From Tierra del Fuego


Only in Patagonia would your mountain guide tell you it’s going to be an easy day, and then take you on a 28K hike. But the French Valley of Torres del Paine was worth seeing, as was Ascencio. We arrived to Chile after a long day on the bus, an easy border crossing, then pisco sours and fried meat. The Paine Mastiff is beautiful, it’s two-tones are unreal in clouds and in sun. The weather held, and on day two we climbed to a mirador on a glacial lake just under the Torres, and the sun came out, and a perfect blue Patagonia sky. Day three, I saw an avalanche run down the French Glacier. After days of hearing avalanches and rockslides it was fantastic to see the plume and puff of powder.


Onto Puerto Natales, a beautifully crummy little port town with its buildings painted every possible color. I got just a taste of what the Chilean Fjords must be like, looking out on that blue water and mountainscape.


Back to Argentina, and onto Tierra del Fuego. Crossing the Strait of Magellan I saw a Magellanic dolphin for just an instant, And then, FireLand, the End of the World! Sheep ranches everywhere, crumbling fenceline that reminds me sometimes of the North American West. It is an extreme place, becoming more so the further south I travel. Nights are longer, the weather changes even faster. Continued through broken lenga forests covered in lichens to Estancia Las Hijas.where and a lamb parilla, over an open fire. So simple, just hospitality, what a way to live.


Tierra del Fugeo is a land of peat bogs, swamps, vista, lichen, and crumble. It’s haunting and peaceful, inhabitated by beaver and bird. It’s easy to feel lonely here, even when other people are around. Coloane’s stories are beginning to come to life for me in an entirely new way. In Boston I struggled to understand his often bleak views of nature, but here, I sense its motives. This land is dramatic, derelict, huge and empty. Some moments it seems the best a person can hope for is a companion and hot mate. But then I touch the bark of the nothofagus. It feels dry, a clear sensation. There’s something magic here, surely.


I’m also beginning to understand the notion of pilgrimage in a new way. I’ve met many travelers, all here for this earth- some wait their whole lives for Patagonia. And it’s myth has not disappointed. I can think of nowhere I know to compare. There are no words to describe the grandeur, the scope, the scape, the scale– which is why for now I have to let the pictures do the work for me!


Tomorrow I sail aboard the Santa Maria Australis, we’ll see if we can make the Cape.


~ by maiapatagonia on November 8, 2009.

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