A Feast of Wild Places: Patagonia

Charred and smoking, piles of red hot coal formed a line of fire, dividing the town’s main square. Plumes of ash flew into the air as a local parrillero braved the searing heat to tend to the burning coals; an iron rod clenched in one hand, he wiped the soot from his face with the other. Raised above the flames were 12 metal spits, each containing a lamb, splayed open to slowly and evenly roast in the heat of the open pit.

Arriving at my first Patagonian ‘asado’ I was handed the essentials: an apron and a steak knife. The absence of a plate made it evident this was back to basics eating. When it was announced that the lamb was ready, a hungry mass surged towards the flames, each person eager for their turn to step up and carve their own portion.

Before long any politeness gave way and it descended into an every-man-for-himself situation. Conversations stopped and manners flew out the window as we feasted on succulently roasted meat, the kind that falls off the bone and practically melts in your mouth. The vast Patagonian steppe provides the perfect terrain for farming, the region famous for its high quality, grass-fed lamb. In the windswept grasslands gauchos tend to their hardy sheep on large estancias, century-old working ranches that dot the landscape, tucked behind picket fences. 

Our group managed to devour everything in sight, only small remnants were left hanging above the smoking embers.

We had good reason to feel this hungry. Away from the arid scrubland and windy plains, Patagonia is also dominated by the rugged Andean mountains and their imposing snow-capped peaks. Earlier that day we found ourselves in the trekker’s paradise of Torres del Paine, one of the most attention grabbing national parks of the region with its world class hiking and outdoor activities.

Patagonian scenery

The main attractions here are the three striking granite Torres (towers) and the jagged Cuernos (horns) of Paine. A huge network of trails weaves its way through the park, accompanied by a series of jaw-dropping lookout points.

Patagonian scenery

After an invigorating walk on one of the trails to the edge of Lago Grey, I looked in awe at the river of ice in the distance. The aptly named Grey Glacier was enveloped in thick clouds on the day of our visit to Torres; just one of the vagaries of the unpredictable Patagonian weather. But even in the dark light, the pillars of ice varied in tone; greys, blues and off-whites glistening in the freezing waters ahead. Huge carvings from the main glacier were approaching the shore in a steady stream, drifting and floating around the lake as icebergs before fragmenting into smaller and smaller morsels. I plunged my hand in to retrieve one, my fingers turning red in the cold. Back in the warmth of the lodge I was greeted with another fine example of Patagonian hospitality: a chunk of ice from the same glacier placed in my carefully crafted pisco sour!

Patagonian scenery

The uttermost part of the Earth left a lingering impression on all five of my senses; a feast of wild landscapes and astounding scenery, this untamed land fed my appetite for adventure.

Get a taste for Patagonia.

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