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Across Patagonia, Lady Florence Dixie. By Max Vergara

08.03.2013
Across Patagonia, Lady Florence Dixie. By Max Vergara
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Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile Andres Albers

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

It is unquestionable that Patagonia has something mysterious which attracts many people. Since the ancestral migrations, of hunters and gatherers, or the first known sailors, explorers, travelers and settlers which came to this inhospitable area.
And this is where it is worth stopping to speak about whom maybe is the first tourist in this mysterious land and, as well, a magnificent reporter. She is Lady Florence Dixie, a noble English woman, related to the royalty, and with an adventurous spirit like the Patagonia itself. In her book, Across Patagonia, she captures her trip experience, full of surprises, discoveries (according to her correspondence with Charles Darwin) and dangers.
Before we talk about her trip, we have to place ourselves in the traditional society at the end of the XIX century, where women (shamefully) still didn’t count with the basic rights of any human being. Nevertheless, this woman convinced her husband, two brothers and a friend to set out on a trip for six months to Patagonia. In Europe the idea of Patagonia was of giant indigenous people, infertile land and devastation, but it had some good press thanks to the books of Charles Darwin and  news from the missionary settlements. This trip Across Patagonia was more of an adventure and exploration than a tourist’s pleasure trip.
During summer 1878-79 they arrived in Punta Arenas where they got in touch with some of the “baqueanos” (cowboys), who had gone through the Pampas. They went from Punta Arenas up to a place close to Laguna Azul, at Torres del Paine National Park. In the book pages, many scenes occurred:  hunting, horseback riding, exotic gastronomy and some encounters with indigenous people.
The story where she describes the sighting of the Torres del Paine, (she named them Cleopatra´s Needle, very suitable for that age) is like the description of a photograph or a postcard. According to what she tells, they arrived as far as the Chinas waterfall (Salto de las Chinas) and there, on a big tree, she said they left their initials carved as an end point of their journey.
Always, when I go to this area, I look for big, old coigues, ñirres or lengas, searching for some sign of these names on the bark of a tree.
This woman, traveler of heart, published her chronicles, spreading them through time and giving us the possibility of going with her on her trip, one of the first to cross the pampas and admire the Paine Massif with its ice and rock.
During your trip to Torres del Paine and Patagonia it will be a pleasure to recognize, in this book,  the same wild, untamed and strange land.

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