National Geographic : 1967 Jan
meets the needs of young women, and how members grow in leadership and learn to im prove their own communities. We were making our first visit to five of the coastal countries south of the Equator: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Peru. Our interest had been whetted by thirty years of conservation activity in spots as diverse as Wyoming and the Congo. For years, friends and relatives had urged us to see the southern part of the Western Hemisphere. New Awareness of Conservation Needs This seemed an opportune time. Since the formation of the Latin American Committee on National Parks in 1964, the concept of con servation has perhaps grown more dramati cally here than in any other part of the world. During the past four years, Uruguay has started a true national-park system for the first time, and Peru is actively at work on a similar program. Throughout the region, con servation budgets are increasing. Scholars are making studies of soil and water resources and organizing nature conservancies. New wildlife refuges are being set aside from Am azonia to Tierra del Fuego. And all five na tions are rewriting laws for forestry and other natural resources. For my own part, I hoped to gather impres sions on how we in the United States can bet ter preserve our heritage of nature and its beau ty-and enjoy it in such ways as to enhance our lives physically, culturally, and spiritually. Mary serves as Chairman of the Interna tional Division of the Young Women's Chris tian Association of the United States, so her visits to YWCA organizations along our way 76 would help YWs around the world to under stand our neighbors better.* Thus our travel routes took us into the hearts of great cities and to the most remote rural scenery. By day, while Mary saw YWCA projects in hospitals, slums, and schools, I followed a green-space itinerary in city parks and nature preserves. We reunited for trips to national parks, monuments, and scenic areas. Doing all this, we covered 22,000 miles-12,000 within South America-by plane, boat, train, motorcar, and pickup truck (map, page 81). Fortunately we had help. Mary's sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Ethan Allen Hitchcock, joined us, as did two friends from the National Geographic Society, photogra pher George Mobley and Bart McDowell of the Senior Editorial Staff. Our itineraries merged and diverged, pro viding a variety of views. South America is a continent of incredible extremes and superla tives. On its Pacific Coast, it has the world's driest desert. The Andes, the world's longest mountain range, support the world's highest towns. Great, green Amazonia is the world's largest jungle-half again larger than Africa's rain forest. But we must not think of South America as totally tropical; the continent's tip curves closer to Antarctica-only 600 miles away-than any other inhabited land. Packing sweaters as well as swim trunks, we observed a bit of each environment. We also took with us what African travelers call "a safari spirit"-a wonderful expression that lets you enjoy doing without things you don't have. And for only minor inconveniences *See "YWCA: International Success Story," by Mary French Rockefeller, GEOGRAPHIC, December, 1963.