Southern tip: An epic tale of South America


Posted in Uncategorized by tothetip on December 9, 2009

In the months preceding this journey we spent most of our days in front of a huge map of South America, which was pasted to our bedroom wall, littered with post-it notes.  Our dream was to reach Tierra del Fuego, some 7,000 miles away.  We sketched out our route, began to look for funding, and investigated each country in search of unusual stories, those we couldn’t find in tourist guides.  We left on February 6th, 2009, and headed south inside Sancho, our small ’92 jeep.

As we left Quito, the sun crept out from behind the clouds and the drops of rain fell like fireflies from the ominous sky.  We felt nostalgia, fear, and excitement.   There was no turning back.  We were throwing ourselves into the unknown.

Each story had its own level of difficulty.  One afternoon we found ourselves parked outside a Mennonite house, deep in the Bolivian jungle.  Neither one had the guts to get out of the car and knock on the door.  They seemed so different.  We weren’t even sure if they spoke Spanish.  It helped us to be workings as a team.  We gave each other support and conquered that which intimidates all of us: getting close to the other.

We spoke to a few families and finally one of them let us stay in their home and document their lives.

The months went by, as we traveled the roads of South America.  Some roads were smooth and we flew down them with ease, others were rough and they shook us as we swallowed their dust.

In Ecuador, we heard the laughter of the marimba echoing through the humid forests of Esmeraldas.  We ascended the high peaks of the Peruvian Andes in search of the sacred Apu Condor.  In the Streets of Oruro, Bolivia, we danced with the Devil and we harvested seaweed with the Chilotes in the remote islands of southern Chile.

Sancho, our car, turned into our home and shield.  An image that is still burned in our minds is that of a victorious Sancho riding in a ferry, crossing the Strait of Magellan, right before we hit our destination.  We were seduced by the National Park of Tierra del Fuego.  We immersed ourselves in the most pure form of beauty: nature.  Instead of doing a story on people, we decided to focus on our Mother, and get lost in her patterns and colors.  While we were there, the seasons turned from fall to winter and the glorious reds and yellows faded to black and white.

But the people of South America touched us in a way that no snowcapped mountain or serene turquoise lake could.  They opened the doors of their lives, and let us climb inside.  With the gift of their trust, we had the privilege of experiencing different realities, in their most authentic form. When we first arrived at the hacienda of the Montubios, Ecuadorian cowboys, we felt as though we had entered a world strange and separate from our own.  As we packed our bags and headed out we realized that these strangers had become our friends.

Although South America’s culture and tradition radiate an extraordinary beauty, its history is stained with blood and years of injustice.  Yawar Fiesta, or Blood Celebration, represents the violent clash between the Spanish and the Incans.  The people of Coyllurqui, Peru, catch a wild condor, a symbol of the indigenous, and tie it to the back of a bull, a symbol of the Conquistadores.  We witnessed the two dancing through the ring as the condor dug its beak into the bull’s back. Modern South America was born from this bloody union, and along with it, a syncretism that combines ancient Andean beliefs with Catholicism.

With every step we took into the heart of this amazing continent our minds widened as they were filled with surprises.   We could hardly imagine the vastness of this mysterious land.  Wrapped in the black night, we traveled under the Southern Cross.  Lost in the bowels of South America, we were not sure if we were in heaven or hell.   Endless deserts turned into wet jungles.  When we arrived at our next destination we slowly worked our way into another story, uncovering a new reality.   We recorded what we witnessed with our cameras.

If no one ever sees our images, our work would be meaningless.  The fact that you are viewing these pages is priceless to us.  This book was made to share with you what we learned and experienced in our journey.

Each place changed us.  Perhaps we also left our print.  The last story we did was in the Ecuadorian jungle, in the Napo Rio.  As we pulled into the tiny pueblo of San Pedro, all the stares of the people fell upon the strange object tied to our roof, a surfboard.  One day Cirilo, a teenage member of the family we were staying with, asked us for the board.  Soon he was surfing up the Napo River pulled by his dad’s motorized canoe.  As he passed other boats, his smile reached up to the bottom of his ears.

We came back to Quito seven months later.  When someone asked us what was the best part of our trip, there was no single answer.  There are places and people that touched us, and are now part of our life, of who we are.

Creating this book has helped us to remember and give thanks for what we experienced.  When we started this trip we didn’t understand what it meant.  More than just documenting the south, we had to live it.  We discovered that we are all inter-connected, as human beings, regardless of what part of this great America we were born.


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