Lost and forgotten town
Trip Start Sep 22, 2007
21Trip End Nov 10, 2007
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Where I stayed
We find a list of the towns hotels from the tourist information office in the bus terminal. There are no hostels so we chose the 3 star Hotel Croatia. Its not too cheap at 140 Pesos/night (22 GBP) but we find it a meticulously managed with a huge spotlessly clean, king sized room
We spend the first half of the day along with what seems like the rest of the town in the Chinese Restaurant. There is an 'eat all you can' buffet for 35 Pesos (5GBP) and although there are plenty of chinese stir fries, vegetables and noodles, we find ourselves enjoying the Parilla (or BBQ). We stock up on 3 plates of main courses and 2 desserts, making up for all the rubbish food we have eaten over the past days.
The second half of the day is spent wandering around the town, trying to walk off some of our lunch. The town has a neglected feel with lots of derelict buildings beside the river and vandalised and scruffy war memorials.
John: Itīs now 25 years since the Falklands war. Rio Gallegos was used as a military base and during the war it was often on high alert . The people had curfews and blackouts, and suffered greatly from a vacuum of information during that terrible period. The propaganda machine informed them they were winning until it became clear that they had lost. And proportionaly, this town lost more than any other in Argentina. It now feels like a lost and forgotten place, with a few shabby war memorials.
Argentina has still not come to terms with the war. Nowhere can you find the facts written down clearly. The state puts up big signs saying 'Las Malvinas son Argentinas'. But the Argentinian people seem ambivalent.
The state claims its right to Las Malvinas but I don't understand the logic
One museum in Rio Gallegos, explaining why the Malvinas belong to Argentina, is closed for restoration. It has been 3 years since it was last open. It looks like I'm going to have to wait a while to find an Argentinian who can explain the logic of the claim.
The same Falkland Island Scots along with some Croatians and Italians came over to Patagonia and were the first to collonise the wilderness where the Ona tribe were hunters and gatherers. They founded sheep farms in the harsh and remote wilderness, and despite the hardships were succesful. It was only after they arrived that Buenos Aires sent reluctant officials down to stick an Argentinian flag in the ground. All this just 100 years ago or so. And so this part of Patagonia became to belong to Argentina. It could just as easily have become British or Chilean.
Rachel: It takes three attempts until we finally find the door of the Pioneers Museum open. The museum is located in the oldest house in the town. The house was built in England and then shipped to Punta Arenas before it was transported by horse to its current position. The rooms have been tastefully decorated bearing some of the original furniture and photos of the Scottish families that bravely moved over to start a new life
We have an interesting discussion with the guide, Roberto. An atypical Argentinian with long hair and dressed in black. He is a heavy metal fan who loves speaking English and playing the bagpipes. He tells us that this land was once inhabited by the Scottish who came over to farm Sheep in Patagonia. It was only when it started to look like they might profit from the land that both Argentina and Chile became interested themselves in owning these inhospitable places.
In the evening we are still too full we eat. We buy some cakes from a local bakery and chill out in the warmth of our hotel.