ARMCHAIR adventurers are familiar with Patagonia - Argentina's wild and isolated southern province - because it has been featured in fiction, scientific journals and travelogues for hundreds of years. In The Old Patagonian Express, Paul Theroux wrote of the latest accounts of a journey to this land, which is at the end of the Earth. Many great explorers have visited Patagonia as well. Magellan, Drake, Cavendish all set foot on shores which witnessed a host of violent revolts, mutinies, banishments and executions. Whatever the reason, adventurers seems to be as drawn to Patagonia as they are to Timbuktu. There are only a handful of towns amid the desolate sheep-breeding estancias but Patagonia contains a variety of spectacles, from the hemisphere's highest peaks, which offer challenging skiing and mountain climbing, to the primeval forests catalogued by Charles Darwin. Aboard the 'Patagonia Express', which runs 3,000 kilometres from Buenos Aires to the southern-most city of Bariloche, the scenery changes from lush pampas, home to South America's own version of the cowboy, the gaucho, to the Patagonian desert and finally the Andean snow fields. For the Welsh, Patagonia has a unique tie. The Chubut Valley is a cultural time-warp which was settled a century ago by Welsh pioneers. On the streets of Trelew, the language can still be heard while in the Andean foothills around Trevelin it is still possible to converse in Welsh with a rancher who rides like a gaucho - but also speaks Spanish and English. Inhabitants pray in Welsh chapels, are buried in Welsh cemeteries and will even invite the visitor for Welsh tea. They even stage eisteddfods just as they do in the valleys of Wales. Perhaps, when the mysterious appeal of Patagonia is subjected to baffled analysis, it is ultimately worth quoting W. H. Hudson, author of Idle Days in Patagonia. 'It is not the imagination,' he wrote of the region's hypnotic attraction, 'it is that nature in these desolate scenes, for a reason to be guessed at by and by, moves us more deeply than in others.'