‘La Trochita’ – The Old Patagonian Express

I remember it was a cool summer’s day in Hammersmith. Wandering down a side street I found the travel agent’s office. Inside, the woman at the desk said he was out and nodded across to a desk with the name ‘Roberto Meyer’ on a large sign next to a pile of papers with a dead fly on top. When he came in we had a long chat and I explained I wanted to find ‘the Old Patagonian Express’ made famous by Paul Theroux in a book of that name. Theroux had set out from Boston to see how far south he could get through the Americas by train – he finished with the ‘OPE’.

The Trochita old locomotive - Photo Corporación de Fomento – Chubut.

Later that year, 1998, I stood on a dusty, rock strewn car park in front of the railway station of El Maitén, deep in Patagonia, Argentina’s south. The place looked like a scene from a spaghetti western, Clint Eastwood likely to walk round the corner at any moment.