Take the long view: Chile revisited

In three trips over 25 years, writer Sara Wheeler has discovered as much about this South American country as she has about herself

When I first went to Chile 30 years ago, I interviewed a television weatherman. Every evening after the six o’clock news, this fellow had to say : “Tomorrow it will be very hot in the north, pleasantly warm in the middle, and perishing at the bottom.”

What a shape. That was what attracted me to this long, thin country. Could a Chilean woman at the top possibly have anything in common with a man born 4,270 kilometres (2,653 miles) below her? How can a country function when it is 25 times longer than it is wide? I went to find out. This is the story of a love affair with a land where I spent six months travelling from the Peruvian border to Cape Horn; it is also a story of return; and of the ever-changing past. The working title of the book that resulted from that first journey was Keep the Mountains on the Left. If I did that, I couldn’t get lost.

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