Saturday, February 21

Patagonia 7

The last few days of my week in Ushuaia were spent at the home of Yanina and Veronica, who are both from Buenos Aires but have been working in the tourism industry of Ushuaia for the last several years. Both were very kind, and because of their work, know just about everything about the area, and were happy to share it with me.

After leaving Ushuaia, I headed a bit northwest into the Chilean part of the Patagonia. It's a very isolated area, where the only way to reach the regions of Chile farther to the north is by ferry or plane. Unfortunately, the ferry is much too expensive ($500) and so I had to settle for a plane. It would have been very nice to take the cruise, as it passes through many fjords, but it will have to wait for next time, along with other prohibitively expensive excursions such as Easter Island, the Isle of Robinson Crusoe, the Falklan (or Malvina) Islands, Antarctica, and Port Williams, the southern most colony on the planet. The prices of all of these were hundreds, if not thousands of dollars just for transportation. Yet the distances aren't anywhere near as far as the prices would imply.

It will be nice to get a bit farther north and take advantage of some nice weather for what's left of the summer. I've had a great time here, but after so many weeks in the Andes, mountains are starting to lose their thrill. It's the same for everyone, I think. After a while, even something spectacular can become routine, and it's good to get some distance to be able to be properly awed by it again later on.

It will also be very nice to get back to a region where public transportation is a bit easier to find. In a way, I feel a bit trapped here. Even though it's only a few days till my flight, knowing how isolated the region is brings an odd feeling. Yet it's been nice to find places that are a bit off the beaten track. Still, the village that I'm in at the moment exists mostly as a supply depot for hikers heading to the Torres del Paine trail, which has been fitted with so many conveniences that it can lose a bit of it's splendor.

Previously, this village, Puerto Natales, had existed more for fishing than anything else. The people here and in Punta Arenas, the other major town, feel distinct from the rest of Chile due to the isolation from the rest of the country. They feel that they have more in common with those living in Santa Cruz, the Argentine province on the other side of the border. It's not hard to understand why...


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