Patagonia an interview with Steph Dyson
For many in search of adventure, Chilean Patagonia is a destination less travelled, while the Argentinian side of Patagonia is more frequented. For those journeying to the southernmost tip of the earth in search of an extraordinary wilderness, Chilean Patagonia has so much to offer whether solo or in a group. With the main destination being the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, and its extraordinary channels, islands, and colourful towns such as Ushuaia, all against the magnificent backdrop of the National Park.
I interviewed Steph, originally from Bath, while she was housesitting in Manchester, where she had lived for 5 years before leaving the UK. Steph’s aim was to learn a second language, which meant that after a while she was able to teach it. She volunteered in Bolivia teaching children in Spanish. She spent longest in Chile, where she gained the knowledge to be the Chilean expert for the Moon guide. This is the second more popular guide after Lonely Planet. It is well known in the USA and Australia. She has experience of being off the beaten track as a solo, and accompanied independent traveller in the more remote areas of Patagonia, where she spent 6 months in total. This allowed Steph to become more worldly wise. She says,
The primary goals were to become fluent in another language, which is why I went away and I found that teaching was kind of emotionally challenging. I needed some time to see the world kind and grow up a bit. I guess as well.
Steph tells me about her recent adventures in Patagonia with her family. They travelled to Tierra del Fuego, where they met very few tourists among the marshy landscape, which was dense with peat and bog. They drove over 8 hours, and camped by lakes. Steph says “Everything’s so remote, everything’s just so unexpected, that is what I liked. If everything had gone too swimmingly that just wouldn’t really be Patagonia. In Patagonia everybody has time for everything, because things aren’t in a rush. So yeah you can slow things down.” However Steph explains there are challenges that come from being in such a beautiful remote part of the world, “The challenge is that often if you don’t speak an awful lot of Spanish that can be quite difficult. I always recommend that they do at least do a bit of study beforehand, and I also think you just have such a richer experience when you speak the local language.”
On the final day of the adventure with her family they fell into difficulty, “we were literally just about to get to the ferry station. And there was this horrible smell, a bit like celery was coming from the front of the car. And my dad pulled over because he’d realised that the water pressure had just gone, and it turns out that the pump had completely just stopped working. We could not move the car.” When they were about to get on the ferry to cross the Magellan strait in a remote part of Patagonia. They had a terrifying crossing being towed, and waited 7 hours for a new car.
When I ask Steph what drives her, she explains, “I’m a very ambitious person… driven by the personal ambition to just want to achieve and feel satisfied by what I’m doing. I think now that I’ve travelled over the past five years it has altered my perception of things very significantly.” She is an environmentally conscious writer. Steph would like to push for the promotion of community run tourism.
She passionately advocates for this, “I think that that’s a really important aspect of sustainable tourism that perhaps gets overlooked… that’s the way that you can make tourism very positive for both sides… people learn something.” She describes the powerful influence exposure to other cultures can have, changing mind-sets and reducing fear in this current political climate, “I feel like we’re stuck now politically and in a position across a lot of different continents where xenophobia is rife. People are very scared of people from other countries. I mean I always get asked ‘Is it safe where you go?’. It’s a common question. Yeah. ‘Are you going alone? Exactly how are you doing this? You’re a woman on your own.’ and it’s like okay yeah I take precautions.”
For the future her goals are to share what she has learnt,
I’ve learned is that everybody’s just people, and has the same fears and the same concerns, want to look after their family, get a decent job so they can support themselves, and 99 percent of people are actually very very good people.
As a writer Steph wishes to help others through her socially responsible articles, ‘See the world through a different lens.”