Notes From A Still Depressed Cameraman In Patagonia
Another week with no camera, and if that is not bad enough I was dragged to the Pharmacy by my mate Rodrigo, here in Puerto Natales, where I reluctantly exited with a weeks course of Antibiotics, but as much as I hate taking drugs, ( The only thing I have in common with Bill Clinton ) and one or two other US Presidents,”I once smoked a joint, but I didn’t inhale” , yeah right ) I have to admit my body has struggled to deal with this chest cold or Man Flu, as many a female would refer to it as, that I picked up in the UK 3 months ago, so a little outside assistance is required to nip in the bud whatever I have, and is seriously depressing me.
It seems the techy who is currently pulling my Panasonic video camera to bits in his workshop has yet to find the problem, so I decided my only option is Santiago and the Panasonic techy there, but just as I had resigned myself to a costly round trip, a Patagonian Angel came to the rescue, and this particular angel is called Paulina Escobar. I met her after seeing a flyer in a coffee bar window that was advertising her beautiful hand crafted Merino Wool clothes, while I sat in the window downing a half dozen croissants, your average Parisian would turn their nose up at, but hey, at the ass end of the South American continent you have to take whats on offer, anyway the coffee was excellent. Brushing the last of the sixth croissants bits off my keyboard ( they were mini size and I am trying to put on weight for the winter) I headed off in search of Paulina’s workshop on the coast road.
Puerto Natales has some interesting construction going on, and the large corrugated iron clad, barn like structure where Paulina’s beautiful little shop sits tucked in the corner, is one such space. It is in fact an art gallery during the high season, and I personally love it to the point I would be most happy living in it, but you would have a bastard of a heating bill if you did. I was somewhat impressed with her work to put it mildly and due to the fact I am in the market for ideas for making short documentaries about the region, the Gauchos lifestyle, the Salmon fishing industry , and all the negative effects it has on the marine ecosystem, it struck me, ( a rare event ) after talking to her for 20 mins or so, that her beautiful handmade 100% pure Merino Wool, sheared from the sheep from a beautiful Estancia ( ranch ) located across the other side of the Fjord de la Ultima Esperanza ( Last Hope Sound ) a short boat ride away, would be a great subject for short film.
She makes all the dyes herself, by burning the leaves of the regions famous Calafate bush, from which other Artisans in the area make a delicious, if somewhat extortionately expensive jam, the resulting dyes are then used on the wool. The merino wool fetches a high price, so it is normally all exported, but Paulina has struck a deal with the ranch owner allowing her to buy a small percentage for her business, she was born here and is quite a sharp cookie, and teaching a dozen or so local unemployed women some of her skills has somehow given her some bargaining power in the community, not to mention given these women a real sense of achievement, put much needed money in their pockets and given them an opportunity to move up the ladder with their new skills. I thought it would be a great idea for a documentary, the setting is stunning, and the stunning final products would fetch very high prices in boutique shops of Chelsea and Kensington.
So a deal was struck, I would work with her over the coming months, and we would film the whole process, including the shearing of the prized Merino sheep, the life on the ranch, the process of creating the natural dyes from the Calafate bush, I was excited that I would have a film I could hopefully ( with the help of a good editor ) sell sometime in the future, and Paulina and I would split the profits, Oh and she would design and make a sweater for me, what more do you want.
I was devastated that my camera gave up the ghost, not only because I am up to my dental work in Pumas, but I had planned to take a few days off after filming the cats for 2 weeks and cross to the ranch to meet the owner, shoot a little bit of ranch life, build up a rapport, and get some ideas on locations to film, but that all went out the window of course. I would have to pop in and see Paulina in her studio to apologise for having to cancel our first little filming session, but that was when she offered to take my camera to Santiago for repairs, and save me a lot of time and expense, I can ill afford……….. A Patagonian Angel…….