The master storyteller to Patagonia
Home » Downloads » Adventure » The master storyteller to Patagonia

The master storyteller to Patagonia

Bruce Chatwin is an impossible act for a travel writer to follow. His classic 1977 travel book 'In Patagonia' is packed with astonishing experiences and memorable observations. Who could top a chapter-closer like this:

"The gauchos drained their glasses and filed out. Señor Naitane, in whose house I had hoped to pass the night, pushed me out into the street and bolted the door. The generator cut out. From all directions I heard the sound of hooves dwindling into the night. I slept behind a bush."

Or this:

"They unsheathed their blades and compared their qualities, drumming the tips on the table. The light came from a single hurricane lamp and the shadowy blades twitched on the white wall above my head. A Chilean shearer made comic suggestions about what his knife could do to a gringo. He was very drunk. Another man said ‘I’d better let the gringo sleep in my room.’"

My recent experience of Patagonia is an altogether more enjoyable and comfortable experience. In company with a lively group of Australian travel consultants, guests of specialist South American travel company Contours, I cruise aboard the MV Via Australis through the Strait of Magellan and into steep-walled, ice-choked fiords; explore far-southern forests, where the Gondwanan vegetation reminds me strongly of our own alpine flora; spot Patagonian wildlife, so exotic to my Tasmanian eyes; and walk for four hours in the rain, just to see three granite monoliths, photos of which I’ve admired all my life in climbing magazines.

At the end of the steep track up to the Torres del Paine, I reach the glacial lake in front of the unearthly profiles of the peaks. Only the near shore is visible through the mist. The rain stops and it starts to snow. I point my camera into the impenetrable white murk, press the shutter and begin the long descent.

Bruce may have slept behind bushes, but we enjoy the roomy cabins on the ship and the hospitality of two remarkable and aptly named Singular Hotels, first in the Chilean capital, Santiago; and then, even more memorably, on the shores of Last Hope Sound, near the town of Puerto Natales, at 52 degrees south.

The Singular Patagonia is a brilliantly-achieved re-styling of a disused meat freezing works. The architects have retained the monumental power of the old industrial complex and its vintage machinery, while adding all the luxurious appointments of a top-flight hotel.

From the Singular Patagonia it’s an hour’s drive up to the Torres del Paine National Park. Inside the borders, the wildlife is abundant – emu-like rheas strut and peck; an armadillo scuttles from the shelter of a bush into the opening of its tunnel; condors ride the wind on black wings; herds of wild guanacos stare imperiously from hillslopes, their huge limpid eyes framed by impossibly long eyelashes. Their wool is soft and highly-valued and their flesh is delicious – guanaco carpaccio features on the hotel menu, along with succulent lamb, carved with a Chatwin-sharp blade as the meat roasts over coals on a vertical spit at a traditional Patagonian asado, the local style of barbecue.

A particularly thrilling wildlife moment comes as we return from the Torres del Paine walk – a puma crosses only metres ahead of our vehicle, close enough for us to see its softly-rounded ears and amber eyes. We pull over to the side of the road. The driver and guide are excited – these wonderful animals are increasingly rare in Patagonia and sightings are uncommon. The puma slips into the camouflaging shelter of some tall tussocks, its tawny fur blending perfectly with the vegetation. Motionless, it watches us for a minute, then pads away, its lithe body almost instantly becoming invisible among the bushes. ...

Download the full story below.....


(791 WORDS)

See more stories by Chris.

WANT TO LICENSE THIS STORY? ADD TO CART TODAY!

No contract | No membership fees | Pay per download






Attached Files

Patagonia.jpg
Patagonia.jpg
Torres del Paine, Patagonia.jpg
Torres del Paine, Patagonia.jpg
The master storyteller to Patagonia .rtf
The master storyteller to Patagonia .rtf