When we think about diversity we rarely reference a difference in beauty. Many different types of people and many different sorts of landscapes are beautiful, but the two things under one name could evoke unique emotions.
When people think back to the most stunning landscapes they’ve seen, is the feeling of beauty recurrent?
When traveling farther and farther south along the Andes, Argentina offers a diversity of beauty. Each space has its own history and purpose. Impressive peaks flowing down to the lakes in the valleys they either protect dot the landscape. They are occupied with the barrenness of thistles and beige sand.
Each scene of nature has unique aspects pleases the aesthetic senses. The land reminisces European equivalents with cobbled streets and stones brought from Spain, buildings constructed from British brick, and mixtures of French and Italian architecture shocks.
My aunt, never having looked up pictures of Argentina, had her images of a desolate third world country shattered by the rising height of buildings with intricate decoration. Feelings of familiarity and safety permeate the wild shrubland with domestic horses, the elegant lake district, the glistening glaciers, the turbidity of grass fields of sheep, the wind-chilling islands at the end of the earth. All instill varying sensations through their visual appearance. At times, a rush of unrestrained freedom and independence from societies and government constructs when deep in the plains of nature. In other moments, you feel a rush of despair for animals and environments not as fairly treated in the United States compared to the practices of Patagonia. And, most prevailing at the end of the earth, there’s a creeping fear of the unknown at trekking where few in the world have gone before.
Starting out in Buenos Aires, my family and I celebrated the holidays with meals, wine tastings, strolls through the city, and a guided graffiti tour. We traveled with my extended family, which is always an adventure when there are three young kids who demand constant entertainment.
Bariloche took our breaths away. Endlessly deep blue lakes that sparkle in sunlight surrounded by the steep rising mountains of the Andes created something like a nest, like the feeling of living in a postcard. After a tough, nearly vertical hike, the panoramic view was the best reward imaginable. I never wanted to leave. I would be happy to live my life on the top of that mountain, feeling the quiet breeze and taking in every curve and compression of the water and earth. Bariloche felt like a dream. Calmness waved over me whenever I looked out the window.
Traveling now the middle of the country to the heart of Patagonia, El Calafate offered a new feeling of beauty. Unlike the impressive architecture of the capital that displays human prowess, Patagonia demonstrates the strength of nature. Not only is there strength in having winding rivers full of fish flanked by mountains that chisel off into crystal structures due to the rock identity, but also in having expansive skies, never polluted with particulates, smog, or electricity lines. Few places in the world are maintained to such a level.
Of all the aspects of the trip to Argentina that I savor, standing in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier felt incomparable. On a lovely summer day in the southern hemisphere, witnessing the intricately crystalized 20-mile long mound of ice is astounding. Mixed feelings of luck, fear, elation, love, and awe ran just shy of the feeling of smallness we all get when staring into the endless starry night sky. With climate change, the ability to interact with a natural glacier is not something I take lightly. There is somehow beauty in the observation of something you know will change. That feeling of beauty is not necessarily comfortable, but I just let the impression sit with me as I stared on.
Other scenes in Argentina offered their own version of beauty. Galloping on horseback through Gaucho country of ranches and gazelles presented a beauty of freedom to me, one very different from the beauty suggested by traveling through islands near Ushuaia with Magellan Penguins during freezing wind.
We can’t separate what we feel from what we see. It’s difficult to blanket each individual experience with word beauty, but perhaps that’s because I want make distinctions in order to preserve the exact details more precisely. In truth, they are all beautiful. There are multiple façades to the word, and they are at once all-encompassing as well as incomplete. The way the river flows or the horses step will change every day, and a large part of what turns beauty into adventure or experience is appreciating the temporary moments where we are allowed to indulge in a view that one day may no longer exist. And instead of feeling anxious at the fleeting nature of beauty, it can be comforting to know we saw it at all. Argentina can be memorialized in my thoughts and my pictures, and that could be enough to ensure that the adventures will stay with me forever.