8/30/2014

National Geographic visits Patagonia

Many years ago I lived in a small town located right by the South Atlantic Ocean in Patagonia. The coast was rocky, the tide ranged about four meters (13 feet). When the tide went out, we could see the sea retreat more than a kilometer and uncover a flat area covered with dark rocks. The natives called it "La Restinga".



 La Restinga at low tide

One day I was driving towards the center of town on the coastal road, had  already crested the hill where an  idiot driving a Citroen had dared to hit my Ford Falcon from behind, and I saw a large crowd  facing the ocean...



Crowd staring at something


As was customary, I stopped to see what was happening, and asked an elderly gentleman who had his eyes fixed on the horizon:

Me: "Sir, what happens?

The old, "Son, we have visitors from  National Geographic, they are out there on the Restinga, taking pictures".

I looked at the Restinga, and saw in the distance a four wheel drive  like the ones they use in African expeditions. It looked very fit and I noticed it  was equipped with a  tall engine snorkel. Next to the machine I saw  men taking pictures with huge cameras.

Me: "And I guess they are  photographing us, they like to take pictures of people who live in remote places"

The old man (pulling a comb): "That would be nice"

Me (seeing that the tide had begun to rise): "I think we should tell them to return quickly, or they´re going to get wet"

A Young guy standing next to the old man: "No sir, see? They have a snorkel, that thing can breathe under water"

I scratched my head, wondering if automotive technology was moving that fast.  But I looked closer  and realized that National Geographic car´s  tough  look had deceived my friends, what with that snorkel and all. As  you can see below,  that vehicle wasn´t a submarine.  


 Tough looking four wheel drive with snorkel 

I ( to the young guy): "I think the snorkel is a tube that allows them to give air to the engine when crossing rivers, but if they stay under water after the tide rises they will drown. Run and let them know and they´ll probably give you something "

When I finished talking the youth ran like a goat, leaping from rock to rock, and yelling at the men of the National Geographic expedition that the tide was rising. 

For my part I organized the onlookers to make signals and shout to see if they realized they were in trouble.

Eventually the the National Geographic expedition  realized they were in big trouble, got on the car and tried to move away from the sea.  But it was too late. Between them and us had appeared a wide channel running with a fairly strong current.  From the looks of it that channel was already over a meter deep, and getting deeper by the second.   

The boy shouted at them  to hurry up and cross it, but they decided to get off their vehicle. We stared full of amazement as they  tied the car to the rocks with ropes and chains,  then left it behind and  jumped  into the water,  waded the  channel and  ran as fast as possible towards us.

I had business downtown, the police chief had arrived  and it seemed that the running men would do fine, so I decided to leave.

I told  this story to the people I saw that afternoon, and many thought I was making shit up.  But the next day the whole town could see the National Geographic car taken apart in the local mechanic´s yard. That car had been out in the ocean almost all night, but when the tide fell they unchained it and pushed it back to the real beach.  Now they were trying to see if they could dry it and put it together again. 

A few days later I heard  they were never able to get it started. The National Geographic expedition had left town riding the milk  truck, and we never heard from them again. 


This happened long before Bill Fisher burned the penguin. 

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