Complicated Blues: Notes from Patagonia

Thursday, March 3, 2016


In Patagonia there is a super untouched area that still exists, centred around the confluence of 2 rivers: the Rio Azul and the Rio Blanco. There is not much in the way of civilization there, save for some farmers and a network of hiking trails that plays home to some serious free spirits. There's hardly any wildlife there either. Some birds and a couple of wee lizards. The very occasional mountain cat. Some fish. That’s it.

The rivers there are fed by glaciers. They are BLUE. Like, brilliant blue. Gorgeous, brilliant blue.

My first day hiking there I “bumped” into 2 American guys, one from New York, one from Oregon and we “chatted” across a canyon. They were psyching themselves up, shirts off, for the cliff jump into one of the deep pools of blue situated at a bend in the river. Finally, with some egging on, one of them did climb up for the 20 or 30 foot jump. I clapped and cheered with total glee from my side of the gap. Well done, Oregon guy.

The next evening I happened to be reading the excellent book “All the Light We Cannot See” and was struck by a phrase in the story – “the complicated blues” – it was about the colour of music, but it stood out to me because that afternoon I had spent some time beside another swimming hole in the Rio Azul. 167 steps down a cliff (I counted), near my mountain lodge.

I sat and studied that swimming hole for an hour or two. I was trying to imagine explanations for why the water would be that colour. THOSE colours, more accurately. Because the longer I watched, the more the colour was not just one colour. It was complicated.

I sat and imagined slipping out into the centre of the complicated blue. Perfecting my starfish, complete with radiating Ophelia hair, floating floating floating, unbothered by anyone because there was no one.

My hiking boots came off. My socks came off.

But there was no swimming in that heavenly hole that day. The reason was not so complicated.

The simple truth was that it was really, really, really fucking cold.




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