to how Barmouth’s pictorial archive became the bedrock of FMS&S (our site responsive work for National Theatre Wales).
Then, a quick stop at the Town Hall to see if it has potential, built as a cinema by the Welsh in the 1930’s.
Its great but not suitable for P150 but perhaps ideal to present a show as a ‘warm up’ prior to 2015, I am planning a duet with Cai Tomos (with harps) to open Pontio in Bangor in 2014, which could be the perfect introduction.
To pay homage to El Malacara we visit the horse’s tomb which is buried the garden of John Daniel Evans’s house, known as Ty Taid. The reconstructed abode is closed so we try and sneak a peek through the crocheted curtains when a woman arrives with a key and a big smile, weirdly she reminds me of Judy Garland in her later years, in both stature and personality, she is JD Evans’ granddaughter. Clery, unlocks the door and welcomes us inside, its full of her Taid’s artefacts, even the bone of his beloved horse’s front leg above the mantelpiece.
She sits us down and performs the story of El Malacara with sheer brilliance. I almost expect her to break into Forget your troubles, Come on get happy, You better chase all you cares away. Goodness knows how many times she has told this story but she is so captivating. She speaks of Bruce Chatwin and I realise that a few days back whilst re -reading In Patagonia that I had read about her in an amusing passage.
Milton Evans was the principle resident of Trevelin and the son of its founder. He was a round moustachioed gentleman of sixty-one, who prided himself on his English. His favourite expression was ‘Gimme another horse piss!’. And his daughter, who did not speak English, would bring a beer and he’d say.’ Aah! Horse piss!’ and drain the bottle.
I never knew that JD Evans came from Mountain Ash, serendipity at play once more, as that’s the place where we want to site P150 in the South.
Here’s the family bible brought from Mountain Ash on board Mimosa.
We explain the purpose of our trip and the research-undertaken so far and our wish to feature her grandfather’s story. She is renowned for being choosy who she affiliates with, famously she refused permission for a film to be made starring Anthony Hopkins as they wanted to shoot it in Mexico.
Our ‘double act’, with me able to speak Welsh and Sian Spanish, seems to work and Clery reveals that she has her Taid’s diary’s, original letters and that we could have access to them all. Owen (Sheers) is going to be in his element with this research material, I would like Owen to shape the narrative of P150 and perhaps focus on four main Pioneers for characterization of which JD Evans will definitely be one.
Clery was so inspiring and the fact that she is willing for us to use the story and study the material is such a privilege. She refuses to take our admission fee and says Your going to make a show about Patagonia, that’s payment enough!
We were on the right track!
Mae Taith y Paith yn arwain ni yn agosach at Paradwys!
Back to the Greens farm and we write a letter to the Mayor re the hanger, and eat more delicious leftovers from another Asado. Post lunch my wish comes true and I get to ride a horse and become a temporary (and rather tame) Riflero which is just perfect after todays El Malacara magic.
There’s so much information to take in but little time to process it, so we retreat to the National Park to gather our thoughts, which is simply stunning; We feel a bit like Yogi Bear and Boo Boo.
I even go for a dip.
I return to the lake by moonlight and the reality hits me that if it wasn’t for the Welsh and the plebiscite this national park would not exist and a land twice the size of Wales would have belonged to Chile…. Incredible, this story is FAR more epic that I even imagined, and even more suitable for a site responsive, inter-disciplinary project on a grand scale.
We get up really early, skip breakfast and head for a meeting with the Mayor of Trevelin, we wait outside his office for 1hr and 45 mins but finally get to see him, and discover that he is also related to JD Evans! He pledges his full support and is keen to start to plan things straight away, as 3 years will fly by he says. Fantastic that he is so keen as he can make things happen. Result!
Onwards to Leleche and the humongous farm that belongs to the Benetton family, 2.25 million hectors! There’s a special lunch followed by an auction.
There’s 500 guests and their preparing the Asado in a make shift corrugated iron shed.
The rams are the biggest that i’ve ever seen!
And the ‘uniform’ that the gauchos wear are fantastic, all with an individual twist. I would love to dress like this but I don’t think that Cardiff is ready for Gaucho Chic!
During lunch Marga and I come up with an idea of approaching Benetton to send their Marino wool (that is produced here) to Wales so that Melin Tregwynt can create a new Padrao Patagonico / Patrwm Patogonia / Patagonia Pattern commemorative blanket, (following our previous collaboration on Adain Avion).
Lo and behold Margarita somehow manages to arrange a meeting there and then with Benetton’s president who is attending the lunch, he is very sympathetic but explains that all the wool they use comes from New Zealand. What a shame as it’s a great idea. We’ll have to put our thinking caps on (bobble ones obviously)… where’s theres wool there’s a way! YAY!