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Travel Diary

South America Part Two: Patagonia

Patagonia. Just that word alone stirs up so many wild emotions and gives me the goosebumps. The vast fringes of the world, the sparsely populated unspoilt wilderness, the last frontier. It’s epic. Patagonia deserves all those big words and more. It’s actually a region and is in both Argentina and Chile, and with LATAM and Nomade I visited the Chilean side and headed straight into the Torres del Paine National Park.

Above left: A boardwalk though the Torres del Paine National Park of Patagonia. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Awakenings’ available in my print shop. / Above right: the hotel overlooking the mountains.

After a five hour van ride through the deep south of South America in pitch darkness, I really wasn’t sure what I would be waking up to the next morning. It was dark, dark as the night, and the winds howled all night long as I tried to imagine what it was like outside.

I couldn’t sleep. I was far too excited and had so many thoughts racing through my mind. I had stalked the hotel website prior to leaving Australia and this only added fuel to the fire of my imagination. The hotel – explora Patagonia is the only luxury hotel in the national park and in that moment I was tucked up right there, in the heart of Patagonia. So when I pulled the curtains in the morning I was speechless. My eyes teared up. Nothing could have prepared me for that dose of surreal reality.

Above left: View of the mountains / Above right: The mountains surrounded by a vivid blue lake. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Patagonian Seasons’ available in my print shop.


Above left: An abandoned tiny house and shed nestled at the foothills of the Torres del Paine. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Patagonian Foothills’ available in my print shop / Above right: The wilderness of the national park. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Paine Escarpment’ available in my print shop.


The howling wind comes and goes, either way Patagonia is a silencing place, you are always alone with your own thoughts here.

A granite kingdom, comprising of steep escarpments, mood ring deep turquoise lakes, blue glaciers, rivers and mountains. Pristine and unspoilt.


Above: The three distinctive spires or horns of the Torres del Paine, called the Cuernos del Paine.

Within the national park there are three distinctive spires or horns of the Torres del Paine, called the Cuernos del Paine, which are hypnotic. No matter where you are in the national park, you can’t help but be drawn to them and their craggy texture.

Sometimes exaggerated by the setting sun’s cross light, sometimes by heavy cloud, either way their stance is always dramatic, as the colour delicately changes and dances over the granite face.

Above left: The three distinctive spires or horns of the Torres del Paine, called the Cuernos del Paine / Above right: the road leading to Torres del Paine National Park of Patagonia. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Patagonia Hike’ available in my print shop.

Above:  Mountain views where the unexpected blue hues of the mountains meet with the golden tones of the pampas grasslands below. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Torres Del Paine’ available in my print shop.


There really are no words. At every turn there was just so much raw natural beauty. I’m not a hiker, I’m a bit (very) impatient, though with this trip I learned to slow down a notch.

The whole experience of staying at explora Patagonia is that you can choose from over 50 ‘explorations’, guided hikes that are suited to you and what you want to get out of the experience. And since our small group visited in Winter we had the entire park to ourselves. Can you imagine. Seriously. I didn’t see another visitor who I wasn’t familiar with the entire time. It was extraordinary. The vastness.

Above: A rustic horse cart looking over the Patagonian landscape

Above left: Two Gauchos, skilled horseman of Patagonia / Above right: A Gauchos on horseback riding through the pampas.

Above left: A Gauchos on horseback riding through the pampas / Above right: Riding through the pampas on horseback.

What got my heart racing was being able to spend time horseback riding in the pampas / the grasslands, with the Gauchos; the skilled horsemen of Patagonia.

They are very proud and renown horsemen, who live together in a small group with their horses, where they train and care for them. They are generally known to be strong, proud and silent types, and very committed to the horses.

Above left: Horses playing in the pampas / Above right: A Gauchos whistling to his horses.

Above left: The horses following the whistle sound to guide them their stable for the night / Above right: A Gauchos waiting for the horses to come to the stable.

Everything about the Gaucho way of life seems so utterly timeless, like a time gone by.

I was photographing the horses in a woodland paddock of sorts and in the late afternoon air I could hear a whistle, then all of a sudden the horses formed a line and started heading towards the stables, following the sound of the Gaucho’s whistle, whistling that it was time for bed.

Above left: A Gauchos putting his horse away for the night / Above right: Details of a horse’s mane

Above left: The Gauchos in the stables sharing ‘yerba mate’ / Above right: Pouring ‘yerba mate’ from the kettle.

Gauchos live in basic shared rooms within the stables, where the smell of leather and hay hang in the air.

The crackling wooden fire oven in the kitchen brings everyone together after a day’s work. It’s a basic and honest way of life. One of the simple luxuries is exchanging ‘yerba mate’ together, a herbal infused hot drink made from dried leaves , like tea, which is shared around the table from a hollow gourd. I tried it, let’s just say it’s an acquired taste, earthy, yet bitter, at the same time.

Above left: The younger gaucho, Javier / Above right: Javier in his shared room within the stable.

Above left: Pouring ‘yerba mate’ from the kettle / Above right: Javier’s tattoo of his horses.

This is Javier, he was the newest gaucho to the group and is 23yr. We didn’t share any language, the Gauchos don’t speak English, though his love for the horse was evident, including his inky black tattoo of two horses on his forearm. From what I could make out he has been a Gaucho since he was about 14 years old. Which means leading a sometimes isolating life through bitter winters, with not a lot of company, and sometimes alone for long stretches of times, besides the beloved horses.

Above left: views from the car window / Above right: Javier leaning in the stable entrance.

Above: In the deep heart of the wilderness in Torres del Paine. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Into Patagonia’ available in my print shop.

Above: Complete isolated rugged wilderness. This work is a limited edition photographic print titled ‘Paragonia Wilderness’ available in my print shop.

Above left: The mountains of Patagonia / Above right: Glacier on the mountain.

Above: The soaring mountain range

I still can’t believe I was there – looking at these shots and bringing together this post still feels so surreal. So much appreciation for the natural world and such a privilege to have had the opportunity to visit.

Part Three coming tomorrow night – Peru! Let’s go!


P.S. I’ve made a few of my favourite images available as prints in my online shop, if you’d like to see here.

Also, if you’d like more info about LATAM airlines and the trip here is a fact sheet to download.


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11 Comments to “South America Part Two: Patagonia”

  1. Kara – I know you said in your opening line in this post that there are no words – well, there are no words for these photographs! Absolutely beautiful & amazing. There are so many beautiful pictures I never know which one to get. One day I'll make up mind ! x

  2. So evocative Kara – your images are breathtaking and reading about your experiences while there just brought the trip to life for me. Not sure how you can top that but I can’t wait to see what’s next!

  3. Absolutely stunning images Kara. I have always wanted to visit Patagonia and after reading this article it has moved so much further up the list! Beautiful photos. Beautiful article. Thank you.

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