Channeling a beloved ‘90s metal album, Tudor Caradoc-Davies visits Jurassic Lake Lodge in Patagonia and loses his mind.

“I think about Faith No More’s 1995 album King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime, a lot.

I only became acquainted with it in 2003 when I spent a year in Germany washing dishes, playing rugby and learning Deutsch (see what I did there?). One of my friends from language school, an Argentine called Santiago introduced me to it and I got stuck in. Then it got stuck…in my Discman, so for the better part of six months that was all I could listen to. Fortunately, with a band as schizophrenic as Faith No More, with metal, funk, choral, R&B and bossa nova stylings and a fair whack of comedy, it’s not formulaic. Throw in Mike Patton’s six octave range and you have a Rubik’s Cube of listening possibilities. When you listen deeply to anything by a half-decent band, you begin to pick up on layers of sound. A latticework of instruments and vocals reveal themselves with each subsequent listen. Or at least that’s what it feels like when you have limited options. Wherever I went, riding my bicycle through the streets of Heidelberg I was always on a Faith No More wavelength. In fact, I probably developed some sort of aural Stockholm syndrome because the lyrics from different songs have become my Pavlovian catch-phrases.

Something funny happened with the potential to end in pain?

“It’s always funny until someone gets hurt and then it’s just hilarious.”

Track 2 Ricochet (channeling Bill Hicks)

 

Going mental because the working world gets weird sometimes?

“Being good gets you stuff. Being stuff gets you good.”

Track 6 Cuckoo for Caca

 

Need to say something sultry because there’s a bossa nova shuffle going on?
My lips are moving but there’s no sound,
Someday somebody’s gonna get run down

E“ non posso dirigir
E agora a pares
Ne“ dedu indehado
No ne“ naris

That last one from Track 7 Caralho Voador, was perhaps the one song from that album, stuck in my Discman, that held the most mystery for me. Because it switches from English into what sounded like Spanish or Portuguese or High Valyrian (Valar morghulis), I did not understand half the lyrics. I wasn’t even sure which Latin language they were from. They were just mysterious and menacing and they became somewhat of an internal mantra for me over the years like a verbal rosary that I’d jumble around in my mouth and mumble from time to time as if I were Danny Trejo whispering someone their last rites over the blade of a machete.

Flying in to Jurassic Lake Lodge in Patagonia, this album was even more top of mind than ever, because on our way there – Cape Town ✈ Johannesburg ✈ Sao Paulo ✈ Buenos Aires EZE, transfer to Buenos Aires Jorge Newbury ✈ Comodoro Rivadavia;  photographer Ryan Janssens and I met up with Santiago, the self-same chap from Germany 16 year earlier. With an awkward five-hour gap between flights at the two Buenos Aires airports, we had time to burn so we went for midnight asado and drinks at a Viking metal bar, as you do. After one more flight we arrived in the windblown industrial coastal city of Comodoro Rivadavia, our last stop before the last short hop to Jurassic Lake, Lago Strobel, the promised land.

Jurassic Lake, aka Lago Strobel, with Jurassic Lake Lodge in the centre, Bay of Pigs bottom right, the mouth lower left and the Aquarium in the dog leg midway up the river. Photo Ryan Janssens

Despite being shattered from all the travel and weeks of deadlines, there was zero chance of chilling. After landing, meeting and greeting Nacha the manageress and her team of guides, we dumped our gear in our rooms, rigged up and within half an hour Ryan and I were approaching the fabled Bay of Pigs with an hour and a half to play with before lunch.

There are specific beats – Bay of Pigs, the mouth of the Barrancoso and the Aquarium, which includes the 2km of river from the mouth up to the lower reaches. Those are the three main beats and if there four groups in the lodge the mouth can be split into two beats. Then there are also the upper reaches of the river that are technically a beat themselves if guests can tear themselves away from the area surrounding the camp. We will get to that later.

A place of surfing logs. Photo Ryan Janssens.

BEAT 1: BAY OF PIGS (Bahía cochinos!)

TRACK 11: KING FOR A DAY
It is not a good day, if you are not looking good
This is the best party that I’ve ever been to
Today I asked for a god to pour some wine in my eyes
Today I asked for someone to shake some salt on my life

The contrasts here are so stark. The landscape of sun-bleached rocks is lunar while the clarity of the blue waters appears tropical. Within two minutes I spot the biggest rainbow trout of my life, but like that one time in Gabon when upon seeing a tarpon I asked, “Do you get seals here?” in the Bay of Pigs I thought what I was seeing was just a log cruising in the surf. Because surfing logs make more sense in my head than trout that big.

“In the Bay of Pigs I thought what I was seeing was just a log cruising in the surf. Because surfing logs make more sense in my head than trout that big.”

Photo Ryan Janssens

Here’s the thing – normally if I messed up seeing a lunker like that, that would be it for the day. I might catch some small fish, then I’d go back home or to the lodge, tell stories about this beast and resolve one day to catch it. Jurassic is the place of second, third and fourth chances, because while I did not catch that fish, I did catch its friends in that session before lunch. Five of them to be precise, each bigger than the next and all far bigger than any trout I had ever come close to sniffing.

Photo Ryan Janssens

Now by this stage fatigue had been kicked to the curb, the adrenalin was flowing and my ego was busy orbiting the stratosphere. This is unlike me – I’m not that competitive a guy normally – but here I was sitting at lunch being all faux-modest about it.

“Who me? Big fish? Great fisherman? Oh, not really, you know…just lucky.”

I was lying, because I was starting to believe my own internal hype. You see, whenever I fish with Ryan, he kicks my ass even if he spends more time behind the camera than with a rod in hand. He’s just a better angler, but in that tiny window before lunch, he managed one fish and we were not shooting. In fact, none of the other guests got more than one fish or blanked. I started to think that maybe, just maybe in all my years of fly fishing, I just hadn’t found my niche. Maybe this, Jurassic Lake, was where I’d shine. Maybe all it took was a trip to Patagonia to unleash my talents.

I was wrong. It had nothing to do with me and everything to do with where we were.”

 

For the rest of the Jurassic story ‘King for a Day,’ get stuck into issue 20 of The Mission, for free, below:

Nothing like a bottle of Malbec to warm the cockles of the heart when there’s a freezing wind howling down from the Andes. Ryan Janssens at left, Abbie Schuster of Kismet Outfitters in Martha’s Vineyard and the author. Photo Ryan Janssens