Journeys to Come: camp beneath a solar eclipse in the wilds of Argentine Patagonia
A night out with the lights out.
With Journeys to Come, we’re reminding ourselves that the world is out there – ready to be connected with in profound new ways. That’s why we’re serving up some much-needed slabs of immersive travel escapism – stories that celebrate some of the world’s most remarkable reasons to pack your bags – from gorilla trekking in the Congo to training with the eagle hunters of Mongolia. And in this way, from the comfort of your armchair, you can enjoy these Journeys to Come.
First up, we’ll be looking ahead to what promises to be one of the year’s most spectacular natural events; the December 14th solar eclipse, which will be at its most dramatic in the Patagonian borderlands of Argentina. Our ambition, here, is to guide travellers to what experts call the “G eclipse point” – the perfect place from which to watch the eclipse – in the rugged, otherworldly landscapes of Piedra del Aguila – or the “Stone of the Eagle”. Before and after, they will rest, and dine and relax at a specially constructed camp at Tres Rios, their fully serviced basecamp for this incomparable event. “This – and I find myself feeling jealous already – is going to be absolutely unforgettable” explains Rob – one of our most adventure-focused Travel Experts.
And this is how we’re going to do it.
A dance of the planets
In the closing days of 2019, we received an excited email from Sergio – one of our long-term partners in South America. Reflecting on the popularity of the Chilean eclipse in 2019, Sergio confided that there “is HUGE excitement” for seeing 2020’s eclipse from the rugged western uplands of Argentina, where the phenomenon will be at its maximum. Hotels are selling out, he noted, and properties gobbled up.
All well and good. But we wanted to do something different to mark this exceptional event – something exclusive, one-of-a-kind, and intricately planned.
On December 14th, 2020, at quarter past four in the afternoon, the world will be plunged into ethereal and temporary darkness. As the Moon makes its transit between the Earth and the Sun, those who glance (safely, with their eyes protected) into the false sky will — for 2 minutes and 10 seconds — experience one of the natural world’s rarest and most spectacular encounters.
Of course, the intensity of each eclipse depends on the rotation of the earth – and of where you’re viewing the eclipse from. That’s because, for each occurrence, there will be a place where the eclipse achieves its “totality”; where the Moon appears, by a trick of the eye, to blot out the entire sun, rather than a portion of it. This year, in 2020, the eclipse will achieve true totality across only a very narrow band of the earth. And as Sergio pointed out, this band will fall across only a specific region of Patagonia.
For over 15 years, Argentina has been one of our favourite destinations; loved by us and adored by our clients. That relationship with Sergio — the reason we listen when he’s excited about something — is what makes this click. Many of us have very close and personal relationships with the country; from James, our co-founder, to Tom, our South America Travel Expert. For them, and Jos, Jess and Olly, Sergio isn’t just a partner, but a friend.
So we knew — from the outset — that this was going to be something really special. And so, we started to make calls and jotted down notes. And then we had a really, really good idea.
(An example of what our luxury camp in San Martín de los Andes will look and feel like)
‘The sun was eaten’
Before the rise of modern astronomy, the event of a Solar Eclipse would have provoked an appropriately divine interpretation. For the Inca of Peru, whose Empire extended to the very peaks of the Andes, the disappearance of the sun was taken as an ill omen, a sign of godly displeasure. On occasion, it was said that an eclipse could be appeased by nothing else except a human sacrifice. When the planets moved in strange ways, the ancient world sought often unthinkable solutions.
But our ambitions are different from those of the Inca – the “people of the mountains” (as they were known, fearfully, by the indigenous Charrúa people of 16th century Argentina). Instead, our aim — this December — is to celebrate the eclipse by raising a glass – and travelling to the exact place in Argentina where it’ll be revealed at its most strikingly intense – the “G eclipse point”. Rather than trembling in fear, we’ll create a space where you can absorb this extraordinary event with your nearest and dearest – experiencing a journey (and a journey’s end) that only a handful of people will ever have accomplished. What’s more, it will exactly embody the ever-important attitude of replacing fear with hope; of caring, not scaring. If once we feared the moment when the sun was “eaten,” today we will come together and celebrate it as a start of something new.
But in order to experience the eclipse at its most intense, you’ll first need to embark on a journey to parts and places unknown.
And that’s where we come in.
A luxury camp in the Patagonian steppe
Tres Rios Lodge is a luxurious retreat located in San Martín de los Andes, a small city in the province of Neuquen, Argentina, at the very foot of the Andes. Rolling, pine-bristled forests rise over bumpy, post-glacial hills and plunge into calming electric-blue lakes. This is a remote and dramatic part of the world; and Tres Rios is the place where your luxurious, tented camp will be established for the duration of your stay, before you head further into the surreal and breathtaking terrains of Patagonia to experience the eclipse itself.
As Sergio put it to us:
“For the eclipse, we will cross the Limay river and drive for two hours to what we think is the best place to see the eclipse; in Piedra del Aguila.”
The camp, located in the Collon Cura Valley, is an area dense with poplar, willow, and fruit trees, many of which are over 100 years old. It is from here that you can survey the snow-capped 12,000ft peak of stately Lanin Volcano, go fishing in local rivers, and traverse these indescribably beautiful landscapes by horse. A traditional Argentinian barbeque by night closes this first day, hosted at your cosy lodgings; a sustainable camp that builds on the expertise of our award-winning Blink service. Bell tents with plush beds. A dedicated chef. Spa facilities. And enough food, wine and supplies to last for the day night. Lucas — a local and an expert on the Patagonian wilderness — will orchestrate the entire experience. Crackling fires, traditional food, soft blankets, uncorked wine – and the countdown to the eclipse itself; unfettered by light pollution, un-obscured; and seen in its most dramatic maximum.
On the day of the eclipse itself, travellers will set off across the Patagonian steppe to the confluence of the Chimehuin and Alumine rivers – two ancient tributaries that you will ford by drift boat, before continuing your journey to the epicenter of the eclipse: Piedra del Aguila, or the “Stone of the Eagle.”
This is a place of craggy bluffs and otherworldly terrain; smudged with light brown soil and forests of Juncus and “araucaria” (or Monkey Puzzle) trees; ripely green and bristling. Some 211km from Neuquen, the provincial capital, this plateau is a territory of mesas and mountains, fringed by lakes and otherworldly formations of stone. It is a memorable place; dusty, bright and brilliant, with a distinctive stony ‘summit’ (the “Stone” itself) from which to settle in for the eclipse proper. Experts call this the “G eclipse point,” or the perfect spot from which to watch the eclipse unfold.
After all, higher humidity and an absence of major infrastructure and human settlement in this area make sure that the night skies in Piedra del Aguila are particularly intense; uncluttered by light pollution and intervening noise. It is here that the eclipse will be at its strongest and its most affecting.
The “course” of the eclipse will run from 11.45 to 2.35 in the afternoon, describing the gradual and slow process by which the Moon transits across the Sun – slowly rubbing out the light until, for those magical 2 minutes and 10 seconds, it is erased “entirely.” Armed with telescopes and eclipse glasses, travellers will study the eclipse at its clearest and most sensational.
Ultimately, this is an opportunity that few will ever have – to see this historic eclipse in a place of unrivaled romance and drama; just you and your fellow travellers, and the Sun and Moon overhead.
Perhaps the perfect way to see out a difficult year
This year will be remembered as one of the hardest that we, collectively, have ever experienced. But this is exactly why we’re looking ahead so eagerly to these 2 minutes and 10 seconds in the middle of December, in a remote, wild park on the Argentine border. This camp – and the experience of seeing the eclipse in all its glory – will offer a perfect moment to take stock, to reconnect and to look forward to the year ahead.
EXPLORE THE ITINERARY
Head below to find out more about this breath-taking, star-gazing experience.