Rob Bon Durant
High above Valle Chacabuco on a massive sandstone bluff, I spy a hundred miles distant the northern ice fields, their jagged and unruly peaks unnamed and almost entirely unclimbed. I see lush river valleys below and the rising Patagonian steppe as it moves into Argentina. Above me, a lone adolescent male guanaco screams and spits at me, annoyed by my intrusion. And above him, two condors soar on thermals, their 10-foot wingspans barely moving.
I run on a dusty guanaco trail, around me slow and fat horseflies buzz. Two hundred feet below, I gaze upon an ancient beech forest. On the limbs of their sun-bleached, gnarled branches lay reams of Spanish moss. I veer down, into the forest where temperatures feel cooler, where the driving sun does not penetrate the low canopy.
Now, winding my way through the short, stubby trees, I see to my right a family of brightly colored parakeets. Off to my left, I hear the tap, tap, tap of an enormous Magellanic woodpecker, his outrageously red head pecking rhythmically on his favorite beech tree.