It’s been a day since we left the spectacular landscapes of Torres del Paine National Park, but in my mind, I’m still there.
Some places steal a little bit of your heart. I felt this way about Milford Sound in New Zealand, certain streets in Paris, Komodo in Indonesia, my mum’s hometown in Taiwan, a small town in Italy. In a pinch I can transport myself back to these places, because a part of me wished I never left, and a part of me is still there. I can smell the air, feel the crunch of the ground beneath my feet. When you turn a corner, you half expect to find yourself back again, that “oh!” moment of when you first saw the place and your heart leapt.
I think Torres is one of these places. The soaring landscape, the crisp air, the clear light. Its beauty is there for all to see, but for a better look you need to work for it – you walk for hours at the flanks of the majestic mountains, occasionally venturing deeper into higher ground, testing your strength in the process.
There are few corners of the world that have gone untrodden, and social media and the Internet make it possible to see and know everything without ever leaving the front door. I’m always a little bit scared that I’m going to get to a place I’ve dreamt of and it’s going to be like “It looks just like it does in the photos!”. And then I feel nothing, because that sense of surprise or discovery isn’t there.
But places like Torres remind you that while a picture may say a thousand words, sometimes you just have to be there. Beyond the majesty of the landscape, it’s also the process of getting there (my feet may not forgive me), the people you meet, and the thousands of tiny details that can only be experienced in the flesh. The sweet, cold water collected from a spring. The surprise when a fox wanders into your path. Stopping to look up after slogging up a hill to see a carpet of fiery-hued trees spreading beneath you until it reaches a wall of slate grey mountain, its jagged peaks reaching for the sky.
You’re there with hundreds of other people but somehow the place feels like it’s all yours.