January 7, 2006
Last night, we took an overnight bus to Rio Gallegos. There isn't much to do here. It sits almost at the bottom of mainland South America, and our plan was to stay here for a day before moving on to Tierra del Fuego. That plan was thwarted, however, when we learned that no buses would go there for the next four days. Not wanting to sit around this sleepy town, we will instead go northwest to El Calafate tomorrow. Flexibility is essential when traveling to Patagonia, the last section of Earth to be colonized by humans.
Luckily for Jenny and I, the circus was in town this weekend, giving us something to do. We walked over to the large tent that was set up for the "Circo del Sol" around 9:30 PM. By the time the circus started at 10:30, it was barely dark, and I felt a chill that I hadn't felt since I was in the mountain town of Sajama, Bolivia. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Would they have elephants, lions, and trapeze artists like the circuses of the States, or would there be guys dressed in gorilla suits juggling tennis balls like the street performers of Latin America?
The first people to perform were in fact jugglers. They were much better than street jugglers, but they were still throwing and catching bowling pins for entertainment. They impressed me with their grand finale, however, when they juggled flaming swords. When I saw them throw fire back and forth, I wished I had brought my knife to make a quick getaway from the tent in case of a screw up.
To break up the action, a few clowns performed. "They got the most laughs," Jenny later told me. I laughed and told her, "What did you expect? They're clowns." Even though they only spoke Spanish, I got a kick out of the clowns' antics.
Later, an animal trainer came out. When I saw that he had cats instead of lions, I thought it was a joke. In fact, cats were his entire act. He spun one around on a wheel, made one walk over some pegs, and he was done. When you put a cat on a large wheel and spin it around, of course it's going to run to avoid falling. You don't need to be an animal trainer to know that.
The next few acts were much more impressive. There was the guy who threw knives at his partner who was spinning on a wheel, the woman who was suspended from a cable around man's neck high up in the air holding on for dear life with her mouth, and the monkey. Hey, monkeys are always funny.
The show ended with a typical act: people riding around a small metal cage on motorcycles. Even though I had seen it before, I thought it was the best act of the night. How they could ride around so fast without hitting each other was beyond me.
The circus in Patagonia may not have been the same high-quality production that is put on in the United States nowadays, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Indeed, a few of the performers were just one step above begging for money at street intersections, but most of the people I saw were very talented and athletic. I was lucky that such a good show happened to be in town that night, because I'm confident that there wasn't much else to do here in Rio Gallegos.
The photo album for this entry is here.