Fly into Punta Arenas, Chile, the last large city before you reach Antarctica when heading south. Have a friend with a hookup at the Singular hotel near Puerto Natales – a three hour drive from where you landed. Arrange for a private van to drive you across the southern tip of South America to the property.
Look at the crazy UFO clouds hovering above the landscape as you drive through a landscape that at times reminds you of Montana and at others of Iceland or Ireland. Stop comparing what you’re seeing to other places when you remember where you are and just take in the experience as it comes.
Get out of the van and take photos of the crazy pink sky. Look at your watch and realize that it is almost 10 pm and yet the sun is just now starting to set, evidence that you are in austral summer and in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Experience incredible joy and immense sadness that you have to leave this place the day after tomorrow. Feel both these things intensified when you arrive at the luxe hotel.
Have the general manager of the property keep the restaurant open late just for you despite feeling bad about making the chef and waitstaff stay late. Accept being treated like a VIP despite being dressed like a scrub after a long day of flying, because you’re special and gosh darn it, you deserve it.
Eat sweetbreads and the tenderloin of a local llama-like animal called a guanaco. Pat yourself on the back for trying two seemingly disgusting foods for the first time and enjoying them despite being painfully tired. Drink a glass of red wine with your meal and become even more sleepy.
Retrieve your room key and go upstairs to take the most refreshing shower of your life after a 15 hour travel day. Get into bed slightly disoriented because the sun set at 11 pm and it doesn’t feel like it’s time to be calling it a night yet. Fall asleep within seconds of hitting your pillow.
Wake up bright and early to this view right in front of your bed:
Grab a bite to eat before setting off on an all day excursion to Torres del Paine National Park. Meet your guide, a lovely local girl named Lorena, and hop into a van for a two hour drive across the Patagonian steppe into the mountainous, forested region flanked by glacial ice on one side and sprawling plains on the other.
See the most striking views in your entire life as you sail through the landscape in four wheel drive. Stop at strategic points to take panoramic images of the amazing things you’re looking at because a single frame can’t fit all the splendor. Come within yards of animals like eagles, foxes, an ostrich-like bird called a ñandú, and herds of the aforementioned guanaco. Feel slightly bad about eating one of their brethren as you take pictures of a family of the tiny llamas.
Enter the park after thinking you’d already been in the park for miles since everything has been so damn picturesque. See geographic formations that are synonymous with the term Patagonia, like turquoise Lake Pehoé, two-toned horns Cuernos del Paine, and the three jagged towers Torres de Paine for which the park was named. Remember why you were so into collecting rocks as a kid.
Fight back against gusts of wind like you have never felt before as they push their way through the hilly terrain. Take note of how many times the weather has changed in the past hour and realize that Patagonia is probably the most dynamic place you’ve ever been in terms of nature. Imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when the end of the world is imminent (à la Melancholia) and think about how you’d want to spend your last moments on Earth in this place.
Sleep on the drive back to the hotel after spending 9 hours exploring the wilderness. Have a dream about coming back and spending a week backpacking through the park, only to wake up and find a brochure advertising this very adventure. Think about how much money you have in the bank and consider booking something when you get home.
Arrive back at the hotel and consider indulging in some of the property’s many spa services. Remember that you hate getting massages and sitting in hot rooms with naked strangers. Instagram a bunch of photos from your day to make your friends back home jealous instead.
Return to the hotel restaurant, this time at a more appropriate hour. Order the hare appetizer and the eel entree and not care that you’re breaking a cardinal fine dining rule by starting with a red meat and ending with a fish. Care even less when the waiter suggests a red wine and you select a white instead, because you’re jonesing for some Sauvignon Blanc after your grueling day and YOLO.
Fall into a state of lazy contentment when you get back to your comfy room. Search for something on TV that isn’t dubbed in Spanish and fall asleep trying.
Rise early on your last day to fit in one more complimentary excursion, this one a short tour around the Singular property. Learn that the space used to be one of the most important frozen meat factories in all of South America, and discover how the designer of the hotel merged the industrial history of the site with the comforts of modernity. Get a little chill when you find out that the wing with all the rooms is where they used to murder the sheep before canning their meat and selling their hides.
Feel stupid for having a job, having bills to pay, having a life thousands of miles away that you have to get back to. Leave after 36 hours in Patagonia, terribly depressed but hopeful that one day you’ll be able to come back and experience more of the region. Sleep for the entirety of the drive back to the airport in Punta Arenas, and dream about a time in the not-too-distant future when you’re back in Patagonia – only this time the world isn’t ending and instead you’re horseback riding through the mountains with your friends.
Wake up and board your plane back to reality.