For two minutes and 10 seconds, on the afternoon of 14 December 2020, the moon will cover the sun for a total solar eclipse. The “G eclipse point” of the umbra—the perfect spot to witness it all—exists inside Patagonia and, more specifically, the otherworldly landscapes surrounding the village of Piedra del Aguila, otherwise known as the “Stone of the Eagle.” To cater to celestial-enthusiast tourists, luxury adventure travel company Black Tomato will set up camp in Argentina and host guests in temporary, low-impact Blink tents—all under the watch of the snow-capped peak of Lanin Volcano.
From Argentine BBQs to fishing, hiking and horseback riding, the experience will be spectacular, but it’s the day of that matters most. Equipped with telescopes and technical glasses, guests of Black Tomato’s adventure will set off along the Patagonian steppe until they arrive at the confluence of the Chimehuin and Alumine rivers. There, they’ll ford by drift boat. They will arrive to the viewing location with time enough to enjoy the skies with the least disruption possible in the world. Rob Murray-John, Head of Operations for Epic Tomato (part of the Black Tomato family) planned it all meticulously.
“Eclipses take place every year around the world and, as a result, there are indeed celestial tourism junkies,” Murray-John says to CH. “I was in Chile last year overseeing an epic client trip and was fortunate enough to experience the eclipse in all its majesty. And while certain places do feel an onslaught of celestial tourist, we (given who we are) don’t support or endorse the more heavily trafficked areas for this.” Both for the sake of the land and for the benefit of their guests, Murray-John and team plot out something entirely unique—complete with handmade, wood-burning hot tubs.
In this moment, the world feels like it stops and goes fully quiet… You get goosebumps
“The eclipse is the excuse but it’s all about discovering this spectacular and untrodden area,” he says. “This is far beyond astro-tourism,” he continues, though, he pauses to reflect on the eclipse itself. “In this moment, the world feels like it stops and goes fully quiet. In seconds it gets really cold. You get goosebumps. The birds in the trees and all wildlife goes eerily silent. There are two sunrises” that day.
Black Tomato’s excursion also satiates travelers who dream of Patagonia. “You have Argentine Patagonia and Chilean Patagonia—and both are spectacular in their own right,” he continues. “Emblematic of Patagonia, you of course have mountains over mountains but where we are sending people is so far off the grid, it’s this incredible steppe that very few know about, so the landscapes you soak up include lakes and vineyards, not just the jagged peaks of the Torres.” Though eclipse activities last only a few hours, the remaining days (the trip can be seven or 12) embrace this nature, its beauty and a general sense of comfort and adventure.
He looks to their glamping set-up. “We are building pop-up, signature Blink domes, luxury accommodations, in an outrageously remote part of the country. We asked ourselves, could it be possible to create something that can exist and be enjoyed for a brief, magical moment but soon after is gone forever and no one would ever experience that same moment again?”
He continues, “What makes Blink so particularly special is that the locations for the structures are set up in are places where no one has been before (glaciers, desert landscapes and jungles to wild coastlines and rolling savannas) and the decision as to where they are located is worked on between our specialists and the customer, making it a truly personalized experience.”
Of course, food matters. “For this trip, we are flying in a private chef and the food will be absolutely stunning,” he says. “Think sundowners and cocktail hours and we are even flying a mixologist and notable oenophile to curate the cocktail and wine program. Patagonian lamb is famous for a reason so this will be served up inventively on a spit-grill (but served with Frette linens), the finest cut of steaks from local gauchos, immense Argentine and Chilean wine, and all produce with be native to Argentina and organic.”
As for preparation, Murray-John explains that people need not worry. “You don’t really need to do any preparation!” he says. “I run many intrepid trips that do require training before the journey starts, but this is not one of them. You don’t have to be an eclipse geek or wildly intrepid to get so much out of this. But if you are eclipse-obsessed, you will be spellbound.”
Images courtesy of Black Tomato