Friday, January 21, 2011

Foot of the Andes

In two weeks I’ll be embarking on a Nature Conservancy fellowship to Patagonia in Argentina. The Conservancy is doing groundbreaking work with sheep ranchers to conserve Patagonia’s expansive grasslands, and this fellowship is an opportunity to learn more about the work and lend a hand.

I’ve done a bunch of reading and imagining ahead of this journey. The reading has ranged from technical TNC stuff to Bruce Chatwin’s classic In Patagonia. I've constructed a mental collage, a patchwork of images, anecdotes, data, conjectures, and comparisons for a place I've never been.

My picture is of a place a lot like Idaho, but super-sized and untamed. Like Idaho's sagebrush steppe, the Patagonian grasslands comprise a vast high desert landscape bumping up against the foothills of big mountains. (Although Mt. Borah at 12,662 feet might be considered a rung on the ladder to Aconcagua at 23,841 feet.) The town where I'll be, Bariloche, is about halfway between the equator and the South Pole, a mirror to Boise's 43 degrees north latitude.

In Chatwin's book, he visits the house that Butch Cassidy built in Patagonia after leaving the U.S. with the Sundance Kid. Though I'm not on the run for bank heists -- like the one he pulled in Montpelier, Idaho in 1896 -- I wonder why Cassidy chose this place and what he thought he'd find. How far off were his imaginings? How far off are mine? I'll keep you posted.
-- Bas Hargrove


Scott Bosse said...

What a fantastic opportunity for you and the family!

Mara and I spent two weeks around Bariloche a few years ago. Our favorite places were Lanin National Park and the monkey puzzle forests surrounding Pehuenia a little further to the north.

If you have any time to flyfish, head to the Malleo and Chimehuin rivers. The Limay River just outside of Bariloche also looked beautiful, but I never got a chance to fish it.

Buen Viajes!


Wendy Wollard said...

Looking forward to reading more!