Indigo Patagonia Hotel, Chile
I feel like I’m at the edge of the earth. It’s 10:00 pm and the sun is still shining, glistening against the rippling surface of the crystal blue fjord. A stately row of snow-capped mountains watches from the horizon, and a flock of birds swoops gracefully across the sky. The crackle of the woodfire beside me nudges me from my reverie and I take a sip of the robust Chilean syrah from the glass I have been balancing on my knee. I am curled up on the all-engulfing couch in the lounge of Indigo Patagonia Hotel nestled on the shores of Puerto Natales, a little fishing port near the southern tip of Chilean Patagonia. A hemisphere away from everything and everyone I know, the remoteness of my location fills me with a certain freedom of spirit.
Indigo Patagonia is akin to an uber-contemporary Nordic lodge, a beguiling mix of handcrafted tradition and modern design. Designed by lauded Chilean architect Sebastián Irarrázaval, the dwelling has become a haven for travellers seeking an intimate bespoke experience. The hotel’s 29 rooms are positioned around a huge open central space, composed of an MC Escher-like system of bridges, staircases and ramps aimed to encourage open human interaction. Soaring ceilings, exposed rafters, and vertical screens constructed from eucalyptus complement the cosy colour palette of reds, ochres and chocolates.
When I awaken early the next morning, the sun is again shining and I wonder if it ever actually turned in for the night. I make a mental note to endeavour to catch a glimpse of the elusive Patagonian night sky, though I wonder how much midnight oil I’ll be required to burn. Following a hearty breakfast in the hotel’s sun-drenched restaurant, I head down to the lobby where a man named Gustavo awaits, and we pile into his jeep outside the hotel. Soon we are bouncing along a dirt road through the Patagonian countryside, past verdant meadows dotted with a rainbow of wildflowers, flocks of flamingos sipping delicately at lustrous lakes, and cows munching languidly on their cud. We arrive at an estancia, a local ranch, nestled on the banks of the Fjord Eberhard, where two local men are tending to a cluster of magnificent horses. Resplendent in leather jackets, pantaloons, riding boots, berets, and bandanas fastened around their necks, the elegant gentlemen wear the traditional attire of the Chilean huaso (horseman) with pride. Nearby, a young chocolate-hued foal, a mere week old, trots clumsily around its mother, whinnying with excitement.
The younger of the two Chilenos, Victor, introduces himself as my personal guide for the day-long cabalgata through the surrounding countryside. My trusty steed for the day is Canaria, a placid caramel-coloured mare with a penchant for wildflowers. With a start we canter off down the hill and are soon making our way across fields surrounded by views so stunning, it seizes my breath. Our morning is spent moseying through meadows, trampling through babbling brooks and galloping across sweeping plains with the glacial wind pinching our cheeks. Lunch is a welcome respite from the morning’s exercise, and we feast on a meal of roasted hare marinated in red wine, with a side of creamy quinoa risotto and freshly baked bread. As we wander back through the fields to collect our steeds, a wily young fox trots across our path with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his bushy tail.
On our journey back to the estancia, the ominous shadow of a condor looms on the ground in front of us. I wonder aloud if he might be hunting, but Victor reminds me of the reason why the bird is so revered in these parts – it never kills its prey, but merely feeds on animals that are already dead, playing its part in the circle of life. A few minutes later, a tiny bluebird joins us on our journey, cheekily looping in and out of our path as we navigate our way through the brush, only bidding us goodbye as we near the gate of the ranch.
Later that evening, as I arrive back at the hotel, exhaustion embraces me. But it feels wrong to waste a moment in this remote paradise. Following dinner, I wander up the maze of ramps to the spa that sits atop the hotel. A crackling log-fire dances in the centre, surrounded by inviting lounges and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic views of the stunning Fjord Última Esperanza. I brace myself to brave the Patagonian chill as I ease my way into the outdoor jacuzzi. Steam writhes off the water's surface and the cool, glacial air cleanses my lungs. I settle back and begin my wait for the company I’m seeking. Then, just as the evening chill deepens and I think I’m being stood up, the elusive stars begin to twinkle in the night sky.
This story was originally published in map magazine. Image courtesy of Indigo Patagonia Hotel.