PATAGONIA

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Changing Landscapes

A Journey Across the Wetlands of Patagonia

It was only a far off dream for a young Filipino boy to ever travel 16,000 kilometres away from home to witness the ever-changing landscapes of renowned Patagonia. But through a single image, this dream wasn’t anymore far off, it was close— it was real.

 

It was a 60-hour transit from the bay of Manila to the southernmost city of this planet with the courtesy of Star Alliance. The end of the world as they call it, Ushuaia is a cold port city of large fleeting ships and seagulls gliding through the freezing winds of the Beagle Channel. This was the gateway to the frigid continent of Antarctica, as snow-capped mountains of Cordillera Martial surrounded this quaint city where snow and rain drizzles from the clouds despite it being summer.

Changing Landscapes: A Journey Across the Mountains and Wetlands of Patagonia through the Eyes of a Filipino Boy

(film documentary by Gab Mejia)

In this part of the world, there is no guessing what the weather will be, rain for an hour, snow in a minute, sunny in a second, everything changes so rapidly, so volatile that the landscapes have been shaped by the great forces of time and weather.

 

As I slowly adapted to the frigid temperatures of which the tropical country of the Philippines have never prepared me, I then began my journey to the prominent mountains of Cordillera Martial, encountering breathtaking lakes, peatlands, wetlands, and of course none other than what I came to witness— the blue and daunting glaciers of Patagonia.

 A jewel in the middle of the valley of Cordillera Martial— the ethereal Laguna Esmeralda.

December 2017

Peatlands spread across the valleys of Cordillera Martial where the native Lenga trees surround the area. December 2017

Standing under the glacial cavern of Glaciar Vinciguerra tucked deep within the Laguna de los Tempanos. December 2017

Glaciar Vinciguerra, a wetland of RAMSAR international importance, was the first encounter with this blue and white sentinel. It took a four-hour hike across Lenga trees and yellow flower fields to climb to this mountain, where Glaciar Vinciguerra sits upon surrounded by a turquoise lake and a snow covered valley. Reaching the turquoise lake also known as Laguna de los Tempanos, there I stood, staring at this massive glacier before me, as sounds of calving ice and melting snow whispers to one’s ear, inviting to closely witness this grand marvel of nature. I picked up my ice axe and crampons, climbing my way to this barren field where gusts and winds so brutal makes one’s spine shiver in cold. As I got closer and closer to the glacial peak, I then encountered a cavern that my eyes set upon, as the blue reflection of this frozen solid ice under me, trapped within years of formation as passing seasons came to be. It felt like time stopped within the cave, as the winds ceased to exist, and only the sound of falling droplets of water from the melting glacier echoes within its hollow chamber. Glaciar Vinciguerra was a living testament on how even as mundane as frozen ice and soil entrapped for years can be the most amazing thing one’s eyes can set upon, and that was when reality struck, given the fact that this sentinel, no matter how massive it may seem, is still the most vulnerable as climates change and temperatures heighten. Indeed, even the greatest can fall down sometimes.

Cordillera Martial rising above the mossy fields of Southern Patagonia in Tierra del Fuego at Christmas Eve. December 2017

One of the prominent peaks of Cordillera Martial reflected below Laguna Miradores in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. December 2017

Dusk was setting when this family of Magellanic Geese or Upland Geese came about with four curious goslings feeding in this wetland. The indigenous bird of southern Patagonia, fascinating to witness them up close in the wild. January 2018

Not long after, the journey pressed on for hours in buses and terminals, crossing the border of Argentina and passing by the cities of Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales in Chile, all the way to the city of El Chalten where the famed Perito Moreno Glacier closely sits by. A local bus was needed to go to the Los Glaciares Park where this colossal field of glaciers can be seen within arms reach, and as I got closer to this frozen mass, there was nothing I could do but stare. Stare at this seventy-meter wall of solid glaciated ice in front of me. Face to face with this mammoth, hundreds of acres spread across, tucked frozen shut beneath Southern Patagonia. The Perito Moreno Glacier has not moved for centuries but continuously melts within and out, and witnessing a part of the glacier calve crashing in the blue water as sounds so loud and intense like thunders from the sky came so near. It was the most dramatic scene one can ever imagine, and that exact moment seeing and hearing a part of the glacier calve- a great reminder of the immense power and vulnerability of nature faced against climate change and humans.

Hiking to the summit of Cerro delos Cristales, about 1400 meters above sea level where a panoramic view of the glaciers and mountains of Patagonia could be seen. January 2018

The living glaciers of Argentina- Perito Moreno spread hundreds acres tucked in the mountains of Southern Patagonia. January 2018

Venturing further north, the journey then continued to the scenic mountain town of El Chalten, where the prominent Fitz Roy rises gloriously, seen long before dusted and deserted roads of Patagonia. Clouds loom over the skies covering the shark-tooth summits of this mountain range, that a clear starry night can be so rare to one’s short visit, but if determined to see in all its glory, the blessing of dawn can paint Fitz Roy in fiery hues of red as the first rays of the sun touches the distant peak over the horizon. This beauty of wetlands and mountains of Patagonia more so fosters the teeming wildlife in every corner one seems to end up in, from woodpeckers bustling in trees and condors soaring high above the sky, to Grey foxes crawling on rocky valleys and Guanacos grazing on barren hills. The wetlands of Patagonia are home to a set of the most diverse avian species, migrating from different corners of this planet, settling in its untouched environment.

The First Light at Fitz Roy, the golden crown of the Andes glowing in fiery hues as clouds engulfed its summit. January 2018

Love at first light- this couple wearing matching pink and blue jackets watching the first rays of the sun touch the peak of Fitz Roy. January 2018

The warmest color at the coldest hour. Casually waiting for the first lights of the sun blaze the distant peaks of Fitz Roy at around 4AM in this freezing morning.

January 2018

Last but not the least, the journey carried on to the notorious and picturesque Torres del Paine of Chile, a hundred and plus kilometre circuit around the whole mountain range where the ‘cuernos’ and ’torreses’ rises above freshly covered in last night’s snowfall, slowly swept away by the summer winds. A steep and rolling hike usually done in eight to nine days, I was forced to do it in just six, encountering the most pristine and other worldly trees and glaciers of Patagonia’s ever-changing landscapes.

 

Change is the only thing constant here in Patagonia, as stories were shared of glaciers receding faster than ever recorded in the past ten years, to the flows of rivers changing caused by invasive species of beaver brought by humans not so long ago. Though not the same change as the ones shaped centuries ago by the forces of nature, one can see and know that the most beautiful places of our planet are indeed changing for the worse, but in all Patagonia’s entirety there is still hope in it, just like the photograph of a landscape that changed the life of this young Filipino boy

AS SEEN IN

FITZ ROY— the golden crown of the mountains in this world, glowing in its glory as the moon rises from the horizon and as shooting stars blazes in the sky.

January 2018

An aerial view of a meandering river over the Santa Cruz province; a taste of the unworldly landscapes to discover and explore here in this part of the world in Patagonia.

December 2017

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