Man versus Patagonia

Back in August 2014, we were showing off. We said: “we’re leaving for a full year of summer around the world”. That was a lie.
We packed winter jackets, raincoats and rain trousers to ward off bad luck. Almost as a joke. But we have to be honest. This month, we used them all (on and on…).
Even useless things such as a survival blanket. We used it. So when you start to wrap yourself in a giant golden aluminum foil, you know you’re there.
Welcome to Patagonia.

For me, Patagonia ends in Chile Chico…

What is Patagonia? Where does it start? Where does it end? We started our journey on the extreme south, in the town of Punta Arenas located on the Strait of Magellan, where a population of penguins is almost equal to that of human beings. We went up till north for 1500 kms, on a road trip combining several means of transportation in the air, land, on the sea and two countries – Chile and Argentina – and a whole lot of encounters.

More than 1500 kms from south to north of Patagonia.
More than 1500 kms from south to north of Patagonia.

Patagonia is very diverse from south to north. The vegetation goes from deserted steppe to fertile green fields, the light varies from pure white to warmer yellow, prices fly as you cross the Argentinian border, and people lose their Indian traits as you go up north.

However, as PEF said, for us, Patagonia ends in Chile Chico, since after this point familiar green fields replace the exotic steppe. We are no longer in unknown territory.

Patagonia's light turns every landscape into an impressionist painting.
Patagonia’s light turns every landscape into an impressionist painting.

Don’t ask about the weather, it’s Patagonia.

There is one thing you can never predict in Patagonia. It’s the weather. As the auto proclaimed “El Primitivo” of Puerto Natales (the owner of the “El sendero” hostel we stayed in) put it: “I told you! The weather in Patagonia is like a woman, it changes its mind all the time”. Passing this slightly misogynous Chilean dicho, the truth is the weather is changing all the time here. In 3 days of trek in Torres del Paine we experienced everything: snow, rain and wind! But when the sun shows up, what was till now the worst time of your life (you’re totally soaked up and cold) finally turns out to be the most amazing experience ever. An incredible light reveals the landscapes and colors around you. The magic happens.

Weather changes in minutes in Patagonia.
Weather changes in minutes in Patagonia.

Those who are in a hurry in Patagonia lose their time.

There are not many roads in Patagonia. But the few existing ones are quite mythical. Carretera del fin del mundo, Carretera Austral, Ruta 40, etc. They all have in common amazing landscapes and an almost non-existent traffic.

Ruta 40 is probably the easiest road we had to take
Ruta 40 is probably the easiest road we had to take

In the Chilean part, it is not easy to go through. South of Chile is in fact all in “wholes”, worse than Swiss Gruyere cheese! Carretera Austral is all in gravel; there is no asphalt. So be prepared for a rodeo drive for hours in an area where you think: “well it’s a bit hostile, there shouldn’t be a road here.”

Sometimes there’s no road at all. Then you should take a boat. And if there’s no boat? You’ll have to wait. One, two, three days, sometimes even more. This is when you start to appreciate the life in Patagonia. When you are not in a hurry…

 

 

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