Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Favorite Xmas Tree

With four Moon Handbooks on my platter - Argentina, Buenos Aires, Chile and Patagonia - every year I spend four to five months, sometimes more, on the road as I update them. Except in Buenos Aires, where I own an apartment, I rarely spend more than two or three consecutive nights in the same bed during that time. Most of my travels take place in the southern hemisphere spring and summer, when most visitor services are open, and new editions of my books appear prior to the following season. I often say, for purposes of clarity, that I leave California when the World Series ends and return for opening day.

That means I miss the northern hemisphere winter and spend the “holiday season” away from my family in California (though I occasionally spend it with my Argentine wife’s family in Buenos Aires province). In reality, though, being irreligious, I find this time of the year a distraction as my January/February deadlines approach. In particular, the dead week between Christmas and New Year’s can be a time when some tourist offices are closed and it’s otherwise difficult to do research. I do sometimes use that week to visit destinations such as Mar del Plata, the Buenos Aires province beach resort that becomes a zoo after the first of the year.

Nevertheless, it’s sometimes nice to kick back, in countries where the sight of a snow-flecked Christmas tree and decorations like Santa Claus’s sleigh seem grossly out of place in, say, the subtropical heat of Puerto Iguazú or even the early summer streets of Buenos Aires. One of my most memorable December 25th’s I passed in Chile’s Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta where, if there were no symmetrical boreal firs covered with colorful ornaments, there were forests of equally symmetrical austral Araucaria (monkey puzzle) trees with no need of ornaments. And I was literally the only person in the entire park.

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