Virtuoso Life - September/October 2017 - 148
V I RT U O S O L I F E
AMOUNT OF DRAMA was high for a hotel
room. As the late-afternoon wind
whistled up from the sound, my
storm-lashed window shook in
its frame, purple clouds scudded
across the sky, and, periodically,
the walls of the building - a wild
U-shaped structure clad in black
asphalt and meant to suggest a
stylized barn - gave an extravagant shudder. It had been a long
day. Then again, it had been a long
year. I splashed some water on my
face, laced up my sneakers, and
I set out from a field of sunlit
grass above Last Hope Sound,
where Remota Patagonia Lodge
has perched over a profound landscape of fjord, glacier, and sky for
more than a decade. It was my first day in Patagonia, and I'd flown
about 7,500 miles to get here. The endless plain, a sea of gray-green
scrub with clouds rushing across it and a howling wind, really
did feel like the end of the earth. Patagonia, the vast region that
straddles southern Chile and Argentina, was a place I'd dreamed of
visiting my entire traveling life. I just hoped my idea of it wouldn't
eclipse the reality.
A gravel road curled down from the hotel, met a two-lane highway edging the water, and, on the far side of that, intersected a
path. Up ahead, my husband bent against the gale. We were pummeled, as foretold. No one goes to Patagonia without first being
warned 400 times about the wind. I'd half listened, then packed my
favorite Arc'teryx jacket and figured what the heck - we won't blow
away. A sunny beach in Hawaii might soothe some people's souls,
but now and then you just need to get scoured.
A narrow path ran along the water, and I sometimes thought I
heard a car behind me, but it was the wind. Soon raindrops smacked
the pavement. When I caught up to my husband, he grinned at the
golden-hour light and spray blowing off the sound and yelled, "All
the elements of Patagonia are here, and we're getting them right in
There is mysticism about this corner of the world, the very idea
of it. "Patagonia is the farthest place to which man walked from his
place of origins. It is therefore a symbol of his restlessness," Bruce
Chatwin wrote in his travel classic In Patagonia. Blessed with remoteness, the region has a spiritual draw. It's one of the last edges of
the world where you can lose yourself in a sheer enormity of physical
space by day (and happily recover in inspired architectural spaces by
night). For adventurous souls, its pull is as powerful as the moon's.
Traditionally, travelers start in Santiago, Chile (or Buenos Aires,
if they're doing the Argentine side), then fly three and a half hours
south. The hardest part? Mapping out logistics.
"Southern Patagonia is a bucket-list destination of awe-inspiring beauty. But it's not for the faint of heart - the journey to the
national park is long, and the weather can be unpredictable,"
Seattle-based Virtuoso travel advisor Ellen Rubinfeld told me.
"If you're a hiker, a horseback rider, or an adventure seeker, it's
magical! If you prefer to relax by the pool, it's probably not for you."
I adore hiking and can usually hang on to a horse, so I decided
to do a deep dive into Chilean Patagonia, staying first at Remota
Lodge to explore some of the history and culture around Puerto
Natales, and then at two lodges on opposite sides of Torres del
Paine National Park. Ellen sent me her personal packing list, and
we mapped out a ten-day loop through some of the world's most