As well as a large(ish) population of Welsh speakers, something else Patagonia shares with Wales is a history of attracting hippies.
One of the larger communities of people in search of alternative lifestyles in Argentina formed in El Bolson in the 60s and 70s. Although most of the region has know succumbed to the lure of the more lucrative end of the tourist market, occassionally you still get a feel for the good vibes of old.
People still hitch-hike and the campsites are full of people who, bizarrely, are actually willing, happy even, to get to know each other. A very sociable three-year-old helps, but it´s a refreshing experience to find yourself interacting with strangers so readily and frequently.
One family we met invited us to lunch at their house on the outskirts of Epuyen. They´d recently returned from a six month trip in a campervan with their two sons doing theatre workshops in some of the remotest schools in the country and were busy planning an even more ambitious trip around the rest of South America.
So, what about the tree hugging gnomes? Well I may have used the word ¨energy¨ more than I usually do, and I was genuinely interested in an explanation of the Mayan calendar the other day, but I haven´t actually got fully into the tree hugging thing just yet. We have however, taken a couple of boat trips with decidedly arboreal themes. So, if you´re interested in cinamon coloured bark of the Arrayan or a 3000-year-old Alerce, there are some photos on Flickr.
Oh and the gnomes… I don´t get it. There´s clearly a large enough number of people who go to Patagonia to stock up on little plastic models of dwarves, elves, pixies, etc. The craft fairs are full of the blighters. Work that one out.