The Guanacos

17th March 2020

In late 2018, Patrick and I had the opportunity to travel to Chile to visit my brother who now lives north of Santiago as an astrophysicist (his actual job). The first stop on our South American adventure was to make the long trek down to Patagonia as a trio.

After a three hour flight south from Santiago and nearly five hours of driving the gravel “La Ruta del Fin del Mundo” or “The Road to the End of the World” set to this playlist, we arrived in the famed Torres del Paine National Park. The region is home to flamingos, pumas, penguins and even a famed giant sloth, but it’s one silly looking dude who’s clearly the star of the show here: the guanaco.

The guanaco is a relative of the llama, a South American deer if you will. He’s really not much to write home about compared to his roommates, but here, he’s king. We were quickly trained to focus our eyes to find one and while they have a population of more than 3,000 in the park, day by day went by without a sighting.

On day three, amidst what felt like hurricane strength winds we found a guanaco. He was on top of a ridge looking down on us shining with the true Simba status he deserves.

We’d quickly learn from our guide that you nearly always have to look up to find the first guanaco. Guanacos live in herds and while famous to us park goers, they aren’t exactly on the top of the food chain. See earlier puma mention. Guanacos appoint a sentinel, or look out, to stand at the highest point nearby and watch over the other guanacos as they graze below. Find the sentinel and you’ll likely spot his friends.

It was my favorite moment of the trip, as evidenced by this 100% genuine reaction to my brother when we saw him. The idea of the sentinel has stuck with me since. We all need a lookout. As Lauren Daigle might say, look up child.

I hope you have a greater lookout that you turn to for counsel. I know I do. I was reminded of these pictures this week as we enter days, weeks, maybe even months of uncertainty. Whatever you do next, look for the sentinels. Look for the helpers. Look for the stories of the people showing immeasurable care.

Maybe even put on your best guanaco impression and go be that sentinel. Your herd needs it now more than ever. And while you’re at it, wash your hands too.