There are many places to fall in love with, few being pragmatic enough to actually support your adoration. Some landscapes, or climates, touch you immediately, beneath the breastplate, caressing, like a soft kiss on an ear lobe, seductively drawing your breathe away from your lungs, leaving you in awe. Like a secret lover, or one night stand, you know that you cannot stay, that the briefness of your candid encounter only adds to the experience that with great fervor, you passionately indulge.
Some places just feel good. Like an old well washed t shirt, or bourbon on a cool night. Stretches of road that feel like freedom, cloud draped mountain peeks that encourage you to stare long and distantly. Mild as airid climates that neither force you to disrobe or protect your feeble and temperamental body with layer upon layer.
Patagonia in the summer is majestic. In the way a working farm girl wears denim and dusty boots while getting her hands dirty, rounding up horses and mounting the tack. The caked mud and clay under her fingernails, wind swept cheeks and sun burnt nose, doing nothing to detract from her beauty. This place makes me desire a different life, the same one my father had running through his veins for Virginia. A life lived on horseback. The difficult an relentless work only feeding my desire to wake early, to see another dawn, past the fjords, peaking over the Andes. To have an ancient and respected status, timeless, sage like in mastery and skill, a horse man, a Goucho.
Pretty nostalgic, huh?
Our stay in Puerto Natales, at the Singular Hotel, is viewed through rose glasses. It is impossible for me to write an unbiased, equalized account of our days and nights spent exploring the ever changing landscape, wild life and delicious cuisine. I don't mind. I relish in it. Knowing that the truth, though never complete, is also not exaggerated. The things in life that are regrettable, are also worth forgetting. Well, unless you are a poet. Then you will want to painstakingly remember each detail of your lament, savor it's sour, gooseberry like juices, making heavy of that which, in time, will feel light. I have never understood how people write poetry about happiness and of joyful memory. Who has time to reflect in bliss, and who has taken in full account when time passes so quickly when enjoyed?
The Singular was not forgettable. How could it be? It takes an incredible amount if skill, imagination, and money, to turn an abattoir into a warm, inviting and truly exceptional accommodation. I have never seen anything like it, may never again.
The core, the sole reason for Puerto Natales existence, is the Singular. Built in the late 1800's, on the shore of a fjord, this slaughter house was developed to support regions lamb export business. Supplied by the surrounding farms, which had plenty of land and livestock, the Singulars first incarnation offered these farmers an insatiable foreign market with a full service processing plant, dock, and English investors.
Now this gargantuan brick, wood, concrete and glass building offers foreigners an unparalleled Patagonian experience. Phenomenal Chilean wines, local guanaco, on site greenhouse vegetables, are just staples, salt and pepper shakers on the table, in this place. Our impeccable service, sky rocketing desserts, open fires, open kitchens, well planned and executed day excursions, are indulgent, without that stuffy air of opulence, suffocating comparable establishments.
The entire eastern wall of our room is a ceiling to floor, wall to wall window facing the water, and the nearly eternal day. I spend more time when in the hotel staring out of these picture windows than most anything else. I heard that there was a spa there as well, a pool, I never found them, I never looked.
The solemn, down played colors of the vast landscapes, with ever changing weather patterns, leaves you with a slightly guarded calm. Each moment is taken in with careful, dutiful attention. The lichen drifting in the breeze on the branches of wind swept trees, are a clear representation, a symbol of the natural long deep breathes taken in. It is no wonder that settlers from all over Europe came here, stayed here. The vast journeys across icy seas, turmoltuous oceans, and endless fields, we're not a deterrent to these immigrants, but a reason. They knew, or at least hoped, that the reward for such toil, would be great. For many, they were right. For many others, their bodies lie in their watery graves, souls taken up by the albatross, their ship records, a monument to their effort. Like everything else in this land, their memory serves as a token of its glory, harsh and unforgiving, terrible in its beauty, giving it's all to those who live to work upon here fields and shores. Like Nova Scotia or Maine, Tibet or Fiji, Patagonia is the wonderland for writers and painters. The spirit tears out of your chest, wanting to join with, to unify with, the lands beauty and leave you, as a mussels shell, barren on the rocky coastline. I have eaten of the calafate plant, in hopes that it's bitter sweet berry juice will linger in me, long enough to call me back, to bring me back, to ride the hill sides with a sturdy beast and breathe, purity once again.