A Song of Ice and Fire: Traveling Tierra del Fuego

Wow, so it has been a bit since I posted! I have been so busy traveling (in Chile and at home) and visiting friends that this is the first time I have really had to sit down and reflect on things. Here we go.

As you know, on November 23, I left Maria Elena and flew away from desert life on my way to Punta Arenas: the gateway to Patagonia. My parents met me there a few days later and we roamed around this ice-filled land of fire for two weeks. I feel like we only got a little taste of this wild landscape at the end of the world, but we did explore parts of Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia. But don’t worry, I’m not going to sing a song about it.

I had the pleasure of spending a few days cruising through these remote southern landscapes that few people on Earth venture to see – all from the luxury of my stateroom (and with an open bar!) We spent most of the time touring Chilean Patagonia, with its fjords around Tierra del Fuego and islands covered with dramatic mountains and glaciers including the famous Cape Horn. (On a side note, Cape Horn is called Cabo de Hornos in Spanish, a play on its English name rather than a translation to Cabo de Cuerno. This is funny because horno means oven in Spanish, which led to a few baking jokes during the Spanish-language on-board lecture I attended. You take your laughs where you can get them).

Further north, Chile has the famous Torres del Paine National Park which has got to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth, which is why thousands of people come to spend five or more days hiking the W or O routes around through the park and around the towers. Now I am no hiker, but it was just as delightful driving around the park and doing a few short hikes. Although the weather is not anyone’s definition of the best, the fierce winds and frequent rains create a landscape full of jagged granite mountains and lush green countryside. It is so reminiscent of the Alpine countryside that you could easily forget you are in South America and think you are taking a drive through Switzerland.

I also got to make my first foray into Argentina, which has been high on my list of places to visit for a long time. While I was less than thrilled with the overly self-important attitude that every Argentinian we encountered seemed to possess (and their Spanish accent is whack), I did get to experience a totally different side of Patagonia. Flying into El Calafate looked more like flying into Maria Elena than Punta Arenas, a stark reminder that most of Patagonia is desert. However unlike the Atacama, there are very many beautiful lakes and giant glaciers – one of which I even got to walk on! Fortunately, there were no white walker sightings.

And while I liked Ushuaia more than Punta Arenas (although far more touristy, Ushuaia boasts more dramatic scenery, less litter, and it’s cheaper), the Patagonian experience provided by my semi-adoptive country was a little bit more spectacular than its Argentine equivalent. I would happily however return to both, and likely will if I get to fulfill my dream of getting to Antarctica. I’ll be leaving for South America (first Chile, then Argentina, then ???) on New Year’s Day, and you can bet I’m packing my list of New Year’s resolutions with “go to Antarctica” right there on the top.

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