Notoriously bad weather is not usually an asset for a tourist destination, but for Patagonia, high winds, heavy rains and unexpected blizzards are what keep this area of immense grandeur shared by Chile and Argentina pristine and worth seeing.
“Bad weather may be Patagonia’s saving grace,” author and photographer Anthony Garvin said in a telephone interview from his home in Alameda. “Europeans are not interested in settling there (because of) the difficulty of the terrain, the weather and the lack of roads.”
If you are lucky enough to catch any portion of Patagonia on a good-weather day, you take photos — lots of them. And that’s what Garvin has done. He shares the images taken during two trips to Patagonia, 10 years apart, in his hard-cover, all-color, coffee-table book “Wild Patagonia.”
Nearly every one of the tome’s 142 pages features one or two images of Patagonia’s jagged peaks, pristine rivers, lakes, fjords and glaciers, and wildlife unique to this vast, sparsely inhabited land.
Garvin, a retired environmental attorney who has “dedicated his life to the protection of the environment and the preservation of wild spaces,” grew up in the mountain-rich Pacific Northwest.
“I naively thought all mountains were like Mount Rainier and her sister volcanoes,” Garvin said.
He learned otherwise after moving to the East Coast for college, and eventually learned to appreciate the lower, less-dramatic mountains there. This didn’t quell his appetite for exploring grander peaks, though.
So when the demands of family and work subsided a bit, Garvin and his wife, Linda, spent a month in 2012 traveling through Chile and Argentina, focusing on Patagonia.
This rugged area is about 1,200 miles long; is three times as large as California; features 452 volcanos, active and non-active; and has the largest, permanent ice cap — 4,700 square miles — outside of Antarctica and Greenland.
Besides the vastness and the notoriously bad weather, visitors also must navigate the difficulties in getting from Chile to Argentina and back.
“The two countries don’t exactly like each other,” Garvin said, and buses that once took travelers across country borders within Patagonia were discontinued in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, travelers must return to Santiago, then fly to Buenos Aires, then fly or take a bus to your destination in Argentinian Patagonia. Reverse the process to return to Chile.
“The first time we were there in 2012, we took nine flights back and forth so we could see things,” Garvin said. “It got so that stewardesses on the airplanes started recognizing us.”
The Garvins returned to Patagonia in 2022, and while he had some great shots from the first trip, the majority of the images in “Wild Patagonia” were taken during last year’s visit. Garvin feels lucky to have had enough fair weather to shoot to his heart’s content, but there were some challenging days.
“In Torres del Paine (National Park in Chile), twice I was trying to take some video time-lapse and wind blew over my tripod,” Garvin said. “And a trip to see the penguins was canceled because the wind was too strong. But we were able to see more of Patagonia that I hadn’t seen, especially the Lake District of Chile.”
Garvin pursues his next photographic adventure this month in Antarctica.
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