On a Scouting Trip With Travel Company Black Tomato, I Got to See How a New Itinerary Takes Shape

Making original content has always been a part of Black Tomato’s DNA and Marchant is

Making original content has always been a part of Black Tomato’s DNA and Marchant is a born storyteller (the inked Kerouac and Hemingway passages that scroll up his forearms are a hint). He tells me that crafting a narrative to take back to clients is an important part of any Black Tomato R&D trip. “When we were starting out, I thought it was strange that few travel companies were really showing travel in all its glory. Like, you’re trying to get people pumped about visiting all these amazing places but none of the places looked all that spectacular,” he tells me after spending a few hours with Llauradó getting drone footage of the nearby Baker River. “I want to show clients what a place looks and feels like and get them excited about a trip before they’ve boarded the plane.” 

There’s no shortage of content fodder or amazing experiences to be had over the next few days. One morning, we kayak down the gin bottle-blue Cochrane River and then hike back while trying to spot Patagonia’s big five. We’ve already ticked off puma, Andean condor, guanaca, and the team swears they saw a rhea, a South American ostrich, the few hours I wasn’t with them. The endangered huemul, or South Andean deer, must remain a mystery. We have tasty meals and excellent wine at Explora’s restaurant and stay up way too late laughing. It’s fun, personally, to be with this team, others who nerd out on travel the way I do. And professionally, it’s elucidating to get this behind-the-scenes look at how an itinerary comes together and how another part of the travel industry operates. I’m genuinely sad when my leg of the trip ends and I have to leave this group behind as they go on to the Atacama.

Kayaking the Rio Cochrane, one of Explora Patagonia National Park’s excursions

Courtesy Black Tomato

On my long flight home, I scroll repeatedly through the photos on my phone, the way I always do after any trip. Absorbing the images and trying to commit the accompanying feelings to memory, like emotional flashcards. I keep coming back to the photos of that hike around Lago Chico that began with the aggressively loud woodpecker. Toward the very end of it, after trekking for four hours through the spectacular landscape and not seeing another soul, we’d headed up one last hill and arrived at a small wood and stone lookout point with a view of the snowpeak-framed lake below. It was so unbelievably empty and beautiful—the kind of scene that breaks your heart a little. There had been lunch waiting for us–hot soup and cold beers. Simple and perfect. I was surprised and yes, delighted, by this unexpected picnic. Marchant, Llauradó, and I ate in easy silence, taking in our surroundings. Before getting up to leave, the photographer said what we’d all been feeling: “It’s an honor and a blessing to be here with both of you right now.” We’d most definitely just had a moment.

The trip I took has been fashioned into Black Tomato’s newest itinerary, Into the Chilean Wilds. This nine-night adventure starts at $13,325 per person (excluding international flights) and includes: guided treks, kayaking, and, of course, unlimited attempts to spot the park’s big five while staying at Explora Patagonia National Park; a private tour of Santiago, as well as a visit to the nearby wine region of Pirque, and two nights in the city at the Mandarin Oriental, Santiago, or the charming Hotel Magnolia; and desert excursions like hiking and stargazing in Atacama, using Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa as a base. All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.