It was in Patagonia…,
where I met the Penguin, a female Penguin, better known as Diana Visintini. She has been a tour guide there for twenty years now, leading all-age groups of visitors: coming in tens, twenties , sometimes more than fifty foreigners and locals altogether in a Babel tour! Since
the Penguin, looks more like an european than a “tehuelche” –native indian, in nothern Patagonia- , vsitors doubted at the beginning, about her guiding skills, let alone for her knowledge on the area.
The Penguin had always experienced that feeling, which got to her throughout, expressions, moans, looks and even weird questions made by customers,…
Anyway, starting tours with a broad grin on, early in the morning in the hard patagonian weather, was a trusthworthy gesture for incredulous passengers whose final thank you very much, Penguin, it was an unforgettable trip, was the evidence of a great time spent.
Along all these years I received photos, letters.., most recently mails and links to the common media sites: Patagonia can really impress you, much more if you even meet a passionate worker there: the Penguin.
It is written on her blog:
Patagonia, vast area of land in the south of the planet,shows visitors, the varied contrast of steppe, cold forest, ice and sea: life hides on each cove, and man explores, looks upon and, synthesizes in tourist actions the daly patagonian-living-theatre.Tourism in Patagonian ranches - country houses-, and historic relics: present and past of a dream land.The relevance of historic icons in remote areas are genuine attractions for visitors, always impressed in this land.
Hence the story,
The 97’s or 98’s were running. I went to pick up 12 kayakers who had been paddling in Patagonian waters, for ten days. Kind of a safari in the cold sea south of 42# latitude
Not that far from the roaring forties.
Wearing leather boots, blue jeans and a sandstone shirt park-ranger-style, the Penguin, went to Larralde beach, to pick up twelve people, driving a van on the gravel road for 100 kms in Valdés.
… October could be hard by the sea, in Patagonia,
if it’s blowing from the South. We were having fifteen-twenty knots wind-gusts…. It was nice with the sun
and I felt it on my face, as soft as a caress…, my Patagonia! Blue sky, an azurre sea chopping in and out on the beach, contrasted with the silence from the steppe; the cheerful mocking birds interrupted my communion with the moment.
Already there, people walking heavily on the pebbled beach, pulling up the boats, found me absorbed by the scene. “
“-Who’s John?”, I asked
The answer came from the least unthinkable guy in a humble, yet, firm voice
“- I am John”
“-Nice to meet you John”
“- Nice to meet you too, Penguin…, ah it will take us one hour or so to pack all these stuff…. Eh...there’s a very nice view from there above……”
…., his suggestion sounded even more convincing than what I really knew about the area. I’ve hiked the Valdés trails and beaches a lot, and there’s always a new thing to discover!
“-…. Yes… you’re right.” I watched him turning back and getting to the group on the beach-…, Jess!”
I saw all the Patagonian sea in his eyes, the entire San Jose gulf had floodded him thoroughly, so intense his look was.
Who’s he? where’s he coming from? Why…? Ten years later these questions are still echoing in my mind.
Later, He, sitting on the very back of the bus, I caught sight of his eyes, just placing the inside mirror in an ideal direction… /we don’t need the inner mirror for driving in this bus, only the outsides’ones.
His eyes were as if in a tennis match with mine. A ball being racketed back and fro….I had to drive and talk to the people through my attached microphone….John’s eyes…
After the usual stops in Peninsula Valdes, our final one, the Lighthouse lodge was there….., and the beach walk among huge elephant seals…. Penguin’s talk…. Visitors attention…more eyes to look at… choosing the right words…, sunset…a breeze waving his hair… he straight-forwardly staring at my speech…or me from the last row…. with a sandune as a frame, with the last twilight making us visible…
We started walking up to the hotel.
“-STORIES, PEOPLE WANT TO LISTEN STORIES!!!
said the expert at the marketing conference last month, referring to our work.It was a meeting for active tourism operators.
Supper at the old hotel was magic. There used to be a generator to provide electricity which was turned off at 10.00 pm, Lamps were as opaque as their old pink color which made the room look like canddle lit: ideal to end up
a quiet evening, with John narrating a story of himself as a child.
For me, he was impressive: either because of the best story, or because of the perfect narrator…..The group was enjoying… he was inspiring…
Next morning the departure did not start early. We were heading for Pirámides, - town village - to have a quick lunch on the beach, to say good bye to the whales.I suggested the Mareograph - tide gage -, an old building on the shore used to meassure tides long ago.
Going there, I drove past the historic-cave…., and… pointed out:
“- Did you know John, that when I was very poor I used to
live in a cave?
I wouldn’have uttered that comment if I knew that people were to be so surprised, amazed, kind of… startled
“-oh! That’s too much!
The whole group visited the Penguin’s cave – not a burrow for certain - but the picturesque old heavy door closing the entrance, made the story of my time there, more interesting to hear and see.
And what makes this story a delightful episode?
That of the company’s kayaking-tour motto:
When you go to Valdés you will be guided by a lady
who used to live in a cave.