When a light is turned on, a faucet opened, a burner lit, little thought is given to all that has been sacrificed to make such daily conveniences possible. The quest to provide human comforts has often precipitated the degradation, the scarring, and the amputation of our dear mother, Earth. Yet it seems like nothing to just flip on a switch.
This past weekend, we camped in a part of the Alto Bio Bio that will soon be lost to the construction of a dam that will provide much needed electrical power. At I sat along the bank of the salmon-filled, crystal clear Huequecura River, and gazed upon the sierra in the distance, it seemed impossible to fathom that, in a couple of months, the valley beyond will be nothing but a memory.
We had arrived in the late Friday afternoon, with temperatures hovering around 29 degrees C. Although the campground offered mini cabañas and sites on the hillside above, we elected to kick in the 4-wheel drive and traverse down the narrow, rutted drive to a site along the river. After procuring two heavily weathered picnic tables, one for a kitchen, and one for dining, we quickly set up the tents, and unpacked what would be needed for dinner. With the campfire lit for cooking, we were well on our way to idling our time with whatever mood and inclination dictated.
As beef tenderloin sizzled on the cast iron grill, and baby potatoes steamed in the pot, the sun began to ebb over the river. Although preoccupied with the rush of setting up camp, the sound of the river kept nudging my consciousness for attention. The water´s babble soon began to replace the thunder of traffic that had been left behind once the Jeep´s wheels touched dirt instead of pavement. Nevertheless, it was momentarily shocking to look up and find myself surrounded in an embrace of nature.
The campground didn´t offer electrical power, so dinner was served with the accompaniment of candles and starlight. Although it seemed a little intimidating at first to be engulfed in darkness beyond the candles´ flickering light, the fear eventually dissipated, and I began to relax and let a new rhythm of life settle in. After an evening of conversation, laughter, games of Naipes, and a nightcap, my body was soon ready to make contact with the earth, and drift to sleep.
I awoke in the very early dawn, and was enthralled with the complete serenity. The sounds of the rapids entreated my ears to enjoy its music. The rushing Andean mountain water hushed the thousand thoughts that usually occupy my mind, and drew me into a state of peace. It felt good to be at rest.
Even though we stayed very active during our stay, enjoying swimming in the cool water, wandering along the banks, prepping the fishing poles, preparing food, cleaning dishes while perched on oval disks of stones that littered the river and its edges, life flowed without burden. It became very easy to just let go, and be.
As often happens while camping, I thought about how few material goods were really needed to be happy. We were once again living with the bare minimum, this time even roughing it without electricity, yet there was no feeling of lack. While it had helped that I had prepared bags of black beans, baked cookies and washed all the veggies in advance of the trip, there were many dishes that could have been prepared from scratch over the campfire or with use of our one burner propane stove. Our entertainment was created amongst ourselves through conversation, simple games, the playing of musical instruments, and romps in the river. We didn´t need electronic gadgets to keep us distracted from boredom. If we needed light, we lit a candle or used a flashlight. The irony of living in such peaceful bliss when the reality of our normal daily lifestyles and the need for electrical power would soon deprive us of such a place of being was keenly felt in my soul. I felt somewhat ashamed that my needs would drive wildlife from its natural habitat, and drown the massive pines that offered shade from the sun and supplied my lungs with air. However, I also knew that in truth I enjoyed living with man-made comforts on a regular basis. What I resolved to do, however, was to be more conscious of not being wasteful of the energy that nature would be sacrificed to provide.
It´s amazing that such untouched wilderness, that has remained so pure since the day of creation, can be spoiled so quickly by a bulldozer and a concrete truck.