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Patagonia Ebook Reviews: Three Journeys to Patagonia

Books have always been a source of inspiration, information and even comfort for travellers but until now you could only pack as many books as you could comfortably carry. Luckily for us, e-readers present the perfect solution to this age-old problem and now the traveller’s only constraint is the number of decent ebooks on the market. In this blog series, Cascada scours the internet so you don’t have to, picking out and reviewing the best Patagonia-related ebooks for your trip, to help you choose which to download and which to dismiss. You won't find any guidebook reviews here, this is a space for novels, travelogues, memoirs... anything that will get you in the mood for your journey to Patagonia.

So far in this series on ebooks relating to Patagonia, we’ve reviewed Simon Worrall’s memoir The River of Desire and eco-thriller The Tourist Trail by John Yunker. In this blog we return to the theme of memoirs with Nick Green’s Three Journey’s to Patagonia, with thanks to the author for the review copy.

The Ebook

Three Journeys to Patagonia
New Generation Publishing (16 Feb 2012)
Kindle Edition £5.14

The Blurb

Three Journeys to Patagonia tells the story of Nick Green's love affair with Latin America; and charts his progress backpacking the subcontinent as a teenager, as an aspiring travel writer in his twenties, and later as a confirmed adventurer, and Patagonia aficionado in his thirties. Nick tells the story of how once Patagonia had come into his life in 1991, it remained in his consciousness, compelling him to read around the subject, to study it, and to visit the region again and again. Three Journeys to Patagonia asks why so many travellers have experienced the same overwhelming emotions and been mesmerised by Patagonia's enduring sense of isolation, the notion of space and the rugged beauty of a landscape uncorrupted by man. Stories and historical accounts are pulled from different sources and presented to the reader as evidence that serves to prove the self-perpetuating nature of the enduring Patagonian mystique. The author's candid diaries, from 1991, 1998, and 2009, reveal a changing Patagonian and South American scene, through the eyes of a boy, becoming a man. 

The Review

First, a caveat: for a book that is ostensibly about three trips to Patagonia, it has to be said that a lot of the book does not deal with Patagonia at all. What might first appear to be a travel memoir about the bottom of the world is actually really more of a scrapbook exploring the whole of the Latin American continent. It doesn’t so much “tell the story” as put all of the primary resources - diaries, clippings of research etc. - at the reader’s disposal and invite them to work it out.
It’s true that there are passages in which the author talks enthusiastically about Patagonia and his fascination with it, but much of the meat of the storytelling takes place elsewhere. For the first journey, after an early teasing summary of a whirlwind trip through the highlights of Argentinean Patagonia, we are then whisked northwards and across borders to explore Machu Picchu and the like, never to return down south. The second journey does start off with a focus on Patagonia, and goes into greater detail with explorations of Punta Arenas and Tierra del Fuego, however it also then veers north again to explore other areas of Latin America.
In fact, after the end of chapter 11 we have to wait a whole eight chapters to return to Patagonia, and in the meanwhile we follow the author on an extended narcotics binge from Ecuador to Colombia. The final journey from chapter 20 onwards however, does go into greater detail and for the first time we feel we’re experiencing a sense of Patagonia along with the author rather than just rushing through. 
With that out of the way, that’s not to say that much of the content isn’t gripping - it is. The author seems to have a knack for getting himself into sticky situations, whether that be getting lost up a mountain with very little food and water, or inadvertently straying into incredibly tense guerilla-controlled areas of Colombia and being smuggled out in the nick of time by sheer good luck. His honesty when it comes to his own foolhardiness and occasional naivety is as welcome as it is entertaining.
The writing can be very chaotic at times, especially in the earliest of the diaries where characters, places and events (both historically important and trivial) enter left, right and centre with little to help us distinguish one from the other. It is disorienting, but it does capture the essence of this youthful adventure - a riot of new experiences and superficial judgements. The sections during which the author is candid about his heavy drug use are even more overwhelming, with some portions written in a stream of consciousness style without even punctuation for respite. 
The final diary section is easier to absorb, the writer and writing style having clearly evolved over the intervening years. There is also greater social and political context provided, giving the reader a broader view of the continent outside of the author’s personal experience. The author himself, meanwhile, adopts a nostalgic tone, suggesting a deeper understanding of the nuances of Patagonia beyond the idealised dreams of youth.
From the point of view of the traveller to Patagonia, the real point of interest in this book is surely the scrapbook of Patagonia-related writings that the author has compiled at the end of his own personal diaries. Here we get a sneak peek into the tragic experience of early travellers shipwrecked on Patagonia’s unforgiving shores and an alternative perspective provided in E. Lucas Bridges’ account of interacting with the native Ona (or Selknam) people, along with the story of William Blain who set himself up as a sheep farmer in Tierra del Fuego in 1891, and extracts from WH Hudson’s iconic Idle Days in Patagonia. We even have brief retelling of the probable demise of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid after their flight to South America. Much of this content is valuable as it isn’t available yet in individual ebook form, and it’s also a good place to glean ideas for your own further reading on Patagonia.
In the introduction, Nick Green states that his mission in writing Three Journeys to Patagonia is to share his profound passion and attraction to that part of the world, and on that score, he certainly achieves his goal.

Read Three Journeys to Patagonia if...

  • You want an overview of the Latin American continent.
  • You’ve ever backpacked abroad.
  • You need ideas for other Patagonia reading.

Cascada’s Verdict

3 out of 5 stars
Have you read Three Journeys to Patagonia by Nick Green? What did you think? Do you have a suggestion of an ebook for Cascada to review? Share your thoughts below!
Next time, Cascada reviews The Condor’s Feather by Margaret Muir. Look out for the next blog in this series, coming soon!