Estancia Cristina, how do I love thee?
I love the boat journey to get to you, the catamaran taking me past glaciers and icebergs, the distance from the frontier to the end of the horizon slipping and growing.
I love the deep soaker tubs in the quiet guest rooms where I soak my post-gallop and fossil-hunting legs.
I love the silence. Once the day trippers head out, this small prairie, tucked beneath high hills, goes quiet.
At night, often, the relentless wind slows, and I slip outside to soak in the constellations.
I love the history. My heart breaks for young Christina Masters, raised in this distant valley by her pioneering (and mad?) English parents, who went as far as they possibly could before creating a life out of emptiness. She died before she was 20, with any kind of emergency help being a minimum four days boat ride away. I puzzle over Percival, why he shunned his family’s land, failed to produce offspring and handed Argentina’s National Park system the deed to his estancia.
I linger at the ranch’s museum, after the day tripppers head out, a glass of Malbec at hand, imagining the genteel British culture the Masters family maintained where the world ends.
I love the mustache’ed gaucho who took me to the next level, galloping up to the lookout above the Southern Patagonian Icefield, serving up bife al disco with Malbec, and whose sauve style seems to fit perfectly into this rugged wild. Oh, how I fancy him… how many other men under 30 can pull of a mustache so well?
At the top of the lookout, I love to gaze at Glacier Upsala. It’s the lookout made infamous in Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. Here, one can wonder the fate of the planet, be amazed by the strength of geology, and imagine a world all by oneself.
And I love the massive new mill my brother-in-law built, that’ll bring new sources of power to the generator.
So, I tell anyone who has the chance to get to Cristina as soon as possible. This is the kind of Patagonia that leaves a deep mark on your soul.
It’s, in my mind, the most rewarding, moving and authentic experience – set in a sublimely luxurious and astonishingly beautiful place – you can get in Patagonia.
Each year, it seems to take the folks who now run Cristina a while to get themselves sorted. One year, it’s politics (there are rumours of Kirchnerism here, unfortunately). Another, it’s insider arguments. There are a handful of key Patagonians behind the newer face of Cristina and it can be tricky to get all these wild spirits to agree. So I wasn’t surprised that they hadn’t released their rates for 09/10, even though we’re chock a block with folks following my lead and hoping to head to Cristina.
Patience, the estancia teaches you. It’s a good warm-up for Patagonia.
Word came this week that the estancia will remain closed for at least the first half of the season, due to a fire that tore through the various back-of-house buildings. My bro-in-law (said mill-builder) had told me that the electrical infrastructure was in bad sorts, and so he’s not surprised.
So the drama at Cristina continues. Wait, fair adventurers. You’re time at Cristina will come.