Trouble in Patagonia
Author: Gerber Ambassador Erick Voorhees www.catchingsuenos.com
The below dispatch was recently relayed from the Patagonia Region in South America by a Gerber Ambassador.
The sun long gone, clouds hung suspended in front of the moon as we entered into a canyon carved by an ancient river, now just a stream a mere foot in width. Hiking along the right side of the stream bed about fifteen feet from its edge, my headlamp caught a flicker in the bushes on the opposite side. After motioning to Jessica to stop behind me I reached for my high powered hand-held flashlight. Before I could aim the strong light at the movement, we grew able to discern its cause… eyes. Flashlight flipped on, I slid my knife out of my pocket. The light on the bush turned the black depths bright as day and we both exhaled in relief. Though unsure as to what type of animal held those glimmering eyes, we found that it was no longer alive, but petrified within the beer cooler-sized bush. Relief from the knowledge that the animal was no threat lasted seconds.
Turning back to the trail, its black eyes locked on me from its slightly higher stance on the opposite bank, framed against the ragged clouds, stood a large cat, likely a puma. Completely illuminated by my light, the puma froze briefly, then frenziedly began racing back and forth on the opposing shore of the stream. White as a ghost in the light, it covered a huge distance only to turn back and return to its starting point. This went on for three or four laps, when suddenly the animal bolted downstream in the direction we needed to go.
Jessica and I quickly agreed with few, pointed words that the dead animal in the bush was either the puma’s cub or the puma’s dinner we had since spoiled. Bodies racing with adrenaline we scuttled softly along the trail, helplessly in the path of the puma. Our senses heightened, we moved through the night scanning the bushes in every direction going forward, side by side, ready to face trouble. As we exited the canyon, we were disheartened by the trail’s disappearance, rains having washed ruts through it and in opposing directions. The camp we sought was at the intersection of the stream and a river and we followed the broken trail closest to the river’s edge. This led us to a dirt road and eventually to a light in the distance. Relieved to be on something obviously man-made, we made fast time down the road.
Minutes away from the light, the eyes appeared again. No growl or hesitation; the moment the animal looked up, it charged, eyes racing at us. No sound but that of dirt moving under four legs in our direction. Jessica and I drew our knives, gripping our hiking poles like spears in our free hands. Neither wavered; we were going to have to kill this puma.
Just as the body rushing us came into view I thought to alert the beast to our murderous intentions and I let out a loud growl. Responding instantly, the friction of the dirt stopped the animal, stark, in the beam of my light. As he did, we quickly realized that what we thought was the same puma from earlier, was in fact, a pissed off watch dog. We had stumbled onto a cattle rancher’s property and were not welcome. From a distance we agreed silently to a pact with the dog intent on attacking us: we would walk away so long as it stayed put. Making camp fifteen minutes later and spent from a long, adrenaline-fueled hike, we talked ourselves to sleep, our nervous giggles eventually subsiding into genuine, relaxing belly laughs. The brave watchdog, embarrassed by our human growls and defended stance. The actual puma, likely miles away, enraged by its spoiled dinner, confounded by an animal that could turn night into day with an artificial sun.