Farellones and the road that leads there offer much more than an ascent to 2,300 masl to ski: they record the latent memory of the shaping of the city and its inhabitants.
“I was raised among mountains, with three dozen ranged around.
It seems that never, never, wherever my steps may be heard,
Have I forgotten them, neither by not day, nor by starlit night,
and even now, when pools reflect my snow-white hair, I never left them, nor they me
like a cast-off daughter.
And though people call me
Absentee and renegade, I had them and I have them
still now, still now,
and their gaze goes with me.”
– Gabriela Mistral, “My Mountains” in Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral Translated by Ursula LeGuin
Mistral has always provided me with a pertinent way to overcome the cliché of visualizing Chile as that “crazy geography” that Benjamín Subercaseaux and his minions have accustomed us to. The only madness involved in this act of accepting [the multifaceted Chileaan geograhy] is the undeniable capacity that natural elements have to provoke exaltation to the point of depriving us of judgment, as happens, for example, when ascending the foothills of the Andes mountains, an option to recover identity lost takes hold.
Unlike Mistral, I grew up on a flat and absent island, where concepts such as valley, peak, narrows and ravine had ceased to be valid with the appearance of the Strait of Magellan and were consequently replaced by notions such as steppe, sierra, horizon and bay.
In Santiago, on the other hand, where I have lived more than half of my life, the Andes are an essential geographical landmark that is not only recorded from a distance, but also experienced when climbing or skiing in the ski centers of Farellones, Valle Nevado, La Parva and Colorado. As a good renegade from Tierra del Fuego, I have never skied and much less climbed, but obviously I do enjoy driving long distances. Making the round trip on the road to Farellones, which extends more than 30 km and with an altitude change of over 1,500 meters above sea level from Lo Barnechea, is my chance to overcome the material and seasonal condition of the cross-over zone between the city and mountain. As much as possible, I stop while driving because since the construction was completed at the end of the decade of the ’30s, no investment has been made to take advantage of the road as a corridor not only for vehicles and winter-sports lovers but also for flora, fauna, cyclists, tourists and those who, like me, only seek in occasional hummocks and contained terraces the possibility of experiencing that landscape that we have built.
And, paraphrasing Mistral, although in mountains I was not raised, it is in them that I can invoke the origins of my urban life. Because more than a spectacular whitish stage to see from a distance, it is when immersed there that the traces of ancient ravines can be visualized that once captured and conducted the humidity necessary to irrigate a semi-arid valley, long before this was that pseudo-green oasis that seems natural to us today.