Primordial rainforest thick with strange bamboo and the spreading canopies of big trees. Rugged mountains flanked by black glaciers and streams that run as green as jade. Deep valleys cut by icy blades and filled with lakes bigger than most cities. This is Patagonia, the end of South America and to me, it felt like the end of the world. Continue reading
The country of Chile runs 2,700 miles down the Pacific coast of South America, from the arid reaches of the Atacama Desert in the north to the bitterly cold waters of the Drake Passage in the south. Almost smack-dab in the middle, you find the capital city of Santiago.
Maybe I’ve been gone for too long, but from the moment I left the airport, I got the feeling that I was home. I don’t know if it was the avocados, the wine, or the laid-back coastal vibe, but Chile — Santiago especially — felt like this crazy upside-down version of California. The landscape was familiar, the climate was too, and parts of Santiago could blend seamlessly into Los Angeles or San Francisco. Continue reading
It’s dry here. Drier than almost any other place on earth. You would have to go to some of the alien landscapes in the interior of Antarctica to find a place with less rainfall. On the bus ride from Arequipa to Tacna — a Peruvian outpost on the border with Chile — I couldn’t help but think the closest thing I had ever seen to the Atacama Desert were the photos sent back from Mars rovers. Sometimes the bus would travel for an hour without passing a single blade of grass or scrubby bush. The hills and mountains looked like barren and unmovable sand dunes of shale. Where we encountered life, it clung tightly to the sides of small rivers; desperate for water and shade. Continue reading