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Time and Tradition—The Cowboy Life in Patagonia: G Adventures

Time and Tradition—The Cowboy Life in Patagonia: G Adventures — December 2015.

Travel writer Shelley Seale saddles up to learn about the enduring spirit of Chile’s cowboys.

As we rode up the bumpy dirt road to a remote ranch in the mountain valleys of southern Chile, we saw a cowboy saddling up his horses. He didn’t look toward us or acknowledge us in any way as we watched him work. The horses moved in tune with him as he checked their saddles and reins, seeming to know what he wanted before he touched them. He was dressed in baggy, woolen gaucho-style pants with a poncho slung across one shoulder and tied at the waist. A neckerchief and jaunty black beret completed his traditional garb; and I could not help but notice the heavy, carved silver knife sticking out of the waistband.

Satisfied with his work, he finally turned toward us and introduced himself in Spanish as Luis Cheuquel, nicknamed Lucho. He grabbed my hand in a bone-crunching and solemn handshake, without a smile or expression.

Lucho is a baqueano, a Chilean cowboy, who has worked all his life in the estancias (or ranches) of the Sierra Dorotea Mountain range in the Ultima Esperanza Sound of Patagonia. Translated as the “Channel of Last Hope,” its fjords carve through craggy mountain ranges that creep down hundreds of kilometres to the Balameda Glacier, close to the continent’s end.

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