By Ricky Skelton
October 22, 2007

So why then, and this is not only my particular case, does this barren land possess my mind? I find it hard to explain. but it might partly be because it enhances the horizons of imagination. That’s what Charles Darwin had to say about Patagonia and I wouldn’t want to dispute his theories. I certainly shouldn’t try to elaborate on the either but I’ll try in this case. For his theory On The Origin of Species, Darwin spent five years travelling the world on board the Beagle, a ship that had the pleasant task of charting the South American coastline, including the Galapagos Islands. I spent a few days travelling there and back on a bus and a few hours driving around, so you’ll forgive the lack of depth in this article. I’m not sure I needed much more time though, there isn’t a lot there.

Excluding the Andes and Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia consists of almost a million square kilometres of flat, treeless landscape, broken only by the rivers that work their way from the mountains in the west. The steppes are covered in scrub with waist-high bushes giving each other a little breathing space. There are genuine tumbleweeds too, I saw my first one rolling across the road in front of me. Normally these bushes are used to show that every body has left a one-horse town. In Patagonia, there aren’t any towns.

At least not many for tumbleweeds to roll through, blown by a constant wind that has nothing to break it down, no trees, no houses, no hills and no valleys. The wind is free to blow where and when it chooses for hundreds of miles in every direction. If I’m making it sound like the Siberian wastelands or the Mongolian Steppes, that’s probably because they sound very similar. So why the romanticised view of Patagonia? There are other featureless landscapes that inspire fear as much as respect – the blinding polar ice-sheets; the burning Australian deserts; the emptiness of the Botswana salt-flats; and the claustrophobia of the open seas. It is hard to find life in such places, and being there is a constant reminder of mortality. Patagonia doesn’t have that fear factor attached to it. An English sailor shipwrecked in 19th Century Tierra del Fuego walked across Patagonia to Buenos Aires. It took him five years, but he managed it. Perhaps the clear, cloudless skies and the vivid colours of a thousand Patagonian dawns and a thousand Patagonian sunsets kept his spirits up as he dream of returning home.

Is it the knowledge that survival is a possibility that allows you to relax as you stare at the distant horizon? With nothing to distract it, your mind is free to drift away into a dreamland. The chance to dream while awake is rare and therefore precious, it allows you to collect your thoughts and expand on them without interruption. Patagonian Dream Therapy. In my case, it allowed me to stare at the horizon for hours, wondering at the appeal of the area to Darwin, to me and to many more. Perhaps Patagonia only appeals to the dreamers of the world, but isn’t everyone a dreamer?

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Previous articles by Ricky:

Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?
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