Saturday, March 8, 2008

Chile, Guanacos and the Four-year-old That Could

Meet Nico.

Nico is the four year old son of a lodge worker at Mark´s place in Chile TDF. Like any boy his age, he spends his days running around, exploring and constantly keeping his parents on their toes. His only play mate is a chocolate labrador named Kodiak who is owned by Mark. So when tackling the dog becomes old, he resorts to chewing on permanant markers (with unfortunate results), kicking around a soccer ball and in some way or another, strives to find new ways to entertain himself. For as crazy as he was at times, he would always find a way to give you a laugh.

Let me tell you about one of his favorite past times.

In both Argentina and Chile Tierra del Fuego, you are bound to bump into the local wildlife sooner or later. It´s an island that has very few predators around, the largest being a fox. As a result, much of the wildlife you encounter don´t have the natural reaction to flee at the sight of people. Probably the most dominant species found besides birds, are herds of local guanacos munching on the barrien vegetation. Guanacos are apart of the camel family. I had only seen them from a distance during my time in Argentina, but once I crossed into Chile, getting close to them wasn´t a problem. They are incredibly curious animals and few will pass up the chance to check out anglers fishing on the rivers.

I found out that getting close to them can turn into a game of sorts. I learned of the game from Nico. He would slowly approach the herds just long enough until each one would see him. Once he had their attention, he would sprint towards them with his little battle cry. This ofcourse would spook the guanacos and as any smart herd animal would do, they quickly sprinted (while keeping one eye on him) to a safe viewing distance. Just as the spook was played out, Nico would then drop to the ground, disapear into the tall grass and wait. Watching this happen before my eyes and controling my laughter, you could just imagine what was going through their heads.

¨Ahhh run away! Wait! Huh? Where did he go? He was just there a second ago. That´s peculiar...We should check on him.¨

Sure enough, curiousity would get the best of them and the herd would slowly start creeping back towards the spot they last saw Nico. This process was repeated numerous times by Nico and gradually he was able to get within ten feet of them. I thought it was pretty clever of him and a good afternoon chuckle.

He´s a great kid that could really use a brother.

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