While waiting for his last bus to Ushuaia, Andrew Evans spent three days in the windy city of Rio Gallegos.
Watch out Chicago. You’ve got competition.
After three days in Rio Gallegos, I can vouch that its reputation for high and constant winds holds merit.
For so many travelers, Rio Gallegos marks the end of the road. In all the bus stations I passed through in Argentina, “Rio Gallegos” sounded so distant and remote and when I finally boarded the bus, other passengers reacted that I was going to the very end of the line. This industrial city of some 120,000 lies at the very bottom of Argentina–just a twenty-minute drive from the Chilean border.
I arrived at the Rio Gallegos bus station early on a Sunday morning–after a long and steady ride all the way across Argentina. Strangers and fellow travelers counseled me strongly against staying in the city. “It’s not interesting,” said one German backpacker. “Really boring,” added another Frenchman. But for me, the denigrated destination is a place just begging to be explored. The road had led me to Rio Gallegos and so here I would stay. I stayed as long as it took to get a bus out of the place and on to Ushuaia–time spent recovering, writing, and walking the perfect square blocks of this lonely city. In principle it was summer, but the temperature hovered in the lower 50s (°F) and the wind never stopped. All day, all night, the wind blew across Patagonia–blowing for hundreds of uninterrupted miles before hitting the one-story side of some concrete house at the edge of Rio Gallegos. Most of the city was concrete–angular and block-like (Frank Lloyd Wright would have loved it there), painted an austere white or some pretty color in an attempt at cheerfulness against the not-very-cheerful weather.
If at the end of summer, Rio Gallegos is windy with some 20 hours of overcast daylight, I imagine that in the dead of winter, this city is quite windy with some four hours of cold and moody sunlight. This is not a tourist town–not at all–and yet for me, Rio Gallegos now occupies a good part of the overstuffed “Patagonia” files in my heart–a bulging cardboard box of stuff I’ve read, things I believe, and mixed memories.
I’m glad I ended up in Rio Gallegos. If only for the fact that every time I look at a map of Argentina those two words at the very bottom will shout out to me with far more meaning than before. They will remind me of a wide grey-green river, rippled with white-capped waves–remind me of perpendicular streets, of roaming dogs, and lace curtains behind windows shuttered against the wind. I think most of all, it will remind me of the wind.