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Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego

Icy channels and fjords rend the land, fraying it into thousands of islands. Ragged, glacier-frosted mountains scrape the sky. To the east, the earth relaxes into pampas and steppes. Guanaco and ñandú wade through stiff, golden grasses, rose flamingos feed in icy lagoons. Wind-sheared trees permanently stoop to one-side. A long gash across the south of this Patagonia connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Here, on islets, nest penguins and other seabirds. Further towards the end of the planet loom Tierra del Fuego, Isla Navarino and the frozen continent of Antarctica. Welcome to Chile's Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.

This region of Chile is a land of fairy tales of castle-like, rock spire mountains, glistening ice fields and virgin forests. It's the end of the world that battered ships rounding Cabo de Hornos (Cape Horn) through Drake's Passage and the Estrecho de Magallanes (Straits of Magellan). The winds across the Patagonia plains, whistling around the farthest reaches of the Andes are notorious for challenging bicyclists and hikers on their quests. It is a land of 150,000 persons, two million sheep – and a half-million penguins.

No road connects Chile's Northern Patagonia with its Southern part. Some day, perhaps, the Carretera Austral will find a way here. But in the mean time, the only way to arrive by land is to enter Argentina and exit again into Chile.

So, get ready to join the ranks of the indigenous peoples, explorers and colonizers and strike your claim in this wild land. It will forever touch your life and soul.

Magallanes, Near Porvenir and Tierra del Fuego.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

06 Sep 2011

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