Posts Tagged With: Bariloche

What Kind Of Man Kicks A Puppy?

A family readies to take a picture with the Saint Bernards. The smaller dog at the right is still a puppy. The man in the red baseball cap dragged and kicked the pup after it sought shelter from the sun under a park bench.

I was simply stunned. So was a woman standing behind me. We both confronted the man simultaneously with our outrage. We had just witnessed the man drag and kick a sweet, cuddly, lovable Saint Bernard puppy.

This was no ordinary man. And certainly no ordinary puppy. The man, you see, works in the Civic Center square with a couple of fully grown Saint Bernard, including the pup maybe a couple of months old.

MORE CUSTOMERS come to pose with the dogs, but little do they know...

He, and others who have also have Saint Bernard, offer tourist a chance to be photographed with the oversize dogs built for cold weather and used in snowy rescues. I love Saint Bernard. They are my favorite breed of dogs. They apparently also the favorite of hundreds of tourists who come to Bariloche, Argentina. They line up for a chance to pay up to $20 for a photograph with the dogs. I admit, I considered having my picture taken with the dogs as well, but I thought the quality of the photographs did not warrant the $20 cost. So a couple of days earlier, I had turned down the man’s offer to have my picture taken with the gentle giants of the dog world.

THE VICTIM heads for the bench. Moments later he gets a swift punishment

Fast forward two days later. I’m back in the square, watching kids and their parents go gaga over the dogs and agreeing to an 8 x 10 photograph. I kept my eyes on the dogs, as it was an extremely hot day and they seemed uncomfortable in the sun. In fact, when the man tried to pose them with visitors, the tourists taking their picture with the dogs didn’t seem to notice that the hot stone pavement caused discomfort to the dogs’ paws. The dogs kept rapidly shifting from one paw to another as if standing on hot coal. They also didn’t seem to notice the man was being rather rough with the dogs, shoving them and yanking them by the collar into position. That alone troubled me.

ONE DOG runs off to seek shelter under the arches. Sometimes the handlers give the dogs a break here. Sometimes it's an umbrella in the square. Sometimes nothing. But does it really matter? It's still hot even in the shade!

But the real troubling treatment came in between photo shoots. The puppy ran off to a bench in the square to seek shelter from the sun under the bench. He was looking for a cool spot. The man walked across the square, grabbed the leash, dragged the pup from under the bench and gave the animal a firm kick in the stomach.

“Woahhhh!”, I yelled out immediately. It was a spontaneous reaction. From behind, I also heard a voice scream out. The woman and I, strangers to each other, walked up to the man and berated him. “Was that really necessary?” I asked the man, as he walked across the square back to the waiting tourists. The woman shouted to him “How would you like me to kick you in the stomach?” He just looked at us and looked away as if trying to not draw any attention from his waiting customers. I was really tempted to make a sign that read “ANIMAL ABUSER!” and stroll the square, but then I remembered reading somewhere that it is illegal for foreigners to take part in any kind of protest in neighboring Chile, and I imagine it to be the same in Argentina. Automatic expulsion or who knows else. This is Argentina, where the police is not trusted by its own citizens. Corruption in their ranks is rampant, Argentinians tell me.

WIDER VIEW of Civic Center in Bariloche, Argentina

So I tried another tactic. For at least an hour, I walked the square talking to people who looked remotely interested in having their photos taken with the dogs. I told them what I saw. Some were just as outraged as I was. Others just saw a black guy trying to talk to them and refused to listen. So after a few more of those, soaked in sweat from the heat, I left, not before taking these photos of the dogs at work in the square and the man I witnessed mistreat the dogs. He’s the old guy in the red baseball cap, but there are others with the same breed of dog pushing photographs to tourists and who seem to not care about the animals, but rather about money.

So I am taking an activist stance here and telling everybody who travels to Bariloche: Do not pay these folks in the square a dime to have your picture taken with the Saint Bernard. You want a picture of the dogs? Snap one. They are in a public square and anybody is allowed to take a picture. To support these so-called human beings is to support animal abuse!

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Double Trouble In Patagonia = A Change Of Plans

After a 22-hour trip by car from Buenos Aires to Bariloche, my river dance

I’m in a cafe in Bariloche. The town in the breathtaking Patagonia region of Argentina serves as a launchpad for mountaineers, hikers, skiers, campers and travelers headed to all points, but mostly south to the end of the American continent and its spectacular glaciers. The place is packed. I am hearing many languages: Hebrew. German. Italian. Dutch. English. Spanish. French. Some others I can’t quite discern.  These are people who absolutely love the outdoors. Hardcore climbers. Extreme sports enthusiasts. They’ve somehow made it to Patagonia, despite the challenges getting here, not to mention spending any time here under current conditions.

There haven’t been commercial flights to Bariloche since last June. For these last eight months, the airport has been closed because of an erupting volcano and the ash it has been blasting into the air. Visibility on some days here is down to almost nothing. The volcanic ashhangs in the air, looks like heavy fog, falls from the sky and coats everything. There’s a thick layer of the stuff on the ground, and at first glance it looks like a fine gray sand.

Sand? It's volcanic ash that traveled for miles to Bariloche

It makes people cough and sneeze and stings the eyes when the wind kicks it up. I’ve had just three days of this. Imagine how it has impacted the people who have lived with it for months. Economically, it hasn’t been good, they say. Tourism is down. Way down. The only travelers in town are the hearty souls who have opted to make the 22-hour road trip from Buenos Airesor from other parts overland. They are the people now in the cafe who are here to conquer nature: a mountain covered in ice; a rushing river; a few days surviving in the woods. Nothing, not even an erupting volcano, was going to keep this crowd away. Just to look at them you can tell they live and breathe the outdoors.

Road Trippers: With Massi of Italy and Austria, a stop on our way to Bariloche

I’m here with them. Not much was going to keep me away either. I have been looking forward to Patagonia for years. I checked news reports about the volcanic eruption and all official reports indicate it’s safe to be here. And yet, this isn’t exactly how I had hoped to experience Patagonia.

It’s amazing when you stop to think that this ash has traveled for thousands of miles from southern Chile, where the  Puyehue Volcano rises as but one giant in the  Andes Mountains chain.

My plan for Patagonia: to head to the southern tip of South America, with stops in Punta Arenas, Chile, and Ushuai, Argentina. Beyond that lies Antarctica. But things don’t always go according to plan. With the volcanic ash, I had decided to cut short my trip in Bariloche and head to El Bolsón, which by all accounts is a cool place to visit in Argentina.

Some car repair and a check of the map on our way from Buenos Aires to Bariloche

From there, to Perito Moreno glacier. But south of El Bolsón a destructive forest fire rages on. It has destroyed homes and forced evacuations. It has also closed the roads – albeit temporarily – south. So now I am rethinking and redrawing my plans. Perhaps go as far as El Bolsón now, then near the end of my three-year journey, return to Patagonia or southern Chile, to experienced what I’ve missed. This new plan would allow me to get back to Buenos Aires, cross by ferry to Uruguay and get to Brazil in time for carnival.

I had planned to be back in Santiago, Chile, anyway by 2013, on my way from Easter Islands, so it makes good sense to get to the rest of Argentina and Chile then. And hopefully then, there won’t be any forest fires or erupting volcanoes. Hopefully.

After 22 hours in a car together from Buenos Aires to Bariloche, still friends! 🙂 From left to right, me, Alex of Toronto, Canada, Massi of Austria and Italy, and our fearless driver, Juan of Buenos Aires, Argentina

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