What a great hike with my old buddy Benjamín! Benja and I met nearly 11 years ago, when he was just 14. I was photographing the week-long Patagonia Expedition race, which finished at the San Isidro lighthouse, and Benja’s family runs the hostería there. In spite of our huge age difference, he and I became great friends, and that friendship – both with him and his family – has endured and grown over the years. So, when I was returning to Punta Arenas (southern Patagonia, Chile) for this very short trip, I wrote to him to ask if he wanted to spend a day hiking into the lighthouse. He immediately responded YES!
Benja’s parents, Pato and Angela, kindly lent us their Subaru. The trailhead is about 60 km south of Punta Arenas. You start on a tow-lane highway, and the road gradually deteriorates to one lane, then unpaved, then a lumpy 4WD track, and finally just driving along the gravel beach. It’s the end of winter here in Patagonia, and there’s been a lot of rain lately, so there were several very muddy sections and wash-outs. Good thing for the Subaru – a 2WD car would never have made it down there.
We drove as far as we could, and parked at the shoreline. The sign there said that the lighthouse was 4 km away, but Benja says that it is more like 7 km. The hiking is not too challenging – it’s not hilly because you are on the shoreline the whole time. It’s mostly on loose gravelly beaches and bare outcrops. This time of year, though. the creeks are a bit challenging to cross – but I was very happy to make it the whole way there and back without getting my feet wet!
It’s a lovely hike. We saw lots of dolphins. They swim up and down the kelp beds, hunting, very close to shore. We were both so happy to make it to the lighthouse. I love that place – and I think that, to Benja, it is just the most important place in the world. Benja recently finished his degree in marine biology, and he has so many ideas, for a natural history museum and for research foundations and for educational courses that could be run out there. And he’s already making some of those happen!
It was a great day, and we were very lucky with the weather. It seemed there were always rain showers ahead, on the islands to the south, but it never rained on us. It wasn’t even windy! This trip to Patagonia is so short… but I am so glad for this day, it really made me feel like I indeed was back here! Thanks Benja!