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Under The Skies of Patagonia

Time May 30th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi all, and pardon the tardiness of this post.  I just couldn’t be bothered to write a blog last Friday, and then I felt guilty about it so hashed one out over the weekend, but I didn’t want to post it until the next week, so I could at least stay somewhat consistent with my schedule.  Anyway, I miss you all, thanks for reading, blah blah blah, etc.  

Where we last left off, I was just about to head to El Calafate, which is a tiny, quirky little tourist town in the Patagonia region of Southern Argentina.  I was only there for a few days, and it was one of the shortest out-of-town trips that I had taken while in Argentina.  However, it was probably my favorite.  Patagonia is a landscape unlike any I had ever seen before in my life.  It defies description: it is both a high-altitude steppe, a glacial valley, a striking mountain range.  As Walt Whitman might say, “It contains multitudes.”  It is stillness, it is chaos, it is majesty.  As I flew in, I was glued to the plane window with my new Mexican friend/flightmate, unable to take my eyes off the colors, the contours, the vastness.  There’s a reason why people creating unceasing poetry, music, and art about this place.  There’s a reason it has inspired countless hikes, adventures, and an internationally famous clothing brand.  Patagonia isn’t really like anywhere else.  It is an untainted, unpretentious place.  It doesn’t need to be told how striking it is.  Patagonia is a kind of beauty that deserves to remain unbothered.  

So, naturally, I came barging in, dragging with me a crew of international students (Americans, Germans, Mexicans, Italians, and a Spanish girl). Like everything beautiful and perfect left in the world, the tourists flock there.  El Calafate, despite receiving a pretty hefty crowd of people each yeah, manages to still seem undisturbed and tranquil.  And boy, was that a blessing after Buenos Aires.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still adore my beloved BsAs, but after so much time spent in a city this semester, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to get away from the bustle.  When I stepped off the plane on the Patagonia runway, the air was clean, crisp, and quiet.  Buenos Aires isn’t a terribly smoggy city, but I forgotten how lovely cool mountain air was, especially after so much time spent in smoke-choked alleyways.  It reminded me of home, of my mountains, of my favorites places in Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington.  

Just that in itself would’ve made my trip down South Worth it, but the fun hadn’t even begun yet.  Our hodgepodge crew of international students and our travel agents checked into our hostel around 3 in the afternoon, and then we spent the rest of the day exploring before our big glacial hike the next day.  Some IFSA friends and I went down to the nature reserve (which had been recommended heartily by my folks), and we spent the afternoon wandering around the beautiful and well-kept reserve.  We snapped photos, bird-watched, got spooked by some wild horses, and skipped stones on the glassy face of Lake Argentino.  For a landscape oft-soured by contentious weather, our still and peaceful afternoon was a cool massage from the chaos of Buenos Aires.  Later, we dined on Patagonian Cordero and some spectacular Malbec, and after dinner some friends and I wandered around the streets of the town and looked at the stars.  As Crosby, Stills & Nash would have us remember, “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand why you know came this way.”  After so much light pollution in Buenos Aires, the Southern sky was particularly spectacular.  However, we had a massive and exciting day planned for the following day, so crashed early in preparation for that.

The next day was simply spectacular.  I really don’t even feel as though words can describe it.  Or pictures, for that matter; and even though I’m including some of my favorites for y’all to get a glimpse of what I saw, I don’t really know if I can adequately express what made my day in El Parque Nacional de los Glaciares such a magical experience.  Perhaps it was the hoarfrost that lay just so on the trees, rocks, and grasses that zipped past us on our bus ride into the park.  Perhaps it was the event staff playing “Thus Spake Zarathustra” as we first glimpsed Perito Moreno, the 3rd-largest and fastest-growing glacier in the world.  Maybe it was colorful scars in the mountain that the glacier had carved out during its recession post-Ice Age, or perhaps it was the blueness of the massive wall of ice that loomed out between the peaks and the forest.  From the wind-kissed boat ride to the crampon-laden glacial hike to the Andean condors that kept us company to the whiskey with glacier ice, it was the kinda day that I hope to remember forever.  I felt grateful, alive, vigorous.  To anyone reading this that was involved, in any part, in getting me to Argentina, to Patagonia, to this glacier, I thank you so deeply.

And now, I’m back in the city.  Have been for a little while actually.  It’s honestly grown on me so much, and each day I’m here I feel exponentially more comfortable.  My Castellano is improving so much, I spend more quality time with my host family every day, I’m meeting cool and new Argentine friends, and it seems like every time I leave the house I run into a new and fun experience.  From watching the final of the Champions league in a crazy pub in San Telmo to discussing the finer points of Argentine modernist cinema over a cup of coffee, this place keeps both my intellect and my enthusiasm sated.  Yes, school is amping up as all my friends gallivant into summer vacation, and I was super bummed to miss my friends graduate, but I’m happy here.  I love it here.  And I don’t wanna go back, at least not yet.  

Besos,

Dylan

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