Page 80. " Sinyavsky in Paris "

The trial of the Soviet writer Andrei Sinyavsky in Russia in 1966 is often cited as the birth of the Soviet dissident movement. He was sent to gaol for seven years, released in 1973 and moved to France where he continued his anti-Soviet agitations from Paris.

Fellow dissident and Nobel-prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn was stripped of his Soviet citizenship and deported to West Germany in 1974.

Page 81. " there is now the detente "

Brezhnev and Nixon at the White House 1973
Public DomainBrezhnev and Nixon at the White House 1973 - Credit: White House Photo Office
Following Krushev's expulsion from power in the Soviet Union in 1964, Leonid Brezhnev became General Secretary of the Communist Party. He presided over a period of greater co-operation between the USSR and the West, intended to improve relations. After Nixon came to power in the US in 1969, they began the first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), between 1969 and 1972, with the aim of limiting nuclear proliferation (there were further talks - SALT II - from 1977-1979); and in 1975 Brezhnev instigated the Helsinki Accords, a series of agreements on Human Rights. 

Page 84. " meerschaum "

Mostly found in the plains of Turkey the soft meerschaum mineral has a foamy texture which turns hard on exposure to heat. It is very easy to carve, hence its use in meerschaum pipes, popular in central Europe and Asia Minor.

Page 85. " Ludwig "

Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria is also sometimes referred to as the Fairy Tale King on account of the fanciful castles he built. A friend and benefactor of Richard Wagner, he was also the subject of a film by the Italian director Luchino Visconti, who portrayed him as a neurotic, homosexual recluse. He was deposed on grounds of insanity in 1886 and died mysteriously before the medical diagnosis could be confirmed.

Page 89. " Karsh's picture of Winston Churchill "

Armenian-Canadian photographer Yosuf Karsh's portait of a scowling Winston Churchill was taken in December 1941 and appeared on the cover of Life magazine. It became an instant classic and is said to be the most reproduced portrait photograph ever.

Page 92. " A lot of Boers "

After their defeat by the British Empire in the Second Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) many Afrikaans of the eastern Cape territories in South Africa went into exile. They travelled to Texas and New Mexico in the US and to Kenya in East Africa. But the largest group were enticed to Patagonia by the Argentine government with the promise of free land.

Page 92. " Dingaan's Day "

Dingaan's Day falls on 16 December and celebrates harmony between South Africa's diverse ethnic groups. It is named after the Zulu king Dingane, who entered into land negotiations with the nomadic Voortrekkers. It used to be called the Day of the Vow (1979-1993) and is now known as the Day of Reconciliation, but at the time of Chatwin's trip to Patagonia it was usually called the Day of Covenant.

Page 92. " Dr Malan "

Daniel François Malan was Prime Minister of South Africa from 1948 to 1954 and a champion of Afrikaner nationalism. It was during his premiership that the Apartheid system first took shape.


Page 96. " The unicorn? "
Cave paintings
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCave paintings - Credit: Reinhard Jahn
Medieval Unicorn
Public DomainMedieval Unicorn - Credit: Barthélémy l’Anglais

The myth of the unicorn continues to delight and confound. The Ancient Greeks, like Father Palacios, believed in it as natural history, rather than mythology; it makes an appearance in ancient Chinese mythology as the quilin; Marco Polo described them as 'very ugly brutes,' and it was thought pretty young virgins could be used to entrap them. The unicorn paintings in the caves at Lago Posadas that Father Palacios describes have been dated to approximately 3850 years ago - although they are far more faded than the rock paintings in the nearby Cueva de las Manos.

Page 97. " ñire trees "
a ñire tree in Patagonia
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alikea ñire tree in Patagonia - Credit: Leonardo Pallotta

Indigenous to Chile and Argentina, Nothofagus antarctica (ñire) is a deciduous beech found in temperate rainforests as far south as Hoste Island across the Beagle Channel from Tierra del Fuego, making it the southernmost tree on earth.

Page 97. " Magellanic woodpecker "

The Magellanic Woodpecker is the southernmost-dwelling woodpecker of the Campephilus genus, indigenous to Chile and parts of Argentina. It can grow up to 38cm in length and as well as beetles and grubs it sometimes feasts on small reptiles.

Page 97. " the territory of the Haush "

The nomadic Haush are believed to be the oldest indigenous inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego. They were fervent hunters of guanaco.

Page 99. " The one noise you did hear was a guanaco "
Public DomainGuanaco - Credit: Mary Frances Howard

Also know as apacas, guanacos are widespread in Patagonia, where there is little competition for food. Estimates put their numbers at around 1/2 million. They normally live in herds on steep terrain, and their only natural predator is the puma.


Page 100. " He liked Pinochet "
Pinochet meets Peron 1974
Public DomainPinochet meets Peron 1974 - Credit: Archivo Diario Clarín Argentina

General Augusto Pinochet had recently come to power in Chile at the time of Chatwin's trip. He appointed himself President after leading the CIA-backed junta that overthrew Salvador Allende in 1973.

His rule was a terrifying period in which, according to the disputed Valech Report, an estimated 400,000 people were tortured between 1973 and 1990, many in the earliest months of his regime.