I was in Patagonia this January. It takes a long long while to get down there. And you do feel like it is so far out and it is a strange deserted land in many ways. And Patagonia with the sea, the mountains and glaciers and the beaches is fascinating and beautiful as in all those starkly contradicting places are.
I visited Punta Arenas, the Magellan pass, Puerto Natales, and finally Torres del Paine National Park to see the glaciers. My top discoveries are:
-the glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate; the ones in del Paine lost 50% of their mass in past 20 years only.
-Selk’nam people who were the natives of the very southern Patagonia went extinct only in the hundred years they were encountered; one of the saddest stories of our cultural destruction.
-it is a lonely place with amazing beauty but severely endangered.
I was ready for a freezing cold when I landed to Punta Arenas. I found a barren strange land right near the ocean with a deserted highway I had to drive for few hours north. Only thing you could see on the road was the oil exploration companies trucks or few cars as you drive north to Puerto Natales. Once at Puerto Natales, you see the sealions, the fishing boats and the distant snow mountains surrounding this town which really does look like it is at the end of the world. Then it is another two and a half hours of dirt road drive leading up to Torres del Paine where the big glaciers and amazing mountains hiding lakes in between exist.
The park is almost post modern. My reception to the park after two hours of a very bumpy drive was by a puma. He crossed the road, giving a wink to me sitting inside the car watching him amazed. And he disappeared just in time before I could take a photo of him. I saw the crazy shades of pink and orange on the snow peaked mountains at the far distance; Grey glacier stretching into a huge lake; and then, all of a sudden after I turned a corner, a land of sheep and horse farms and few hotels awaited me ready to serve warm drinks and cappuccinos. It is so difficult to get to that it does feel end of the world yet humans managed to set up a welcoming few outposts that you get shellshocked from the comfort you find.
But the real shellshock was when I boarded the boat in the Lago Grey to see the big glacier. How millions years of ice piled up in every color of white and blue in front of my eyes lied for tens of kilometres in width and depth; and how parts of it kept on falling off and passing right near our ship was heart breaking. When the sun wat setting I took the picture of a loose piece of ice on the water that pushed to the shore of the beach. It did feel like I was watching the end of ‘Planet of the Apes’; the dystopian end of any science fiction where we managed to destroy the planet in few generations with our greed as humans… It left me breathless; fascinated and very disturbed for the mother earth. What a way to come to grasps of our bleak future at ‘the bottom of the world’, literally.