My Patagonia story in the SF Chronicle Magazine

This Sunday, my Chile travel story, “The Other Patagonia“, appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine. The story recounts my journey along Chile’s Carretera Austral earlier this year as part of Land Rover’s Drive Around the World expedition.

Since we drove through Patagonia too quickly for many in-depth personal encounters, the story is largely a tale of the road and the region itself — which until recently was quite isolated from the rest of Chile. “A generation ago,” I note, “the people who lived in this mountainous expanse of Chile’s Aisen province depended largely on the sea to reach the rest of the country. Some ‘pioneer’ villages here date back only to the 1980s, and — in what is perhaps the most novel example of the region’s recent isolation — just three decades ago, locals matter-of-factly converted a crash-landed DC-3 into a house after the Chilean air force determined it was too much of a hassle to go in and recover it.”

Of course, no journey through Patagonia can ignore the legends of the region itself: “Ever since the region was first discovered and named by Ferdinand Magellan 500 years ago, Patagonia has been associated with the fantastic and the mythical. William Shakespeare’s The Tempest is thought to be influenced by Magellan’s trip report from the region, and Jonathan Swift’s Brobdingnag giants are said to be modeled on the Tehuelche Indians who once lived here. English explorer James Weddell was convinced that the Fuegan Indians of Patagonia spoke Hebrew, and (as travel author Bruce Chatwin pointed out in his book In Patagonia) Herman Melville used the term “Patagonian” as an adjective “for the outlandish, the monstrous, and the totally attractive” in the pages of Moby-Dick. Charles Darwin called the region “scarcely passable, and hence unknown,” and rumors of living dinosaurs in the expanses of Patagonia abounded (with the help of credulous newspaper reporting) as recently as 80 years ago.”

The full article is online at the San Francisco Chronicle website.

Posted by | Comments (2)  | October 5, 2004
Category: Rolf's News and Updates

2 Responses to “My Patagonia story in the SF Chronicle Magazine”

  1. AD Nystrom Says:


    Great read, super-bueno historical-literary details.

    In Bolvia they call those roadside crosses Andean Caution Signs.’

    Did you meet ‘El Gringo’ Nicholas in Chaiten, or Eduardo in Los Antiguos, by chance?

    I’m headed for Argentine + Chilean Patagonia in Nov/Dec, on assignment for LP.

  2. Rolf Says:

    Cheers, Andrew. Didn’t meet El Gringo in Chaiten — the town was pretty empty when I was there — but I did eat what I think was horse for the first time in my life when I was there. Enjoy your time in Patagonia! It’s a beautiful region, as I’m sure you know.