I am too absorbed in the story my guide is relating about this mysterious race of people, first described by Magellan during his journey around the world, who were said to stand as much as fifteen feet tall.
I am in the main square of Punta Arenas at the southernmost tip of South America, waiting to board the Stella Australis for a 5-day voyage to Ushuaia on the Argentine island of Tierra del Fuego.
I am to meet no Patagons, but I will discover why they call the awesome environment where Pacific and Atlantic collide ‘el fin del mundo’, and that the route charted by the Australis is peppered with the great names of Patagonian exploration - Darwin, Fitzroy, Magellan and the Yagan Indian slaves, Jemmy Button and York Minster.
And awaiting me on the journey back to Chile, overland across windswept pampas, are the national parks of Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine. Here, great glaciers pour from the icecap into turquoise lakes, sculpted granite spires soar thousands of feet into the Patagonian sky, and wild mustang horses, guanacos and rheas roam unhindered.
Like Magellan’s giants, it all sounds too good to be true, but I am beginning to realize that much of what you see and experience in this part of the worlds suspends belief!
Costs for a 14-day round trip from London, to include a 4-night cruise aboard Stella Australis and a 3-night stay at Patagonia Camp in Torres del Paine, start at £5,495 per person.
Read more about vacations in South America.