I Am Joe’s Blog:

September 16, 2004 • 11:26 PM

Where is Patagonia?

I’ve just done something reckless and irresponsible: I’ve purchased two tickets to Buenos Aires. (Yes, round-trip tickets. I’m not that reckless.) Despite the fact that I was able to apply some frequent-flyer points to reduce the cost of the fare, this is going to be one monstrously expensive trip, and it’s going to put us significantly in debt. After all, we still have to pay for the tour we’re taking (meals, hotels, guide, ground transportation and so on), plus still more airfare to get us to and from our final destination: Patagonia.

On Christmas Day this year, Morgen will turn 30, and she wanted to do something special. By “special,” she meant going someplace so exotic that it was completely outside her comfort zone and her (already considerable) experience. I said, “You pick the place, and I’ll be there.” For a while it looked like we’d be going to Spain. Then Rome. Then Australia. But these places were ultimately not exotic enough. Finally she said, with irrevocable determination, “Patagonia.” So Patagonia it is. And my only question was, “By the way…where is Patagonia?”

Everyone who has seen The Princess Bride (that is, I believe, 99.3% of all English-speaking people) has heard of Patagonia—that’s where the original Dread Pirate Roberts had retired and was living like a king. (It’s all coming back to you now, isn’t it?) Patagonia is the name given to the southernmost part of South America, the west part of which is in Chile, and the east part of which is in Argentina. The exact northern boundary is somewhat indeterminate, but it seems to be around the Rio Colorado, giving Patagonia an area of about 350,000 square miles—about a third larger than Texas. It’s a really big place. And yet, it’s one of the most sparsely populated areas on Earth. You’ve got your sheep (producing the famous Patagonia wool), stunning mountains, massive glaciers, vast empty plains, and some of the fiercest winds anywhere. People—not so many. You don’t go to see amusement parks and resorts, you go to experience the breathtaking landscape, the wildlife, and the utter remoteness of it all. You go to think about pirates, explorers, ranchers, outlaws, and prospectors—the people who made Patagonia legendary.

I go for all these reasons, but mainly to help make my wife’s 30th birthday as special and meaningful as it can be. If everything goes according to plan, on her birthday we’ll be in Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego—the southernmost city in the world.

In all, we’ll be gone about two weeks. A lot of that is travel time. (Did I mention it’s very, very, very far away?) I’m expecting that this adventure will provide me with enough Interesting Things to last the winter. And I also expect that we’ll return home exhausted, (more) broke, and very happy.

By the way…in a couple of years, when I turn 40, I get to turn the tables and select the crazy destination. The wheels are already spinning.