Friday, February 19, 2010
Andes + Ocean + Islands = Spectacular I have always thought some of the world's great scenery was in the American West. The northern Rockies in Glacier National Park in Montana and the Sawtooth Range in central Idaho are truly world class. For maritime views there is little to compare with the San Juan Islands between Washington State and British Columbia. However, having spent a couple of days tramping around "the end of the world" has me convinced that the southern tip of Argentina - Tierra del Fuego - must rank as one of the world's most spectacular pieces of real estate. The Argentine's have tried a thousands schemes of create an industrial economy here. Sheep ranching in the 1890's, a massive prison in the early 20th Century and in the 1950's Juan Peron decreed that a naval base be located in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. More recently, port facilities have been developed. Still it is the incredible scenery that brings most of the visitors and generates most of the pesos. Argentina has struggled to create a modern industrial society in a vast land with limited traditional natural resources. What Patagonia has in abundance - breathtaking scenery, penguins, birds and solitude - may be even more valuable in an increasingly industrialized 21st Century. The end of the world feels more like the beginning of the world we will increasingly value. It is not all that easy to get here, but it will be impossible to forget and irresistible not to return.