“Panza llena, corazón contento” or Full Belly, Happy Heart
Contributed by Sydney Morison, Colby College
The towering mountains guarding the extensive cattle fields greeted us as we landed at the Coyhaique airport. We arrived tired, sweaty, but excited, and the view from the plane promised adventure and reinvigorated our weary traveling spirits. On our first night, we went out to dinner at one of the only open restaurants, due to the month long celebrations of Chile’s independence. We feasted upon sandwiches, casuela, and Walker’s unreasonably large order of papas fritas. We were ready for the check, but Mateo insisted on ordering sundaes to top us off – as he alluded to our near future of having to be creative with beans and rice for many a meal. So without much convincing, we scarfed down 3 sundaes of many flavors in record time. While we sat digesting, Mateo added a wise saying to justify ordering the sundaes ‘Panza llena, corazón contento,’ which roughly translates to, ‘Full belly, happy heart.’
So, very content indeed, we marched back to our first residence, which were cabañas owned by a couple named Elsa and Nino. Nino is a fly-fishing guide, and many pictures and paintings done by Elsa documenting their many trips and catches decorate the walls of the cabañas. We stayed here for the first two nights, the only nights we had the privilege of sleeping in an actual bed.
From Coyhaique, Nino and Elsa directed us to a man named Pancho, an old buddy of theirs. We reached Pancho’s place on Lago Central in the late afternoon after but a few hours of driving. Upon our arrival, we found out that he had an enormous white beard, 11 dogs, but most importantly, he did indeed have land for us to stay on. For 2 nights, with stomachs full of delicious campfire-cooked meals and our eyes filled with sights of snowy Cerro Castillo on the lake and a night sky that leaked the Milky Way and hundreds of stars, we were quite content on Lago Central.
At our next destination of Puerto Rio Tranquilo, our minds were filled with another kind of natural wonder. Our super-rad leaders arranged a boat ride for us on the seemingly endless Lago General Carrera. That afternoon it was viciously windy, which added to the surreal exploratory feeling of seeing the curves and crevices of the marble water caves. They formed by volcanic rock cooling in the icy lake. As we weaved in and out of the caves, condors and black-faced ibis soared overhead, probably wondering what the heck we were doing there. Before we left Puerto Rio Tranquilo for our new home at Los West Winds campground in soon-to-be Patagonia National Park, we stopped at the town’s pastelería. It was there, that the kindest woman sold to us the rest of her “pan” – 62 pieces of bread! (¡The best bread we’ve had since we’ve been here in fact!) We also bought an array of T-A-S-T-E-E treats from her genius kitchen: apple empanadas, sopapias, alfahores, and even a kind of donut. Mmm… corazón MUY contento!
We were escorted to our first meal at the park, a lunch that consisted of whatever we had left, by the herds of guanacos that dominate the landscape here. So far, they seem unimpressed by our arrival, and continue to act as though we aren’t here – pooping at our campsite and choosing to cross the road just in time for us to think we may bump one. Which reminds me of a joke Celina had heard. ~What do you get when you cross an avocado and a guanaco? ~ ¡A guanacamole! Jajajaja…
And what do you get when you cross an adorable 5-year-old boy and a condor? Well, we’re not quite sure yet. But in a park performance we attended, one of the boys, Andrés, who lives at the park recited a poem he wrote in English and the last line went a little something like this – “…and when I am older, I want to be ..(dramatic pause).. a CONDOR!” He definitely won in our hearts for the best performance. Some of the other children recited poems too, and they all talked about things in nature that they like. It seems they all really appreciate the world around them, and how could they not living in a place like this? Growing up among the birds, mice, and mountains must be something special indeed.
After the poems were recited and the dances were danced, it was time for the great barbeque feast. Two whole sheep were roasted for the occasion; accompanied by pounds of potatoes, beets, corn, broccoli, and cauliflower: the whole shebang! As I was gazing upon all the mouth-watering food, I made a bold decision. I was going to eat the meat. Now let me say this was bold on my part not because the meat looked anything less than extremely delicious, for it did indeed appear to be extremely delicious in every way. But you see my fellow readers, it was bold for me because I am a vegetarian – proud to say I have been for about a year and a half. I love being a veg, and I do feel that a vegetarian diet is right for me, and I will continue to be veg for the rest of the trip, but this particular sheep meat did not go against my environmental or political criteria as to why I have chosen not to eat meat. So if the traits I find less than appealing about meat were not present, who was I to miss out on a cultural experience? I didn’t eat too much, for I did not want to become ill since I had not eaten meat in so long. But I did have a grand old time chewing on a bone, and savoring every delectable morsel on it. After this meal was probably the most full we’d been in awhile. I looked over to see Avery, Mateo, Walker, Emily, Greg, and Andrew passing around a soccer ball, so I joined them. And as we passed around the ball in the sun that had now finally warmed the valley from the frosty night, I felt my bulging stomach, filled my gaze with the proud mountains, my ears with the call of the black-faced ibis: ‘Panza llena, corazón contento.’
“If we wonder at the beauty and elegance of nature, then, we are nature appreciating itself, and our wonderment is part of the form of nature itself. We have the choice as to whether to try to foster the continuance of life. By choosing ‘no,’ that is, choosing to continue on with the way of life that leads to ecological disintegration, we are also choosing against ourselves. And this leads us to ask, just who we are.” (Joel Kovel, Enemy of Nature)