What are you afraid of?


When going out on the roads alone with Sapphire (my little van), the question I hear the most is: Aren’t you afraid?

One of the things I’ve learned is trying to disassociate unreal fear from real fear. What’s that?

It was in a book about climbing training that I learned the difference between real and unreal fear. Real fear is when we are in a real danger situation. Although, unreal fear is what we have, for example, when we are scared of falling during a climbing session even though we know nothing will happen because we are tied to a security rope.

Climbing is the passion that moves my life, through it I learned to adjust my behavior not only in sports, but especially in other sections of my life, such as relationships, work, spirituality … and recently I saw myself making use of this knowledge.

While passing through southern Argentina, I heard that there was a ghost town nearby. I was fascinated by the idea of photographing it and so I was determined to make beautiful photos, especially nocturnal ones.

I arrived at 4pm. The girl at the entrance said that thugs were invading the city at night and night visits needed authorization, which I did not have. Seeing my frustrated expression she said: You can stay up to 8 or 9 hours, after that there should be patrolling. If anyone asks, show the ticket.

I put on a white dress that I thought would look interesting in the photos and I started to wander around the city.

There were few people, and when the sun set on the horizon the few that remained were gone, including the girl at the entrance.

I was alone. Only me and ruins all over.

The night came with a beautiful, almost full moon, which dyed the ruins with silver. Everything I needed for my photos.

Along with the moon came the noises of nocturnal animals: owls, howling wolves, the complete symphony of horror films. I looked at the ruins thinking: This must be the time that the zombies start coming out of these shattered houses.

Fear? No, I knew the zombies would not pose for my photos, which would be perfect! Discomfort, yes. It’s really strange being by myself at night in a ghost town.

I believe people watch horror movies for the same reason that I climb and some run on motorbikes… to get out of the comfort zone. Because getting out of the comfort zone gives you pleasure. Both fear and pain are capable of originating pleasure, but these are not the sensations I seek to pleasure me. On the contrary, all I seek in climbing is to overcome fear.

Well, even though I’m not a fan of horror movies, there I was in a perfect setting for one.

I grabbed a timer and took a picture with a minute of exposure.

Sounds of owls … howls. A long minute surrounded by ruins and many, many noisy animals.

One minute was too short, the photo came out dark.

I analyzed the image and thought that with three minutes I could maybe have some better results. I took a deep breath and pressed the button.

New noises. Motorcycles, some very noisy motorcycles and euphoric screams.

A minute later they parked at the ghost town’s entrance. Three blocks of ruins and two minutes left for my photo separated me from the “thugs”. The entrance was the only way out.

One more eternal minute for my photo to be done. No one entered the city.

Three minutes! Done! I didn’t even see how it turned out I just grabbed my backpack, took the camera by the tripod and headed for the entrance. I couldn’t hide from them, my car was out there, they knew there were people in town.

I fast walked past the group. They said “Hola,” I answered “hola” and went to the car in a quick pass. I don’t know if they were willing to harm me on anyway but they were many and I was a woman by herself.

When I hit the road, they picked up the bikes and passed one after the other through the gate. They waited for me to leave before going in and starting their “party”.

I was happy to have mastered the unreal fear of the “ghost town” and to have a quick reaction when a real risk possibility came up. I was learning to control my emotions.

As for the bikers, what were they looking for in the city? Fear, adrenaline, adventure?

I don’t know, but possibly seeing a woman in white dress coming out of the ruins may have been the highlight of the night!