Representations of Home Creative Journal

ROAM - Summer/Autumn 2023 - ROAM 3

Home Sweet Home

Diana V. Almeida

Home Sweet Home, Chaitén, Patagonia, Chile. January 2012.


This photograph was taken when I arrived at Chaitén, recently opened to visitors, after a volcanic eruption that destroyed the town and led the Chilean government to evacuate the area, in May 2008. I had spent the last couple of nights in the Pumalín Park, created in 1991 by the U.S. businessman and conservationist Douglas Tompkins, and subsequently donated to be administered by the national authorities, in 2017.

Lodged in a luxurious wood cabin (the priciest stay I’ve ever paid in my long time as a solo traveler!), in a peninsula overlooking the magnificent fjords, it felt like I had regained paradise. I walked on my own for hours through the native forests, in awe at the mountains and the millennial trees. In this seismic area, the earth spasmodically shook under my feet, and I was sure this was the Mother’s heartbeat guiding me.

After a few hours waiting for a phantom bus referred to in the travelling guide, I got a ride on the back of a workers’ truck and, covering my face with a scarf to avoid breathing too much dust, bumped over some long kilometers till Chaitén. The town looked like a blockbuster movie dystopic scenario, with symmetrical empty streets lined by windless wooden houses still full of ashes, under the merciless sun. It was hard to get a place to stay overnight, and I had to walk back and forth with my heavy backpack till I found a private house turned into an improvised hostel, where the owner would try to seduce me into becoming his wife later that night.

After having dropped my luggage, I roamed over into the coastal area to the river front littered with debris. This house had been washed away by the floods that ensued the eruption and ended up representing my feelings of utter despondency. The contrast between this experience and my blissful previous couple of days served as a reminder of life’s impermanence. “This too shall pass,” I kept repeating mentally.


Diana V. Almeida


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