Southern tip: An epic tale of South America

Land of Fire

Posted in Uncategorized by tothetip on December 7, 2009

There are no McDonalds at the End of the World.

The expectation to get to the island of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) started building up somewhere along the Argentinean Patagonia. The landscape for the past five days had been eternal washed-out-yellow plains on both sides of the road. Once in a while, a flock of hundreds of sheep would cheer up the scene. The land of the “fueguinos” (the people who live in the island) is separated from the continent by the Strait of Magellan, where the two oceans that bathe the Americas meet up and make love.

The Great Island, once inhabited by the native tribes, is now shared by Chile and Argentina. The bullets and diseases brought by the “white man” ended four thousand years of native existence in less than a hundred years. What the white man hasn’t been able to destroy yet is the backdrop to this place. We pushed south, still surrounded by plains, and all of a sudden the Andes got in our way.  Only these Andes go from East to West. Without knowing, we were about to witness the most amazing show of our lives. The protagonist: Mother Earth.

At the south of the south the trees talk all day and sometimes they dress in pastel colors.

If I would describe the landscape strictly from the point of view of my senses, it would be: red-orange colors, cold-dry air, clean smell, and icy taste.  And it all happened in silence, although if you paid attention you could hear the whispers. Coincidentally, we had gotten there in the fall, the best time of the year to visit the southern tip of the continent. Ironically, the trees, in their agony, dress up in colors saturated with life.

We also had no clue that winter was just around the corner.

For the first time in my life I truly understood Ansel Adams.

I had never been too interested in nature photography. It simply wasn’t my thing. Ushuaia, the southern most city in the world, was the climax of our trip.  After walking for a few hours, nothing had caught our attention. It was low season and the streets were deserted.  All you could hear was the breathing of the massive snowcap mountains surrounding the city. In front of them, was a deep blue ocean, were Darwin had crossed in the Beagle a couple hundred years back, also looking for clues.

In the tourist office, we were given a map of the city.  We realized the entrance to the National Park was only a few blocks from our hotel. We went for a visit and ended up staying the rest of the day. We played with our cameras in a paradise of surreal colors and forms that were both quietly simple and loudly complex. With each step we took nature gave us a new gift. The compositional possibilities were infinite; the beauty entered our retinas and spread like a cancer throughout our bodies.  That night it rained and the temperature fell to an extreme low. We stayed four more days.

It all became clear… maybe ‘cause it snowed.

Nature had tricked us. We were completely addicted to the park, its sensations, moods, contrasts and negative spaces. We made the riskiest decision of our whole trip and took the mental leap. Our story was about her, we knew it all along; we were just scared of doing something different and unknown to us.

Being in that park changed who I am. So much beauty and perfection cannot just be a series of fortunate coincidences. Thinking that we, as a species, are destroying this sublime live being is mind-boggling. At the tip of the Earth you can still find magic and animals wear hooded coats. There is no blackberry connection, only germination, life, death and resurrection. That simple.

And then, the earth desaturated itself. It woke up in black and white.

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