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Patagonia: the Place
Patagonia is huge. It includes five of Argentina's twenty four provinces (Rio Negro, Neuquén, Chubut, Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego), eleven of its twenty three National Parks, four of its nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all of its glaciers, oil, gold, whales, penguins, elephant seals and abominable roads and most of its spectacular views. It has an area of 880,000 square kilometres, a third of the total area of Argentina, which in turn is the eighth biggest country in the World. Much of its length is bordered by the Andes mountain chain, where the highest peaks outside the Himalayas reach for the skies. Only about 1.5 million people live there, roughly 5% of the population of Argentina. The area is so vast and the number of people so small, that if Manhattan had the same population density, fewer than 50 people would live there (the figure would be 12 in the case of Cardiff!). Patagonia is more than 40 times the size of Wales, about one and a quarter times the size of Texas and one and a half times as big as France.
It stretches from 40 degrees to 55 degrees South (equivalent to the distance between Ireland and Italy) and finishes less than 1,000 km north of Antarctica, the closest access point to the bottom of the World. By comparison, the southernmost city in New Zealand (Invercargill) lies at 46.4 degrees south and the southern tip of Africa (Cape Town) lies at 34 degrees south, almost 2,500 km north of its sister point in the Americas.
Despite the fact that it is one of the most remote regions on earth, Patagonia is blessed with an amazing bio-diversity set on the grandest of scales: sea life teeming with the largest mammals, gargantuan ice fields and glaciers, vast southern rain forests with towering sequoia-like trees approaching 4,000 years of age, bird species varying from the meek flightless penguin, to the dainty flamingo, to the imperial soaring condor, roaring rivers offering some of the best fly fishing in the world, and all manner of animals scratching out a living in the empty windswept steppe which covers much of the centre of the region. For those interested in older animal life, Patagonia is also home to probably the richest dinosaur deposits in the world, with new and startling finds being made with extreme regularity. In recent times, one fossil bed in the centre of Chubut was found to contain the remains of 6 sauropods which, according to the local palaeontologists, were almost certainly the largest land animal ever to have lived, whilst in Cerro Condor, on the route of the Rifleros, a dinosaur was recently found which is thought to have its intestinal tract preserved, the first such case ever recorded.
Nowadays, little of Patagonia has been explored and even less spoiled by the intrusion of civilisation. Its inhabitants are hardy and unfailingly friendly people, anxious to show off the treasure which is their home: streets are safe to walk in, terrorists and political/religious extremists would never be tolerated, visitors are always welcome and all feel safe and confident in a country with real economic and political stability. When you think of Argentina, you think of great wines, tango, red meat and extremes of temperature matching the precocity of some of their famous sportsmen and women. Mix them all together with a dash of pioneer spirit and a good helping of the great outdoors and you begin to get the feel of how wonderful these people are to be with.
Its people make Patagonia and Patagonia shapes its people.
See for yourself. You wont forget it.