For the last three months we have been travelling through the wild, rugged deserts and impenetrable cloud forests of north western Argentina, but now it was time to leave.
We did so by climbing the circuitous road from Mendoza towards the border with Chile. As soon as we started to descend the western side of the mighty Andes, it was immediately clear we were entering a completely different floristic region; dry arid lands were replaced by forests and streams. The hot dusty desert air had parched and dried our skin, we longed to be at the ocean.
Heading west as quickly as we could, around the northern suburbs of Santiago and crossing the fertile central valley of this thin country, we encountered the mountains that skirt coastal Chile. From their summit the deep blue of the Pacific beckoned.
Following the Rapel river valley we approached the sea near to the village of Navidad and found a small marsh.
– over which circled a shower of ‘snowflakes’, nesting egrets.
Better still, this tiny marsh was the home to a flotilla of Black-necked Swans.
We decided to camp here at the marsh, the ocean would have to wait a little longer.
The marsh was fringed by a dense margin of rushes but we found one small spot that cattle used to come to drink, here we set up a hide.
As we slept at night we could hear the distant rollers pounding the cliffs but on this Chilean marsh we found peace and prolific wildlife.
For three days we watched, through the rushes, as the birds left the marsh in the morning to feed on the estuary and then return in the afternoon to feed their young.
Sitting silently, unseen in a hide, keeps you in a constant state of expectant suspense. Marsh sounds are weird, there are croaks, groans, high pitched squeals, sploshes and whooshes. Sometimes there is nothing to watch except the mesmeric reflections in the water.
But the life in a marsh is a vibrant one.
Constantly peering through the vertical lines of the rushes, imagination turns to reality as its inhabitants appear and disappear.
And cavorting –