From January 2006 I am spending 9 months working on a voluntary art project for the Artcorps in Guatemala. I am working for Fundación Riecken, an NGO who are constructing libraries in Honduras and Guatemala. I will be artist-in-residence at libraries in Chiché and Zacualpa, in the Quiché region of Guatemala. I also plan to do a little travelling along the way...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

El Fin del Mundo

I am offcially at the end of the world so I thought it important enough to let you all know! I am in Ushuaia, on Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost town in the world, where, at this time of year, daylight rules.
It snowed last night! Now it`s pouring with rain. Yesterday we took a lovely boat trip through the Beagle Channel and said hello to colonies of penguins, sealions and cormorants, all metres from the boat.

Antarctica is a mere few hundred kilometres away, and indeed this place is full of Antarctic explorers, although these days the kind of explorer is more likely to be a Western tourist with plenty of money lining their pocket than a true scientist, and they all depart from Ushuaia in cruise liners rather than icebreakers (especially as there is ever less ice to break). I met an Australian who was heading there in a small yacht for a mere 8 people, an indication that it`s now de rigeur to cruise around the Antarctic icebergs, a well-stocked fridge and a case full of the latest high-tech outdoors equipment. It`s all somewhat distantly removed from my humble Guatemalan experience and it`s strange adapting to the changes.

Argentina is an astonishingly beautiful country. So far I can only boast to have seen Patagonia, which is full of exquisite national parks and outstanding national monuments. A couple of days ago I crossed over to Chile to see the spectacular Torres del Paine national park, where granite pinnacles rise out of the plains, glaciers carving treacherous crevasses which plummet down from the heights; guanaco and silver foxes roaming freely below.

I took an excursion to see the Perito Moreno Glaciar, one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen. It is one of the world`s most dynamic glaciers, stretching 14km into the distance, with a 5km long front of 60m high walls of ice which calve icebergs into the milky blue lake in front…That was a sight so surreal you can hardly believe what nature is capable of. Truly awesome! We saw condors at relatively close range who spread their wings and took off to circle high in the sky above.

I went trekking for two days around the Fitz Roy peaks; needles of vertical rock piercing the sky, which provides one of the scariest rock climbing challenges in the world. We camped in the forest and the next day donned crampons and ice axes and off we went conquering the Torre Glaciar, climbing vertical ice walls, death-sliding across rivers, etc.!

I joined up with some Porteños (those that hail from Buenos Aires) and we hiked up to a refuge in the Patagonian Lake District called the Laguna Negra. After hiking for 5 hours, conquering what appeared to be a vertical cliff face, we reached the top and low and behold there lay a pristine lagoon surrounded by a circular wall of snow-clad rock! We camped on the lakeshore and the following day I donned my bikini and swam in the icy waters to disbelieving onlookers!

My next stop is Puerto Madryn, land of Welsh settlements and the famous Valdès Peninsula, home to a wealth of penguins, cormorants, sealions, elephant seals, whales and dolphins…