The Arroyo Calamajué is a broad plain of golden grass. The mission, built in 1766, was used only one year by Jesuit priests who were kicked out of the area by the Spanish government in 1767. The adobe walls exist no longer; the substance of adobe has piled up making burial mounds which mark the perimeter of the foundations. Stone corrals still stand adjacent to it. Within one of the corrals is a hearth ring. The setting above the Arroyo Calamajué is windy and so magnificent, Patagonian in aspect and scope.
Following the arroyo we discover a spring bubbling effervescently, carbonated from a selenite deposit. Botryoidal algae encircles its pinhole exit from under the surface. Gas bubbles form on my fingers when I stick my hand into the flow, which pushes against it geyser like. A claim marker nearby, an upstanding rectangular prism of whitewashed concrete, bears the words in square black lettering “La Manatial de Juventud”…The Fountain of Youth…
In 1792, José Longinos Martinez, a Spanish naturalist on orders to participate in an exploratory expedition of what was then referred to as New Spain, passed through Arroyo Calamajué and wrote of the ‘Fountain of Youth’:
In the vicinity of the abandoned mission of Calamajué there is a spring on the slope of some fairly high hills. The abundant selenite in this water is incrusted about the circumference, where it has built several layers of earth (tepetates) or platforms. From the center of the incrustation flows a stream about the size of a tile and a half, almost cold (10 degrees), containing aluminous selenite and vitriolic acid. The passers-by, principally soldiers, bring sugar and drink this water as if it were lemonade. They say it is refreshing,
but they are quite mistaken, for the effects are quite the contrary.
Water from these springs runs in the arroyo like a river creating an oasis. I bathe my feet in the bubbling geyser. They feel good all day…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Electrum