Monday, January 25, 2010

Intriguing Patagonia

In our postings, we have tried to describe the vast landscapes and magical views of Argentina. The remarkable contrast of different landscapes never fails to surprise us. Today we sit in Villa la Angostura overlooking Nahuel Huapi Lake. The only way to reach this town was by boat until the late 1950's. The locals did not receive telephone and television services until the 1970's. It is difficult for us to imagine the harsh conditions and tough, cold winters here because we have had perfect sunny skies with 80 degree temperatures. Hard working, peace loving Swiss, German and Italians settled down in this area surrounded by lakes and forests at the turn of the century. When we were touring yesterday, we encountered a small development near our hotel called Puerto Mazana (Port of Apples). The founding father of this town planted 4,000 apple trees. Although the town still holds the name, there are few apple trees left. This is no place to plant fruit, there are simply not enough heat units to grow a good crop. Tourism reigns in this spot. Travelers come far and wide to fish trout, bird watch and view the natural beauty that surrounds us.
Patogonia can be divided into two parts: this beautiful area with forests and glacier lakes and the southern Andean plateau area. In 1880, Argentina developed an immigration program to colonize Patagonia.The Welsh were among the first to come to the southern area to develop farms and ranches. For them it was an escape from the religious persecution and poverty in Wales. There were large estancias or ranches that raised sheep and cattle. This is the vast empty territory where the cattle thieves and bank robbers hung out. There Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid settled down to farm in a small town (Cholia) for a time until they returned to their criminal ways and returned to Bolivia. The best book on this area is In Patagonia, by Bruce Chetwin, and he tells an amazing tale of the real life adventures of Cassidy.  We would like to go further south and visit this intriguing place but will have to save it for another trip. Gail

No comments: