The man’s face is worn and tanned like a well-loved leather boot. He sits deep in his rustic sheepskin saddle, his feet pushed out to the sides, his stirrups positioned near his heels. Spare spurs attached to the saddle chink in rhythm with the clip of his horse’s shoes on the rocks. A rawhide lasso is strapped to the other side of his saddle; he holds a revenque in one hand; his boyner (Chilean style of hat) sits snug on his head. His eyes squint against the icy, blustering wind as he musters the herd of woolly-jumpered sheep back to the yards.
He is a baqueano (bac-e-ano) or pathfinder. These men are brought up in Chile’s Patagonia — a place filled with long and narrow fjords, irregular mountain chains, huge ice fields, infinite lakes and crystal-clear rivers. Baqueanos have navigated their way through dense beech forests in knee-deep mud; mustered cattle through glaciers, traversed steep, rocky mountain passes and crossed icy, fast-flowing rivers for generations. These men have a spiritual connection to the land they traverse and the animals they care for.
Globetrotting offers a 10-day estancia ride through Torres del Paine, Chile’s most prized national park. It consists of 180,000 hectares of diverse scenery and wild landscapes on the edge of the southern ice fields and is one of the largest sources of temperate-zone glaciers in the world. The park was created in 1959 and was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. Before that, it was part of a huge sheep estancia. GT clients ride shoulder-to-shoulder with the baqueanos while traversing through enchanted beech tree forests and wildflower prairies.
Photos by kate pilcher