Patagonia is the farthest place on earth to which one can walk—the absolute tip of South America, the end of the inhabited world.

It was discovered by Magellan in 1520 and has been a goal of adventurers ever since.

When Charles Darwin visited on December 25th, 1832, regarding the region's native population, he was moved to write: "These were the most abject and miserable creatures I anywhere beheld...Their country is a broken mass of wild rocks, lofty hills, and useless forests; and these are viewed through mists and endless storms."

"The word Patagonia, writes Bruce Chatwin, the territory's most articulate explorer, "like Mandalay or Timbuctoo, lodged itself in the Western imagination as a metaphor for The Ultimate, the point beyond which one could not go. Indeed, in the opening chapter of Moby Dick, Melville uses Patagonian as an adjective for the outlandish, the monstrous and fatally attractive."

Chatwin's peerless book In Patagonia paints a more palatable, mystical portrait, as does Paul Theroux who wrote in Nowhere is a Place: "There is no greater pleasure than waking in the morning in Boston and knowing that you are to travel 15,000 miles and not have to board an aeroplane."

Patagonia is where Butch and Sundance endured that final freeze-frame.

Patagonia also makes some pretty nifty outerwear. Expensive though.

The land now known as Patagonia lies between the Andes and the Atlantic Ocean in South America, comprising primarily Argentine territory but also a small slice of Chile in the extreme south. A huge, sparsely populated region of rugged terrain and spectacular scenery, it is home to hundreds of rare and endangered species. Before the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and his European cronies in 1520, Patagonia was known solely to a few, scattered tribes of those dark-skinned people we incorrectly dub Indians.

The most notorious of these native inhabitants were the Tehuelche. Residing in the most desolate and weatherbeaten regions of southern Patagonia, their claim to fame was their prodigious height - supposedly averaging six feet, ten inches for an adult male. Long-haired and broad-shouldered as well, they must have awed the diminutive Spaniards, who called them "Patagones" after their oversized feet.

Tehuelche culture is now largely extinct, thanks to European immigrants as well as the more "civilized" Mapuche tribe that expanded from the northward territory. A few Tehuelche descendents still dwell in the more remote parts; though tall they don't approach the giant stature of their legendary ancestors, from whom the Earth's southernmost inhabitable region took the name "land of the Bigfoot."

Patagonia is a company that makes and sells clothing and equipment for nearly all outdoor activities. It is well-regarded among outdoor enthusiasts and yes, fairly expensive.

Patagonia holds the trademark on Capilene and Regulator and also uses many high-tech fabrics as well as the good old reliable down and wool. Patagonia insists that all the clothing that they make be of top quality in function as well as form.

Patagonia, like many of the big out-door suppliers and retailors, is involved in environmental activism -- donating 10% of profits to grassroots environmental groups.

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