Posted by: adventuressetravels | October 7, 2011

Parque El Desafio: One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

The tour van pulled into Gaiman, Argentina right before 3:00 pm.  Just in time for high tea in the little Welsh community.  Famous shortbread in one of the traditional stone cottages did sound tempting.  Tea certainly would help warm me up from the chilly Patagonian September winter air.  Though the other tourists were persuaded I wanted to see the famous Parque el Desafio; the world’s largest recycled park.

When I first heard of the Welsh settlement in Gaiman, Argentina, my thoughts immediately jumped to the fantasy author Neil Gaiman whose books have been made into such films as Coraline and Stardust.  His whimsical off-beat ideas and creative universes are always a pleasure to read.  When I mentioned this to a friend in Puerto Madryn, just a few hours north of Gaiman, he laughed and showed me some photos he had taken at what he called an amusement park there: Parque el Desafio.  The next day I was on a bus to Gaiman.

Parque el Desafio was built by Joaquin Alonso to amuse his grandchildren.  After retirement Alonso found himself with time on his hands and started constructing an entire imaginary world from trash and found-objects.  His imagination was the limit: glass-bottle castles, a dinosaur park, robot garden, dolphins frolicking, and much more.  Parque el Desafio even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest recycled park.

But even after seeing pictures nothing could compare to the child-like wonder and delight I felt walking into this incredible place.  A wonderland as much fantasy as reality, walking through the park entrance was like walking into a fantasy kingdom.  The path leading into the park is made up of ten-can archways and hung with Chinese lanterns (made out of yellow plastic containers).  Along the walkway is a “garden” sprinkled with found-art mushrooms, flowers made out of tin cans, and multi-colored metal butterflies. At one point along the dirt trail an enormous whale sculpture grinned a toothy welcome.

At first the park seemed like a colorful explosion of plastic bottle flowers, trees festooned with their trunks gilded in tin can designs, and a hodgepodge of artwork.  But then I began to see things through the eyes of a child.  There was a place for everything and everything had its place.  Each area was sectioned off; the dinosaurs would not be playing with the robots.  It was a world for children.

However, adults can very much enjoy it too.  For them, little metal plaques with proverbs, witticisms, and jokes showing the Alonso’s razor-sharp wit appear in various locations along the path.

Caring for the park is Alonso’s granddaughter, a friendly poet.  If you have time to chat with her the lovely women will gladly let you read her work, and tell you more about the park regale you with stories of her grandfather.

I don’t think it’s possible to visit Park el Desafio without the whimsical creations brightening your life.I left the place wreathed in smiles, remembering imaginary games from my childhood.


  1. Still a hoot.

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