At the risk of sounding cliche, Patagonia is magic. Where else can you see skies this vast, glaciers this ancient, wildlife this stunning or a mountain vista so dripping in otherworldly power that it transfixes you and makes it impossible to look away? Eyes just are not big enough to fully appreciate the spellbinding qualities of this isolated, wild spot hanging off the edge of the world at the bottom of Chile and Argentina.
The day is a Saturday and I am in the small community of Calpún, four hours south of Santiago and an hour from the nearest city, Curicó. Calpún is a blink-and-you´ll-miss-it sort of place, a scattering of houses that line a winding road in a tumble of colors. Chickens squabble on the roadside and dash from passing cars, their clucking joining the whirring of tractors and scraping of shovels. The wind blows fiercely east from the sea and causes wind dials to spin all morning and night in a cacophony of creaks and moans. The afternoon – which it is right now – is made of summer sun and gentle breezes and, combined with the smell of the barbecue coals, makes for a moment of pure bliss.
With Winebox, architect Camila Ulloa has created something memorable but also comfortable, an amazing feat of engineering that is constructed of 25 recycled shipping containers. The containers were inspired by owner Grant Phelps´ hometown of Christchurch, a city which began rebuilding (after the 2011 earthquake) with containers.
After La Serena the road curls around an undulating landscape dotted with cacti. Behind us the road twists like a snake – to the side is the sea, a dark blue expanse with frothy white tips and as we drive we pass by windswept townships hugging the hills as if for dear life.
in 2017´s Ovalle, there is plenty of the good stuff.
There is the Valle del Encanto, for starters, a barren valley punctuated with rock art known as petroglyphs, made most likely by the El Molle people between 200-700AD. There are also clusters of piedras tacitas, holes in the rockbed floor (you may remember Chile has the biggest site of these at Cerro Blanco), and a cavernous opening believed to have been used for bathing.