I opened the door of the Suburban and swung out my legs. The thud of my wading boots on the packed, dry earth startled me back to attention. I’d been hypnotized for the last hour, sitting in the back seat and staring out the window, while the truck was slowly maneuvered across the roadless ranchland.

It was the view. That view! It was magnificent. Mesmerizing. The air was so clear and unpolluted that the sky was Technicolor blue. Was that actually real? It could have been a movie set.

Closing the door behind me, I turned around to take it all in. Miles upon miles of dusty earth. Parched brush hurling tumbleweed-style in the ever-present winds. Native guanaco (a camelid) and nandu (Darwin’s rhea) roamed and grazed freely, while rabbits and armadillos scurried along. The trees, hauntingly beautiful with their twisted, craggy branches dripping with sage-gray lichen, were reaching for the sun and retreating from the wind simultaneously. Even I, who admittedly have no internal compass, knew which way was east. And in the middle of the valley, a winding river full of trout.

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Photo by C Joost

But the reason the hairs on my neck stood at attention like the hackles of a Royal Wulff: Torres Del Paine, the iconic black granite towers of the southern Andes Mountains, watched over all of it. And for the first time in my life, over me as well.

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Photo by C Joost