Journeying through Patagonia

Travel Destinations — By on November 16, 2006 at 6:00 pm

I’ve been doing a bit of my own traveling the past couple of weeks.  Lisa and I have been meaning to explore more of South America and so we decided to take a bit of time to see part of Argentina.  It’s too big of a country to explore in one trip and so our focus, in addition to Buenos Aires, has been to experience Patagonia.  We’ve spent time in El Calafate and in nearby Glacier National Park, as well as at the “end of the world” in Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego.

The Patagonian landscape is something to behold.  Spectacular and stark, dramatic and barren, all at the same time.  While traveling here, I’ve been reading Bruce Chatwin’s famous travel narrative, In Patagonia, which is a worthwhile companion for any trip to this part of the world.  Here is one example of how Chatwin describes the region:

The Patagonian desert is not a desert of sand or gravel, but a low thicket of grey-leaved thorns which give off a bitter smell when crushed.  Unlike the deserts of Arabia it has not produced any dramatic excess of the spirit, but it does have a place in the record of human experience.  Charles Darwin found its negative qualities irresistible.  In summing up The Voyage of the Beagle, he tried, unsuccessfully, to explain why, more than any of the wonders he had seen, these arid wastes had taken such firm possession of his mind.

While in El Calafate, we experienced some of what Chatwin wrote about.  On the Patagonian steppe, the land stretches vacantly for miles and the wind howls.  The solitary homes of the local farms are all protected from the wind by rows of planted trees.  Otherwise, there is little vegetation aside from grass.  It’s an apt landscape for the southernmost region of the world.

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