To the End of the World (Pt. 1)

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Condé Nast Traveler China

Photographer:  Julien Capmeil


A gaucho named Andres—stoic, in chic beret, bombachas, and swathed in a poncho of his own design—leads our small band of riders through undulating golden prairies and into deciduous forests, along the way spying a herd of wild horses.  There’s a magical energy along this hidden trail through the lenga (beech trees native to the southern Andes range).  We climb gentle slopes to a lookout and there it is: a view of Lake Toro in all its cerulean splendor.  Gino offers to take photos of everyone against the vista.  I’m not as interested in getting the picture as I am in disbelief over this moment of riding a Chilean horse through rugged Patagonian landscape, which is so ridiculously beautiful; my iPhone camera won’t do it any justice at all.  That is one of the dilemmas you will continually face when exploring a remote and pristine place such as Patagonia: Will you spend this moment with your eyes open or looking through a camera lens in an attempt to immortalize the image?  It seems impossible to grow tired of this place, but it is remote.  I ask Gino if he goes home to Santiago on his days off, five days every two weeks.  “It’s five hours to the closest airport in Punta Arenas, then about three more hours to fly to Santiago,” he says with surrender.  “It’s not enough time to stay.  My family and friends, they always tell me I never call.  But I’m going to Lollapalooza [music festival in Brazil].  I’ll see some friends soon,” he beams.  I learn from Gino and many other wayfarers of Torres del Paine National Park that isolation just comes with the territory.  If someone in the outside world misses their call, they’ll just have to try again in a few days—or a few weeks.

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