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The quote:  Travel, instead of broadening the mind, often merely lengthens the conversation. (Elizabeth Drew )

In search of Tierra del Fuego

Ready to dive in the cold waters of Peninsula Valdés.
Fascinated in mind, body and senses by what I’ve seen and experimented in Antarctica, I’ll begin telling you about the first part of my trip in Argentina. That was, in search of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fires), the mitic land called thus by Magellan in his first sailing in these waters, when he came across the lot of fires on the coast made by the tribes living there: the Selk’nam u Onas, the Hausch o Manek’enk and the Yamana o Yahganes.

The Ecocentre in Puerto Madryn, a place for learning about the sea and its fauna.
Patagonia comes from Patagon, a very popular giant that appeared in novels of that time when Spanish sailors plied the South Atlantic waters; at least this is one of the theories, another one says the patagon name means "big foot", because "pata" is "foot" in spanish. The first stage of my trip in this country took me along 5000 km by road, from Iguazú, the limit with Brazil down to the most southern city, Ushuaia (the bay that penetrates into the west) in Yamanic language. I was a month in that itinerary, which had stops in Paraná, Rosario, Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn, Peninsula Valdés, Rio Gallegos and finally, “The End of the World ”, that is, Ushuaia. As I’ ve already said in a previous diary. going along the Atlantic Patagonia reminds me of home. In Puerto Madryn I visited an ecocentre where I spent many hours learning about the whales, which migrate here between June and December, on quantities bigger than one thousand, and the other animals that inhabitate the area.

Skeleton of a whale in Peninsula Valdés interpretation Centre
In Patagonia, extraordinary phenomena happen, most of them narrated by Luis Sepúlveda in his book “The World of the End of the World”. I’ ve been able to watch some of them, such as the strange-shaped clouds modelled by the persistent Patagonian wind, which draws whatever your imagination wants to see. This same wind forces trees to a leaning rise, in spite of their effort to keep straight, showing their dignity. They express their dissatisfaction through crooked branches which give a peculiar personality to them.

A dolphin opening a way in an emerald green se.
Another phenomenon I’ve seen in Patagonia is landscapes that move to the rythm of your car speed. When one travels along the endless Patagonian plains, with the infinite horizon looking like a straight line in front of you, all of a sudden, the appearance of a mountain or a forest adds a touch of movement to that quietness. They seem to move to the rythm of your car speed, in your same direction, as if they felt so happy to see you that they wanted to embrace you...though never reaching...leaving you in an “interruptus abrazus”.

A sea lions colony
Patagonia is full of extravagant characters that live in “the land of free men”. Interesting to know that this region was inhabited by people coming from different parts of the world: Wales, Croatia, Scotland, Ireland, Ukraine,Germany, Yugoslavia, Italy, Spain, etc; and there was even an Emperor in 1860, the French Orelie Antoine I, who proclaimed himself Emperor of Araucania and Patagonia. He also minted a coin of its own. He was later arrested and taken back to France.

Magellan penguin
Doubtless, the place I most enjoyed in the South was Peninsula Valdés, a sanctuary of the sea fauna, 100 km away form Puerto Madryn. This is one of the best places from where you can sight more than a thousand whales that arrive here to bring up their babies between June and December. Although I couldn’t see them for it was off-season, I was greatly gratified with the colonies of penguins, elephant seals, sea dogs, killer whales, and the hundreds of dolphins that accompanied us in our sailing, as well as multiple sea birds, cormorants, albatrosses,skuas, cook seagulls, southern seagullsand herons.

Finally, when I find the exact words to describe what one feels in the Antarctica at dawn, with a transparent sky, a sea of indescriptible colour and the sun peeping over the icebergs that surround your ship, absorbing the light that they will return in turquoise blues and emerald greens ... , that day... , I’ll tell you about it in detail.

If you want to see Tierra del Fuego photos, click here.
If you want to see Tierra del Fuego photos with sound (spanish), click here.
If you want to see Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia videos (spanish), click here.

See you soon!!

From Punta Arenas, Chile.

Translated by Graciela Marchetto
on April 19, 2003

Published: 20/04/2003 01:44
All times are MET (GMT+1)

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