The sound of the word ‘Patagonia’ attracted me much before I fell in love with the land called Patagonia. Patagonia is a region in South America and shared by Chile and Argentina.
In my first group trip to South America, we ended doing more or less the same circuit that was happening in the time. I remember when we landed at the Manaus Airport in the state of Amazona’s in Brazil, a guest asked me, “Where is the jungle we saw from the flight”, “this is it I said, but only it is made of concrete”. Manaus in Brazil had to go I knew, and Peruvian Amazon had to come, but along with it came more of nature, the next year was the first time I went to Bariloche and Puerto Varas, the towns in the lake region of Upper Patagonia.
Having known what the head of Patagonia felt like it was natural to want to venture further south, and explore the body of Patagonia. I had heard it felt like Antarctica and the southern you go in South America, the extreme it gets. Nothing that I heard would get me ready to understand what the real Patagonia felt like.
El Calafate in Argentina is the popular spot and the postcard view of Patagonia. Now. I am a little biased towards the Chilean Patagonia, as the Argentinian side is really arid and dry. So even with Calafate being the apple in the tourist’s eye, the land around it is still a giant mass of Steppe grassland. Blame it on the Andes, the main player in Patagonia. The Andes block clouds coming from the Pacific in the west and all the rains just shower on Chile. What Argentina survives on are huge rivers that flow over to the Atlantic on the east.
We were driving a 19 – seater sprinter out of El Calafate to the border with Chile. I think we were just 20 km out in the Steppes where the wind started to pick up, or correction, I started to notice it. Although the bus did not sway from side to side, there was more than just the grass doing it out.
The Gaucho’s (Patagonian cowboys) were on their horses as they gathered their herds braving the winds, and we in the comfort of our bus wanted to click a picture. I was the first one to get out, but as soon as I opened the door, I duged in my backpack to take out an extra layer. The sun shining out created a deception of it being nice and warm. A few minutes in the wind and my fingers started to freeze, just after I had them taking a few pictures. No one wanted any more picture stops till the border.
The border between Chile and Argentina on the road from Calafate to Puerto Natales is one of the most ‘away from everywhere’ border I have been to. In Chile, the customs don’t allow anything fresh other than the dust that accumulates on your skin due to the winds. So, the fruits, chatni’s and other stuff get distributed in the bus before we make the stop. This sudden need to share helped in getting the group together and created some laughs which continued right up to the town of Puerto Natales on the other side.