Rali Ko
(source of water)

The name Ralco comes from the Mapundugun words Rali Ko above. There are two Ralcos, the town of Ralco below the Pangue dam, and the community of Ralco Lepoy that is above the Ralco dam site. The first person that we tried to interview above the Ralco site was Rosario Huenteao. She is one of the people who have been resisting resettlement offers. She tearfully declined to be interviewed. Rosario, like most of the people we have talked to complains of illness brought on by the major disruption of their otherwise tranquil lives. We decided to try and do interviews at El Barco a resettlement area far up river. Because of other commitments, Mito and Sara would not be able to accompany us. It is nearly 140 kilometers from Santa Barbara, so we had to work out the logistics of gas. Our safe range is just slightly over 200 kilometers on a tank, and there is no gas in Ralco. We decided to head back down to Santa Barbara to fill up and purchase an extra container of gas that we could leave at Irma's place. While we were down in the valley, Sara took us to do some interviews at another resettlement called El Huachi which means "The Trap."

Gassing up at Irma's. The next morning we found we had a flat tire. We pumped it up with a bicycle pump and made it down as far as Ralco. There was at one time a vulcanizador (tire repair shop) in Ralco, but like most able bodied men he had gone to work at the dam. His father, though opened the shop and started the compressor. With about 45 lbs. of air we headed once again back down to Santa Barbara. After paying the exorbitant sum of 2 dollars and 40 cents to have my rear wheel removed and our spare tube installed--a 40 dollar job in the US-- we were back on our way up. The road deteriorates quickly beyond where the contractors trucks need to go. Apparently access to sand and gravel is more important than access to the families that have been located high in a foreign terrain. The photos below show our first retreat from just above Chenqueco. The combination of our heavy loads on very loose rocky ground, coupled with the fact that the Metzler Tourance tires do not have a very aggressive tread pattern, made going a bit scary.
Just after this photo was taken I took my first fall. We were lucky to have gotten our first flat, first retreat, and first fall all out of the way on the same day. On a day of firsts, Karen makes her first ford below.