As always, anything concerning travel seems to catch my eye. I’m continuously planning my next fantasy trip and if my current count is correct, I should be taking approximately 30 trips in the next year- all fictional of course, more’s the pity. That’s why, when I fell upon an article in the New York Times (In Argentina, Glaciers by Way of Patagonia), I knew I had to find out more about this seemingly fantastic region. I was certainly not disappointed.
Patagonia is a region spreading along the West Andes forming a border between Chile and Argentina. It is reportedly an area of remarkable, if somewhat desolate, beauty and is renowned for its extensive mountain landscapes, its Atlantic Ocean beaches, and its vast plateaus which descend in steps towards the ocean. Although I may not be able to explore Patagonia for several years to come, I can at least begin with a digital exploration.
Talk About Mountains- The Andes range is the world’s largest mountain range outside of Asia and has the world’s largest volcanos running along the Chile-Argentina frontier including Ojos del Salado which rises to 6,893 feet and over 50 other volcanoes measuring over 6,000 feet. Because of the extreme variation in altitude, there are many different climate zones which means you could go skiing in sub-zero weather and take a trek through a rain forest in the same day. The Argentinian Andes have prairies, desserts, alpine forests and tropical rain forests providing a multitude of wonderful outdoor activities to be tried.
Plateaus and Steppes- The many plateaus and steppes found in the Patagonian region of Argentina are sparsely inhabited for the most part and provide a glimpse of a wilder time. Some people say the Somuncura Plateau is in fact a view of the Earth the way it was [before human habitation, etc]. With spectacular and enchanting views, The Andean Steppes are a must see.
Beaches Anyone?- The Atlantic Coast of Argentina offers many different attractions and is as diverse as any of the other Patagonian sections. To the North, water is warm due to the influence of warm currents from Brazil that enter the Santa Matias Gulf. This makes for excellent beach going temperatures and tanning possibilities. Towards the South; however, you are more likely to see penguins, elephant seals and, farther out to sea, whales and dolphins. I wouldn’t test the water here as this area is influenced by cold currents coming from the Malvinas Islands.
It Seems a Little Glacial- One of the most fantastic and popular touristic sites in Patagonia is the Perito Moreno Glacier. Located in Los Glaciares National Park, it is a 250 km2 ice formation stretching 30 km in length. It is the third largest reserve of fresh water and is one of 48 glaciers fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field located in the Andes system shared with Chile. People come from all around the world to participate in treks over the ice formation. If you’re craving peace and quiet, this glacier will provide you with a whole new meaning for isolation. Definitely a must see while visiting Patagonia.
Here’s an interesting video of a section of the Perito Moreno Glacier collapsing:
The Legendary Route 40- Route 40 is the longest route in Argentina and one of the largest in the world, stretching on for more than 5,000km. Winding through some of the most isolated areas on earth; it is abundant with spectacular views, though low on human habitation. It starts at sea level and crosses 20 national parks, 18 major rivers, 27 passes on the Andes and goes up to 5,000m above sea level. Running along the Andes, this route has become well known as an adventure-tourism journey as the drive can sometimes become treacherous.
Many legends and myths have surrounded this route since its construction began in 1935 with one of the most renown being the story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (no I’m not talking about the movie but the real guys). Apparently, after a long history of train and bank robberies, things got too hot in the States so Butch and Sundance made a run for it along with Etta Place (Sundance’s girl) and ended up settling down in Cholila, Argentina (a tiny place barely on the map). The secluded cabin where they attempted to become honest ranchers is still standing today and would still make an excellent outlaw’s hideout.
All-in-all, Route 40 would make for the best road trip ever. I will definitely have to make my way down there someday and visit the amazing Patagonian region of Argentina.