Scooping the New York Times

12 March 2007
4:47 PM

It’s not every day that I can say I covered something before the New York Times, but that might be today. Just two weeks after I finished writing my series on Torres del Paine National Park, Edward Wong’s article “Patagonia in a New Light” ran in the Times. Although he hiked the complete circuit (about 9 days) and I did the W-route (5 days), there are a few coincidental similarities:

  • I traveled with my friend Amanda; Wong traveled with his friend Tini.
  • Wong and Tina had comic misadventures involving the weather in the park; Amanda and I had comic misadventures involving the weather in the park.
  • In the most surprising parallel, the park scenery evoked the same literary comparison from both of us.

When Amanda and I hiked through the French Valley I wrote:

We could faintly make out the Paine’s peak through the fog. Much of our time was not spent in clearings that afforded a view of the Paine, though. We twisted in and out of dark forests thickly populated with trees. I heard many people on the trail say that the park evoked Tolkien’s Middle Earth. If that were the case, then we were walking in Mordor, the land of shadows.

Wong described climbing the John Gardner Pass in the rain:

The pass, at 4,072 feet, wasn’t high, and altitude sickness was not a concern, unlike in the northern Andes. Just eight months earlier, Tini and I had trudged to the summit of the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet. But the rain—nonstop all night and morning—had transformed the terrain into Mordor.

The similar descriptions are an amusing testament to the park’s ability to evoke the same feeling in different people across time. If you enjoyed reading about my trip to Torres del Paine here, I encourage you to read Wong’s article while it is still available for free on the Times site. He covers many things that I did not in my account, including the increasing number of tourists to the park, some Chilean history, and the nearby town of Puerto Natales.

On the other hand, Wong paid $650 for his roundtrip from Santiago to Punta Arenas. If you want to find out how to fly the same route for $120, you should get the facts from the guy that scooped the Times.