Chile

Warren Adams: Searching for profits and saving Patagonia

March 10, 2011: 5:00 AM ET

The entrepreneur has a plan for land  preservation that  actually makes money. Now he just has to prove it.

By Brian Dumaine, senior editor at large

Patagonia Sur members explore the Los Leones glacier.

You can't reach Melimoyu, a fishing village of 50 nestled on the rugged southern coast of Patagonia, by car. From Coyhaique, Chile, a twin-prop Piper Comanche carries me between jagged mountain peaks, through thick gray clouds, driving rain, and 50-mph winds toward a small private airstrip. As the plane banks sharply to land, the wind buffets the craft so severely that the instrument panel issues stomach-churning blips and beeps. As I cling to my seat, I take some solace in the fact that Hugo, our pilot, is wearing an olive green flight jacket with an insignia on the sleeve that looks like he was once an F-16 fighter pilot in the Chilean air force.

After a safe landing and a hearty pat on Hugo's back, I hop onto the tarmac thinking my journey is over. But no one -- and not a single building -- is in sight. Eventually a pickup truck appears and takes me to a makeshift metal dock. From there a 30-foot twin outboard carries me across a bay surrounded by rain forests, magnificent waterfalls, and glaciers -- think Avatar without the blue people. Heavy seas slam the hull as loudly as a Fourth of July cherry bomb. As we near our destination, I notice there's no dock. I jump off the boat onto a launch, which carries me to a beach where a tractor waits in water halfway up its wheels. The wooden platform attached to its rear acts as a dock. Welcome to Patagonia on a not atypical summer day. More

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