The taxis came and we were on our way. As usual, I tried to put my seatbelt on and found ere was nowhere to connect it. Little prayer to St. Michael for protection as we flew across the campo just outside of town.
The rodeo was already underway. I felt like we had walked back in time to when the only thing that happened all year was a rodeo and out of the sometimes-Gringo-infested (sorry, all you other Gringos in Natales for tourism...I just get sick of us sometimes, too) centro to the real Patagonia. No one who is not from here would even know that the rodeo was happening.
Everyone wore the traditional dress of gauchos, with bloomer-like pants, bainos (Patagonian knitted caps), large wool scarves, and decorative embroidery. It felt very different from the rodeos I've been to at the National Western Stock Show...more...real.
In the pen, the men who were riding the bucking broncos were constantly in movement. Setting up the next ride. Gathering the horses from the last one. Running back and foreth to get their cells phones and drink a little beer in the saddle.
The competitors sometimes got thrown before their turn even began. They were very resilient and got right back up onto the horse, who usually had a scarf over its eyes to calm it and another rider pushing it into position. And then they were off! Running and bucking, throwing dirt onto the peoople watching. We were separated fromm e hooves of the horses by a flimsy barbed wire fence that seemed to barely resist the Patagonian wind...much less the weight of a full-grown horse.
After about an hour, I realized that the music a man was playing with a guitar and singing (the same verses over and over and over and over and...) was singing the commentary! Someone would fall and he would sing, "Que lastima, compañero..." or someone would do well and he would vamp the guitar riff while another man demanded un fuerte applauso for the champion. It was a song that told a long and winding story, and he wove what was happening on the field into the song as well.
I was the tallest, blondest person around...as usual.
At one point we were waiting for the finals to begin and MaryCler, our "hermana" was showing us how to dance one of the national dances of Argentina. Many Argentinans had come to the rodeo because Natales is the biggest city for several hours, and they were dancing.
We watched from afar and copied, and out of the blue two of the women ran over and began dancing with us! They were in traditional dress, with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths sideways, dancing with the two Gringas and making everyone laugh. It was so much fun. The most fun ever.
Eventually the wind became too much to take, and we caved in to hire taxis back to town. As we flew along (seatbelt on this time! Victory!) I realized that the singing commentary of the rodeo was on the taxi radio. Our new friends from Santiago (friends of our host family who came down for the week) invited Dominique and I to dinner out at a parilla in town. We ate amazing grilled meats in mass quantities and tried a Calafate Sour (Calafate is the name of both a berry and a city in Argentina. This was brandy made with the berry mixed with sweet and sour mix).
We talked so much and about so many different things (family, marriage, children, politics, behavior, etc etc etc) in castellano that my brain got extremely tired and confused between the languages I speak. At some point, the brain stops caring whether one is speaking one language or another and it all just becomes language mush. I couldn't speak English when I tried to switch back to it to translate something on our walk home. Italifrencastellingles came out of my mouth. Nobody could understand me, not even myself.
Life in Puerto Natales is pretty sweet. And the song of the commentary at the rodeo will probably continue its circular tracing in my dreams.