During a two week vacation in between the intensive language and culture course and the actual semester at the host university in Chile, many of the students in my program decided to take advantage of the summer and trek around Patagonia. Each sub page is a chapter in my recount of the excursion. The remainder of this page contains a sort of prologue.
Patagonia, stretching across the southernmost third of South America, this mystical land is known to many as the last wild place on earth. Enormous rivers of groaning ice, windswept pampas, jagged and dynamic rock faces and mountains, and one of the largest networks of fjords and islands in the world together have allowed much of this land to remain hidden. Yet the ruggedness and inaccessibility from which this land is formed has long tantalized eager adventurers from around the world, making it a major destination for the growing adventure tourism industry.
Ever since I knew what Patagonia was, I too became captivated by the mysteriousness of this foreign land. My imagination would run wildly as I could picture myself exploring the ends of the earth, crossing glaciers, navigating through the maze of fjords, and of course, traversing treacherous mountains. And now, about fifteen years later, I have finally been given the opportunity to materialize this dream.
I had always imagined this would be a fun-filled, adventurous journey, climbing mountains and sailing through fjords. Although it certainly was fun-filled and adventurous, nothing in this journey played out as I had expected it to. Almost from the moment of arrival, expectations began to change. After reading that the landscape as well as culture is in danger of a major international corporation’s plans to build a series of dams and power lines, and after my first walk on the beach in Punta Arenas, stumbling over beer cans, plastic bottles, shattered glass, scraps of metal, and half buried truck tires, the goals of my journey quickly shifted to something larger. Rather than the personal gain from exploration across this land, I decided to look at the places and people I crossed paths with through my critical lens which I have spent so many years developing. After my first night in Punta Arenas, one of the main portals to Patagonia from the rest of the world, I decided to search for answers and evidence as to what are we doing wrong and how can we improve. Yet I also began this journey with the knowledge that I will probably end with even more questions, some original which will not be answered, and others altogether new.
A collection of photos from this adventure can be found at my picasa account.