A recent trip to Patagonia had Dr Iroshini Chua thinking not only about the beauty of the stunning country, but also about the ever-increasing threat global warming poses on such breathtaking sights 

We had traversed through snow, sun, rain and 70 kilometers per hour gusts of wind, all in the space of 20-minutes on our drive towards Eolo, our lodge in Patagonia.  It became apparent that inquiring about the weather forecast in Patagonia was likened to asking what one’s future might hold and was met with the same bemused response, “In Patagonia, the weather changes so fast it’s impossible to predict.”  I turned to our driver and decided upon a question which might yield a more definitive answer. “Where is the most scenic area of Argentina?”  “Well you are here. Patagonia of course,” he answered confidently. 

Patagonia is widely celebrated as one of the most beautiful places in Latin America, a fiercely wild and unsullied region that is shared by Chile and Argentina. It is home to dramatic jagged ice-capped mountains, plains that stretch to infinity, Lenga forests that grace the slopes and stunning glaciers that carve into icy lakes with a resounding roar. Driving through a landscape dotted with flamingo filled lagoons and red foxes that dashed into the bush, we watched the condors with their three-meter wingspan soar and glide above us in search of carrion. 

We drove past El Calafate, a city on the southern border of Lake Argentino, named after the dark blue berries that are indigenous to Patagonia. El Calafate is a tourist magnet for all who wish to discover The Los Glaciares National Park, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its exceptional natural beauty.  Located within the park is the stunning Perito Moreno glacier and Mount Fitz Roy, an imposing mountain with vertical granite walls, making it one the most technically challenging climbs in the world. 

Thirty minutes away from El Calafate, on the way to Perito Moreno Glacier, Eolo is a tranquil retreat that embodies the spirit of Patagonia. It is tucked away in La Anita valley, on the eastern side of Mount Frías, stretching over an impressive 4000-hectare estate.  A carpet of daffodils flanked the drive up to the 17- room lodge, where hares darted across the prairie at lightening speed. Upon arrival, we were escorted to the airy, glass-clad living room that afforded spectacular views of the Lago Argentino (largest lake in Argentina) and right across to the Torres del Paine in Chile. The lodge boasts two living rooms, a library, TV room, bar and dinning room, sauna, indoor pool and massage room.

Our elegant room had a splendid view of the sunrise and the technicolour daybreak over the Patagonian steppe.  As I stood at the large glass panel that took almost one wall of the room, horses galloped past and cows eyed us with caution. Dinning at Eolo was a special delight, as one would expect from a Relais and Chateaux establishment. Each evening began with a sundowner at the over-sized terrace that overlooked the tranquil valley and the powdery blue hues of lake Argentino beyond. The gourmet menu featured local and regional produce drawing inspiration from family traditions and international influences. We sampled different flavours of the region and ended the meal with the local yerba mate herbal tea before settling into the plush living room to marvel at the Milky Way. 

The ever-changing landscape in the region invites various activities such as hiking, fly-fishing and horse back riding with Gauchos right from Eolo’s doorstep. However, the highlight of the region and for some, the sole purpose of arriving at the region is to visit the Perito Moreno glacier. Perito Moreno belongs to the third largest ice cap in the world known as the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The glacier, a massive tongue of ice in the Santa Cruz province is 30km in length. The glacier advances yearly into the Lago Argentino and touches the peninsular as it moves forward. The build up of pressure on the water undermines the ice, forming a tunnel and eventually ruptures, causing the ice to come crashing down and the glacier to recede. Visitors could take in the views of the monstrous Perito Merino glacier, which is a jagged mass of crevasses and towering columns of ice from platforms on land. However, we opted for a closer look by approaching the majestic glacier wall by boat and then ice trekking on its surface with crampons on. Huge 60m towers of 500-year-old ice plummeted into the chilly waters of the lake with a thundering crash, setting off a tsunami of waves right before our eyes! No visitor can remain unmoved when faced with this; one of Mother Nature’s most dramatic shows of power. During our visit alone, we witnessed three such carvings and it dawned on us city-dwellers the alarming rate at which the glaciers recede due to global warming.

They say if you eat the calafate, you will one day return to Patagonia. Pondering this, I sipped on my Calafate-Sour and wished also for eco-consciousness to be the main language of love towards our environment. Perhaps then, these precious ice caps may not melt at record speed so the future generations may enjoy the colossal beauty of this region. 

 

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