About Luke

Founder of Swoop Patagonia and Swoop Antarctica, dad of three, and mountain marathon runner.

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About Luke

Founder of Swoop Patagonia and Swoop Antarctica, dad of three, and mountain marathon runner.

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Dave’s Chalten to Ushuaia Adventure

Dave returned in March 2015 from a trip to Patagonia that included a 13 day road trip from El Chalten to Ushuaia via Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners, along with some incredible photos!

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Cerro Fotzroy and Cerro Torre in the distance

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop Patagonia have an excellent website, full of ideas for places to visit and activities to do.

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King Penguins, Tierra del Fuego

I found it slightly odd that, unlike some other adventure holiday operators I’ve used, Swoop acted purely as agents for the ground agents in Patagonia, providing advice and information, before introducing me directly to the ground agents for my chosen trip. Nonetheless, it was great working with them and lovely to receive their pre-trip gift!

[NB. Swoop works in two different ways depending on the needs of our clients and the complexities of their trips. Sometimes we introduce people directly to our ground partners in Patagonia (as was the case for Dave), and on other occasions we take people’s bookings all the way through from start to finish. Here’s some more information on How We Work.]

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Viedma Glacier

Would you recommend us to family/ friends planning a trip to Patagonia?

Yes, I would definitely point anyone considering visiting Patagonia to your website.

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How were Swoop’s partners in Argentina?

Generally they were very good. We had one or two panics over dates and hotels when it came to arranging extra days before and after the tour, but they got things sorted out pretty

quickly. The extras were worthwhile time-wise and accommodation very comfortable.

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Glacier Viedma

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Glacier Viedma

How were your itinerary and guides?

The itinerary was brilliant and the guides very professional.

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

I would have liked the chance to see the Magellanic Penguins near Punta Arenas, maybe with 1 night in Puerto Natales.

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Guanaco, Torres del Paine

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Rhea

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlights of my trip were:

-Getting within 20m of a Puma

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Puma stalking foxes near Hotel Las Torres

-Watching lumps falling off Perito Moreno Glacier

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Perito Moreno Glacier Calving

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-A gorgeous autumn day hiking up to Laguna de los Tres (alone)

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Cerro Torre Summit

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Cerro Fitzroy from Laguna Capri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Lovely weather for trips on both the Beagle Channel and Magellan Strait.

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Sea Lions in the Beagle Channel

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Commerson’s Dolphin – Magellan Strait

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

I didn’t visit anywhere else, Buenos Aires aside, but certainly would love to go back to tour the north-west and visit Iguassu.

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Cuernos del Paine from Lago Pehoe

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Ian & Sue’s Patagonia Adventure

Ian and Sue returned in December from a 24 day trip to Chile and Argentina that was designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop.

‘We had the best holiday of our lives and would recommend it (and Swoop) to anyone!’ 

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Ian and Sue Feedback

The package you put together for us exceeded our expectations in every way.  The quality of the accommodation and guides was very high, and the choice of locations and activities was spot on for us.  We would recommend Swoop to anyone (and have done so).  The varied and unspoiled landscapes, the geology, and the incredibly rich variety of wildlife made Patagonia our perfect destination. If we are able to return to South America, I hope it will be under your auspices!

Ian and Sue’s Itinerary

Ian and Sue began their trip with a city tour of Santiago, followed by a night in the Hotel Boutique Oporto.

[Read Swoop’s list of recommended hotels in Santiago]

The city tour was faultless- a conversation with the courier led to an instant change to our afternoon itinerary, substituting a poet’s house with the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, and providing a driver to give us more time.  

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Pre-Columbian Art Museum, Santiago

Our guide had been a guide in the museum, so was amazingly knowledgeable. We ate at Como Agua Para Chocolate, and loved it.

[Read swoop’s top picks for restaurants throughout Patagonia]

The next morning they flew on to Puerto Montt, and the nearby island of Chiloe for a 3 night stay at Chil Hue, for 3 days of excursions to take in the local scenery, wildlife, fishing villages and penguin colony.

Our guide met us on arrival and drove us to Ancud, stopping several times on the way to show us birds etc.

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Chilean Wigeon

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Ringed Kingfisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was a fantastic guide with a wide knowledge of natural history, and the history of the island.  We had a great day out – including a short trip out to the penguin colony where we saw Magellanic and Humboldt Penguins.

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Magellanic Penguins – Chiloé

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, our itinerary was to have been a visit to several of Chiloe’s wooden churches.  We had already visited a couple, and knowing our interest in natural history, our guide (Jamie) proposed a visit to a private national park owned by a friend of his (Parque Tepuhueico). 

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Chiloé

 After visiting Castro en route, we had a fantastic trek in the temperate rainforest.  Jaime had helped set up the trails, and had translated the interpretation boards into English, so was the perfect guide. 

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On our last night, we went out for a traditional meal in Ancud. Needless to say, we loved Chiloe!

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Chiloé

Ian and Sue’s next stop was Punta Arenas, where they spent a day exploring the city, and the King Penguin Colonies of Tierra del Fuego.

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On arrival at Punta Arenas, we were met by our guide, who dealt faultlessly with our questions.  Hotel Ilia was one of the nicest and friendliest places we stayed. The room was large, light and airy.  The decor was attractively modern and arty, and the breakfasts were great. 

Punta Arenas exceeded our expectations. It was a friendly and characterful Chilean city: a bit ramshackle in places, but full of charm (and feral dogs…).  O’Higgins provided a wealth of restaurants to choose between.  We ended up going to Brocolino both nights, and enjoyed it very much.

Our day trip to see the King Penguins on Tierra del Fuego was a great success. It was a full day, but very variable and enjoyable.  We were in a small group in a mini-bus, which stayed with us all day. 

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King Penguins – Tierra del Fuego

Porvenir was an attractive (v small!) city with a surprisingly good museum.  The penguin site (not yet referred to as a “colony” as they hadn’t bred successfully yet) was great – with interesting plants as well as birds.  

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Lighthouse, Porvenir

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Chimango Caracara

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guide was excellent, stopping the bus to show us foxes, guanacos and rheas, and pointing out the dolphins on the short ferry crossing on the way back to the mainland.  On return, the bus dropped us off at O’Higgins for a meal as it was getting late.

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Guanaco

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Patagonian Grey Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following day, Ian and Sue headed to an eco camp on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park for 3 days of excursions.

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Patagonian Skunk

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Lago Pehoe – Torres del Paine

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were picked us up in the afternoon, and driven to our accommodation, stopping several times en route to look at features, wildlife etc. The eco friendly camp we stayed at exceeded all our expectations.  We had the nearest yurt to the lake with distant views of the “Horns”.  

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Patagonia Camp

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Patagonia Camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

On arrival, the staff explained the options available for the next day.  The evening meal was great, with as much of the house wine as we wanted to drink (and the offer of a bottle to take back to the yurt) together with unwise quantities of pisco sour before and after the meal.

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Lady’s Slipper

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Patagonian Red Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our first day of excursions we elected to go on the Fauna Trail Hike.  This was ideal for us, providing a good introduction to the scenery, flora and fauna of the area, together with an unexpected view of the rock paintings (see their wine label – and visit Majestic in the UK).  

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Guanaco

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Rock Paintings – Torres del Paine

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were also introduced to the lavish picnics provided by the camp.

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Magellanic Orchid

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Yellow Orchid

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, some of the trips could not run due to high winds. The guides asked us if we would like to go on a trek they hadn’t included in their list for some years, and the three guides, and just the two of us, had a great day out.  

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They shared their maté with us, explaining the simple ceremony involved, and we felt very included.  We had a fantastic view of an Austral pygmy owl.  

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Austral Pygmy Owl

The last  section of the walk was very challenging for me – a narrow path on loose scree – and they seemed to have forgotten my vertigo.  They admitted that if this section of the walk had been longer, they would have graded the walk as “Difficult” rather than “Moderate”!

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On our final day at the camp, four of us had elected to go on the Grey Lake Boat Trip, but on arrival at the jetty, we found that the boat had been cancelled due to high winds. Instead, we did the Grey Beach Hike in the morning (very close views of a pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers), together with a short hike to the Lake Toro viewpoint in the afternoon. 

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Magellanic Woodpecker

This provided a great day out, and showed off the guides’ ability to think on their feet.  We rounded the day off with a self guided walk to the local waterfall.

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Our stay at the eco friendly camp was the high spot of our holiday. The accommodation and surroundings were great, and the guides were all of the highest quality: we felt really looked after.

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Following their stay in Torres del Paine, Ian and Sue headed across the border to the town of El Calafate, where they visited the Perito Moreno Glacier, and took some day hikes from the nearby town of El Chalten.

P07820_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1320 The hotel in El Calafate was friendly, comfortable and stylish.  We were directed to the Laguna Nimezwhich was a must (we ended up going there again the next evening).  Not feeling able to face the queues at La Tablita, we ate at La Zaina, which was very good.

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The day excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier was a great success.  The guide was, as usual, everything we could ask for.  Although the viewpoints provided great views of the glacier, we found the boat trip well worth it, providing closer views of the ice walls, together with the sculpted icebergs floating in the lake. 

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Perito Moreno Glacier

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Perito Moreno Glacier

 

 

 

 

 

The boat lingered at each viewpoint long enough for everybody to get the photos they wanted.

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Perito Moreno Glacier

On our excursion to the Petrified Forest, our guide was very knowledgeable, both geologically and botanically.  

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Petrified Forest

In addition to the geology, this trip provided our best views of the flora of the steppe

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Following the excursion, we were taken to El Chalten.  Hotel Lunajuim was very friendly- the room was great, full of quirky modern art produced by the owner’s wife: we enjoyed our stay very much.  We ate at the Estepa, which we liked very much, and returned to on our last night.

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Our excellent guide took us (together with a picnic) to Laguna Capri.  This was an ideal trek for us, culminating in a satisfying view of the glacier.  We ate at La Tapera – very good again, with a great choice of wines displayed in the wine racks with price tags tied round the necks.

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The following day our guide Zoe took us to Lago del Desierto.  She was a great guide, and managed to show us torrent ducks, which had been on my list of “hope to sees” (and give us an excellent picnic). 

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Torrent Ducks

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Ashy Headed Goose

 

 

 

 

 

 

That evening, we ate at La Vineria, which must be one of the best wine bars in the world!  Their smoked platter was worth a mention as well as the wine.

On our last day in El Chalten we took a self guided trek towards Laguna Torre – we only made it to the three viewpoints en route, but the views were spectacular, and the route easy to follow.

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The next stop was Tierra del Fuego, for a few days exploring the birds and wildlife of the National Park.

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Southern Lapwing

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Black faced Ibis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotel Tierra del Fuego was a good place to stay – quite central and fairly near the waterfront.  We ate at Le Estancia – the food was quite good, but the service was patchy – much of their efforts seemed to be directed towards rich Americans presumably on their way to Antarctica.

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Black Necked Swans

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Upland Goose

 

 

 

 

 

 

The guided excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park was enjoyable.  Our guide was knowledgeable, and urged us to suggest any changes to the itinerary we wanted, although we did find him a little impatient.  We ate at Moustacchio for the next two nights.  We found it very friendly, with a wide menu of well-cooked food (as Sue is allergic to crab, we tended to avoid predominantly fishy restaurants). 

The following day, our guide had booked us onto a Beagle Channel cruise, which culminated in a visit to an estancia, followed by a two hour minibus transfer home.  We decided to stay on the boat to return to Ushuaia rather than take the bus.

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This was one of our favourite days.  The weather was cold and wet but, on arrival at the penguin island, the sun came out, and the boat beached on the sand, giving us the best views we had ever had of penguins going about their normal lives. 

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In addition to the Magellanic penguins, there were a few Gentoo, and three King Penguins.

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For their final few days, Ian and Sue visited Buenos Aires, where they spend time exploring the city; it’s museums and art galleries.

[Read Swoop’s blog post about things to do in Buenos Aires]

On our departure day, our guide had already taken our details, and checked us in on line for our flight: this was a great idea- I wish other operators had done the same. After checking in at our hotel, we visited MALBA (a fantastic gallery). 

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The Hotel Esplendor was friendly and helpful. That evening we went to a nearby Parilla recommended by the hotel – it was OK, but I think I will stick to your recommendations in future! 

Our group tour of Buenos Aires in the morning was excellent.  The guide was very informative, and when one of the passengers expressed an interest in visiting Evita’s grave, she just added it to the itinerary.  At the end of the tour, she dropped the passengers off wherever they wanted.  

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A warning to other travellers: we were squirted with something outside the National Gallery, but when people offered to “assist”, we shouted at them until they went away (successfully avoiding robbery – although my mobile was later pinched on the underground: but that’s another story). 

A visit to El Ateneo, a bookshop in a converted theatre, should be on everyone’s to do list: there is even a cafe on the stage.  As an alternative to steak, we ate an Italian restaurant highly rated by the hotel (Il Gran Caruso): this was excellent.

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On our final day, we had a tour of the Opera House (very good), and spent the rest of the day at the San Telmo Market.  We really enjoyed ourselves, but are still kicking ourselves that we bought so little – everything was amazingly cheap and stylish.  

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Our Iberia flight home arrived back early, and we managed to catch an earlier coach home.

A satisfying end to the best holiday we have ever had. Thank you, Sally!

Where to Stay in Santiago

Although Santiago is a sprawling city, the city centre is quite compact with many of the historic buildings, bars and restaurants nestled together in just a few neighbourhoods. Below is a little description of each neighbourhood so you can see which area you think might suit you best.

Bella Vista

Nestled under the Saint Christopher Hill, Bella Vista is a neighbourhood of contrasts. It is famous for being a bohemian neighbourhood where artist have their studios. There are student bars selling cheap beer in litre bottles, a private University, and live music. On a parallel street there are fine dining restaurants serving up the very best in Chilean cuisine, first class boutique hotels and shops selling handmade souvenirs. The neighbourhood ends with the entrance to the funicular that takes you up the Saint Christopher Hill which gives magnificent views over the whole of Santiago and the snow capped Andes.

Top pick hotel – the Castillo Rojo: http://www.castillorojohotel.com/

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As the name suggests, this castle-like building, built in 1927, looks like something out of a fairytale with turrets and balconies. Recently restored and open for just 1 year, the interior of this building retains all of its original charm complete with original features, antiques and furniture made and sourced in Chile.

Lastarria

This old, historic neighbourhood, which is little more than a few streets, has a village-like feel, nestled in the hustle and bustle of the centre of Santiago. It has great restaurants and cafes, artistic independent shops and is within walking distance of the `Plaza de Armas’, Museo de Bellas Artes (fine art museum), the Santa Lucia Hill and the neighbourhood of Bellavista. On a Saturday and Sunday it also has a fun little antiques market. It has a number of lovely boutique hotels that have recently opened in restored historic houses.

Top pick hotel – Lastarria Boutique: http://www.lastarriahotel.com/en/acerca-de/

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On entering the hotel, one shouldn’t be put off by the small lobby and reception area. Once you climb the first flight of stairs you enter the charming breakfast room which leads onto the terrace and garden – a small oasis in the centre of the city. The perfect place to relax after a day of sigh-seeing or travelling up from chilly Patagonia!

Providencia

Providencia is the first residential neighbourhood that you reach just outside of the city centre. Although more residential, it has plenty of bars, restaurants, cafes and is on the metro line 1 (the red line) which makes it just a short trip into the centre of town (as a first time visitor, you would still feel as if you are in the city centre). Providencia is safer and calmer than the city centre and just a short taxi ride to the neighbourhoods of Bellavista and the more affluent Las Condes and Vitacura.

The more luxurious hotels in this area tend to be larger, more business like hotels but the Santiago Park Plaza still manages to capture some of the local flavour. There are also number of more guest house style boutique hotels with my top pick being the Meridiano Sur. If you are looking for a characterful mid-range hotel then this is a great option.

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Hen & Paddy’s Horse Riding Trip in Aysen

Hen and Paddy returned in February from a three week adventure in Patagonia, that included a Horse Riding trip in Aysen. Hen kindly shared with us an extract from her travel diary that gives a fascinating insight into her experiences on the trip, along with some incredible photos taken by photographer and cameraman Paddy Scott.

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We arrive at the place where we will camp a little after 8pm. A green bosky plain surrounded on three sides by mountains and gently lit by the Patagonian summer sun as it sets through the valley of the River Neff.

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Exhaustion doesn’t come close. I’ve been in the saddle, or rather, clinging on to the saddle for nearly ten hours. Skirting steep ravines, tripping down boulder-strewn gullies, navigating choked lengar forests and muddling across riverbeds of glacial till.

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Carefully dismounting from my nonchalant horse, I stagger on my bruised, scratched, stiff and bowed legs, and am immediately set upon by unsympathetic mosquitos and horse flies.

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My face and hands are scorched by the sun, my clothes are damp with sweat and thick with dust, and my adrenaline drained body is demanding food. There is still a tent to put up, and the lamb for our supper still sits raw in a saddle bag.

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But scotch needs no assembly or preparation, and oh how it soothes! Swigging from the bottle I grin widely at Don, my Chilean gaucho guide. Such complete happiness needs no common language for expression.

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Had I been told that morning of the road that lay ahead I doubt that I would have followed Don A. so unquestioningly into the hinterlands. But since I speak no Spanish, and Don no English, the route was unrevealed and the safety briefing never happened. And of that I am very glad.

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Struggling through the day, rock by trot, every yard an accomplishment, my mind has not once drifted from the here-and-now. And despite the fear, aches and hunger, I’m delighted to discover that the here-and-now is very joyful.  Here-and-now is unchartered and mighty Patagonian wilderness, and my previously untested ability to tackle the unknown road.

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The next morning we’re up before 7am, yerba mate and last nights leftover lamb is a welcome breakfast, and somehow my body fits easily back into the saddle.

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I recall the trials of the day before and I’m momentarily struck by a need to know that today will be easier and that the hardest road lies behind us. But then Don signals to me to give the horse long reins, pointing to an impossibly steep mountain ahead, and before another thought I’m climbing on four hooves.

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As last night’s camp shrinks behind us there is only adventure ahead. My concentration is absolute, but I risk a glance at Don who is leading the way on a magnificent beast.

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Whistling a jolly tune, his gaucho’s cap angled jauntily against the sun, a spin-barrel revolver in his belt and his all-purpose knife on his hip- this man doesn’t worry about the road ahead because he is master of the road he’s on.

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See more of Paddy’s photos

 

18 At the pass it really started to snow, the clouds suddenly swept in, no time to celebrate we needed to get down.

Paso del Viento

Harriet from Swoop returned a few weeks ago from a trip to Patagonia during which she hiked the Paso del Viento in just a day! Here she tells us all about her experiences on this exciting adventure!

Paso del Viento had acquired a slightly mythical status with me. I had studied photos and maps of it so I could describe it to Swoop customers and gauge whether they would be strong enough to do it. So when I went to see Adrian, one of the guides we work with in Chalten and he asked if I would like to attempt it in one day then a huge grin spread across my face and my heart beat really fast with excitement. Yeah I wanted to race up to Paso del Viento and back! I love a challenge like that!

Other guides I spoke to in Chalten said it is impossible but I knew it is possible because Adrian has climbed this pass in a day with his daughter who is also a mountain guide. Adrian says it will be 55km, Mauro (another guide) says it is 48km, either way it is a long way and my expectation is that it will be far too far for my unseasoned legs and in addition to that the weather forecast looks terrible.

01 Paso del Viento had beguiled me

Paso del Viento had beguiled me…

03 Having loaded my plate several times from the Senderos hotel buffet, we set off at 7.15am from the National Park visitor centre.

Having loaded my plate several times from the Senderos Hotel buffet, we set off at 07:15 am from the National Park Visitor Centre.

04 We climbed through Lenga forest for 1h15. The weather was good and the mountain pinnacles sneak from behind their cloudy blaket from time to time. We reach a high point overlooking Lago Viedma

We climbed through Lenga forest for 1 hour 15 minutes. The weather was good and the mountain pinnacles sneak from behind their cloudy blankets from time to time. 

05 It started to rain and the wind began to blow as we descended into the Tunel valley. The clouds rolled down the hillsides like the blinds had been pulled down. Our conversation was stopped by the howling wind and our hoods being cinched

It started to rain and the wind began to blow as we descended into the Tunel Valley. The clouds rolled down the hillsides like the blinds had been pulled down. Our conversation was stopped by the howling wind and our hoods being cinched in around our faces,  It was quite clear that if this continued we would not get anywhere. The valley is wide with a meandering river. With so much rain recently waterfalls were slithering down from the steep valley walls. We nearly turned back but decided I might as well go and see the Tyrolean rope crossing…

06 At 11am we reach the tyrolean rope over a churning bubbling channel of glaciated water that slices deep through the bed rock.

At 11am we reach the Tyrolean rope over a churning bubbling channel of glaciated water that slices deep through the bed rock.

07 Crossing the steel rope with a harness and oull your body along with your hands

You cross the steel rope with a harness and pull your body along with your hands…

08 ...and carefully up the otherside

…and carefully up the other side.

09 The rain had stopped, the wind was quite calm and it was warm so we tentatively continued towards the pass

The rain had stopped, the wind was quite calm and it was warm so we tentatively continued towards the pass.

10 Above the tyrolean rope crossing the going was much tougher. We were climbing on bedrock covered with loose rocks. The climb went straight up from the rope,  crossing a bedrock band......

Above the Tyrolean rope crossing the going was much tougher. We were climbing on bedrock covered with loose rocks. The climb went straight up from the rope,  crossing a bedrock band……

12 the glacier tumbled in neat folds ahead.....

The glacier tumbled in neat folds ahead…..

13 ....we descended to the glacier

 ….we descended to the glacier

14 -Wow- said Adrian -this surface is normally crispy like cornflakes but today it is slippery from the rain- we tip toed forwards on small rocks burried into the ice.

“Wow” said Adrian “this surface is normally crispy like cornflakes but today it is slippery from the rain” we tip toed forwards on small rocks buried into the ice.15 We then climbed up onto the lateral morraine and tentatively eased our way across this loose surface until.....

We then climbed up onto the lateral morraine and tentatively eased our way across this loose surface until…..

16 ......we reached a flat area where we chomped on an empanada and a sweetcorn flan. The weather was not looking good so this was the end of the road, it started to snow

We reached a flat area where we chomped on an empanada and a sweetcorn flan. The weather was not looking good so this was the end of the road, it started to snow

17 But then a blue patch appeared, we looked at each other knowingly. -How far is it--, -About 400m climb-, -so about an hour then- -probably less- -Hmmmm lets do it-. We paced it up to the pass without stopping once, heads down, no convers

But then a blue patch appeared, we looked at each other knowingly. “How far is it?”, “About 400m climb”, “so about an hour then” “probably less” “Hmmmm lets do it”. We paced it up to the pass without stopping once, heads down, no conversation.

18 At the pass it really started to snow, the clouds suddenly swept in, no time to celebrate we needed to get down.

At the pass it really started to snow, the clouds suddenly swept in, no time to celebrate we needed to get down. 19 We lost ground easily on the loose scree slopes and rock hopped quickly back.  The weather held out all the way to the Tyrolean rope then fell on our heads. It poured. We reached the crossing at about 1545.

We lost ground easily on the loose scree slopes and rock hopped quickly back.  The weather held out all the way to the Tyrolean rope then fell on our heads. It poured. We reached the crossing at about 1545.

20 From here we knew the way was easy enough and I was relieved to be back on more stable ground especially with the weather being so terrible. Back at Toro camp....

From here we knew the way was easy enough and I was relieved to be back on more stable ground especially with the weather being so terrible. Back at Toro camp….

21 ....we stopped for a hot soup and sandwich.

….we stopped for a hot soup and sandwich.

22 A woodpecker hammered out a beat. We were quiet with tiredness. The walk back was a sorry soggy affair, I was lifted by the knowledge that we had achieved our goal  but so weary. We kept moving swiftly and it was just over 3 hours from c

A woodpecker hammered out a beat. We were quiet with tiredness. The walk back was a sorry soggy affair, I was lifted by the knowledge that we had achieved our goal  but so weary. We kept moving swiftly and it was just over 3 hours from camp Toro back to Chalten. I was so glad to take off those wet boots and clamber in the hot shower. 

23 .....one week later I visited Paso del Viento from above and got to see the Ice Cap!!! (1)

…..one week later I visited Paso del Viento from above and got to see the Ice Cap!!!

I would like to thank Adrian for a wonderful adventure. Adrian is a gentle giant of a man with shy, smiling eyes. He has done 39 ice cap expeditions since he became a guide and he only became a guide at the age of 50. He is passionate about nature, the mountains and especially Chalten.

Check out the 3 day version of Harriet’s Paso del Viento Adventure!

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Patagonia on the Web – April 2015

Swoop’s choice of Patagonia finds online this month.

Swoop’s favourite photographs:

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Swoop’s own Sally visited Patagonia this month and while out there tweeted this great photograph of her arriving at Monumento Natural El Morado.
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The Calbuco volcano erupted unexpectedly this month. There are some incredible images of this terrifying and fascinating natural occurrence all over Twitter.  @marichivalero posted this one of calm waters in the foreground as plumes of smoke rise from the volcano. 

10523603_919103111443325_2869941613572156927_nLove this picture by Nicolas Prompt taken after drinking  the tea in Chloe casa de Te, Ushuaia, can’t think of anywhere better for a tea break. 

Blog’s of the month:
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Raul from iLovetotravel wrote a great blog about his experience visiting the Perito Moreno glacier in 2015 compared to 2010.

cruceros penguinsCustomers often ask us about different ways to travel between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas so we have written a helpful blog with some great ideas for the journey.

 If you  want more information like this about a trip to Patagonia,  contact us today. 

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Anne’s Family Christmas in Patagonia

Anne and her family returned in January from a Christmas holiday in Argentina, designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here she tells us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

‘Everything went fantastically, we LOVE Patagonia, and we so appreciated the careful planning.’

Fam on glacier

Ann’s Feedback

Our family of 4 recently returned from a truly awesome trip to Patagonia organised by Sally at Swoop Patagonia. I typically am the trip organiser for our family, and usually eschew travel agents.  Thank goodness I was lured to Swoop Patagonia because the trip would not have happened without them, or at least it would not have been the fantastic trip that it was.  Sally was unbelievably helpful and responsive and so very knowledgable about Patagonia. In the early stages, we Skyped and swapped innumerable emails and she patiently and competently figured out what kind of trip we were dreaming of and put all of the pieces in place.

Lake above Peuma Hue

We spent time in El Chalten, El Calafate and in the Bariloche area.  Our hikes (both guided and independent) were among the most jaw-droppingly beautiful we have ever experienced (and this is compared to Bhutan, New Zealand, and many places in the US).

The accommodations in El Calafate, El Chalten, and Bariloche were locally run, extremely comfortable and brimming with friendly people. Sally worked with local operators to ensure that ALL of the details were covered, ranging from delicious box lunches for our hikes, to numerous transfers to and from airports, trailheads etc.

Scotch on perito moreno

The pre-trip information that Sally sent us was extensive and very well documented (e.g. packing list for hiking, suggestions for our time in Buenos Aires, specifics of domestic flights, transfers etc etc.). Sally also quickly answered questions that arose during the trip (eg. How much should I tip?) and yesterday we Skyped for close to an hour reliving our trip and going over all the details AND fantasising about future trips to Patagonia.

Caity at hut

We particularly appreciated all of the transfers that you arranged for us- I am not used to arriving at an airport and seeing a sign with my name on it and a friend driver to whisk me to my destination! I kept waiting for the time that the person would not show up, or some such, but it never happened!

I could not be more pleased and grateful for the amazing service and family trip of a lifetime! THANK YOU!

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Ann’s Itinerary

The trip began in Buenos Aires, from where the family flew on to El Chalten in Los Glaciares National Park, for three days of guided and independent day hikes in the region.

‘Our hikes were unbelievable, and our accommodation was outstanding. The staff who supported us and our guide, Alex, were all great’

They then travelled back to El Calafate for a day excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier, which included a 1.5 hours ice hike, a boat excursion to the face of the glacier, and an hour on the viewing platforms in front of the glacier.

‘We had a really knowledgeable guide, and felt very safe and secure’

Perito Moreno

The next stop was Peuma Hue, a luxury eco-lodge at the heart of the Argentine Lake District, blended into 500 acres of national park, 2 miles of lakeshore, pristine forest, mountains, rolling hills, waterfalls and creeks, all just 25 minutes from Bariloche.

Peuma Hue

‘Peuma Hue was ridiculously beautiful, and the accommodation was outstanding. We went for some fantastic runs, took a boat trip to Frey, went kayaking on the lakes, took a yoga class, and went on a magical horse ride to beautiful waterfalls.’

The trip ended with three days in Buenos Aires, where the family spent time exploring the city.

‘The only thing I might do differently would be to spend new year’s eve and day outside of Buenos Aires as almost everything was closed!’

wine tasting in BA

 Thank you again for making this dream trip come true!

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Ann & Karl’s 15 days in Argentina

Ann and Karl returned in April 2015 from a 15 day trip to Argentina, designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia…

Ann & Karl’s feedback

‘We just wanted to say a big thank you for this memorable holiday. Thanks for your expertise of the area – we had an amazing time with virtually no hiccups with any of the pre-arranged tours or transfers. We had a great dose of adventure, photographed picturesque scenery, and met very nice local people. We now have 3 days in BA before flying home but couldn’t wait to express our gratitude.’

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Ann & Karl’s Itinerary

Ann & Karl began their trip with a 3 night stay at Estancia Huechahue, a quintessential Patagonian ranch in the foothills of the Andes, where they took part in a variety of activities including horse riding and fly fishing.

Estancia Huechahue was excellent, an absolute highlight of the trip. It was quite different to what we imagined – a very rugged experience, but we would absolutely rush back again. The staff were very knowledgeable and the food was great. We were lucky enough to meet many of the owner (Jane) ‘s friends, and very much enjoyed making new friends and speaking to the local people.

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They then travelled down to Bariloche in the Argentine Lake District, for 2 days of kayaking and river rafting.

The kayaking/ rafting was great. It was our first time kayaking, and luckily we did not find it too challenging so were able to soak up all of the scenery in this beautiful location.

Next, they travelled on to El Calafate for an ice hike on the Perito Moreno glacier, which was ‘rather tiring, but great fun, with great guides who were very knowledgeable’.

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Their next two days were spent taking day hikes from El Chalten, which were ‘very enjoyable, and we were very lucky to have had great weather during our stay. We are not big hikers and we feel that 1.5 days is the ideal time to stay in this town.’

Ann & Karl’s last stop was Buenos Aires, where they made their own arrangements. They highly recommended visiting this open air live music show: La Bomba de Tiempo.

The trip superseded our expectations, we were really impressed and definitely needed your help! We would highly recommend Swoop to friends and family. Thanks, Karl & Ann.

 

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Sarah & Michael’s W Trek in April

Sarah & Michael returned in April from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Thanks so much for all your help and information which allowed us to have a wonderful W trek! We had an unforgettable time in Patagonia and the itinerary created by Harriet was spot on.

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We took our W Trek from 5th-9th April and we were so lucky- we had lovely weather! Not a drop of rain! :)

Puerto NatalesWe got on great with our guide Victor who met us on Sunday at your partners’ office in – the whole experience was very positive- we enjoyed the refugios, the food, the lunches.

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The route was well planned and we were comfortable with the distances each day. There were some fabulous views too- Patagonia is such a lovely part of the world.

Thanks you too Harriet for the itinerary you prepared for us before we left, and for suggesting Perito Moreno and El Chalten- we took a day trip to Perito Moreno from El Calafate as you suggested and did the mini ice hiking which was a great experience. Again we had a beautiful sunny day for it which was lovely.

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We weren’t so lucky in El Chalten where it poured rain for our day hike  to Laguna de Los Tres- but we had a better day for Laguna Torres. We really enjoyed them- it’s a great town, lovely hiking, lovely views and met lovely people.

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And Chloe thank you so much for the thoughtful presents you sent just before we left- they’ve been with us on all our treks & we’d be lost without them!!

Thanks again for all your help!

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18 Up we went.....

Ice Hiking on Glacier Grey

Harriet from Swoop recently returned from Torres del Paine where she spent an afternoon ice hiking on Glacier Grey. The ice hike lasts 5 hours and there are departures in the morning and afternoon  from November until March. Harriet thinks this is a great activity and everyone should add it onto a trek in Torres del Paine!

01 Embarking on our adventure near Refugio Grey....

Embarking on our adventure near Refugio Grey…

02 ....and zooming across the water to the ice

…and zooming across the water to the ice!

03 We disembarked on a Nunatak that straddles the lake and glacier Grey

We disembarked on a nunatak that straddles the Grey Lake and Glacier…

04 It took just under an hour to walk from the drop off point to start the ice hike

…and it took just under an hour to walk from the drop off point to start the ice hike.

05 The going is a little difficult so ladders have been put in place to assist

The going is a little difficult, so ladders have been put in place to assist you.

06 The striated rock is fascinating and the view towards the Cordon Olguin and Paso John Gardner is captivating

The striated rock is fascinating, and the view towards the Cordon Olguin and Paso John Garner is captivating.

07 Hey mum! Look at me!

Hey Mum! Look at me!

08 We descended to the ice

We then descended to the ice…

09 Where we put on helmets, harness...

…where we put on helmets, harnesses…

10....and crampons

…and crampons.

11 _Take your ice axe and point it at the sky._ We were instructed how to walk on the ice ‘Take your ice axe and point it at the sky!’

We were instructed on how to walk on the ice…

12 Getting onto and off the ice was the most challenging part

…getting onto and off of the ice is the most challenging part…

13 But then we were off

…but then we were off!

14 Staying in single file at all times

Staying in single file at all times…

15 Leaping across little streams

…leaping across little streams…

16 Guzzling hot chocolate

…& guzzling hot chocolate…

17 The sound of gurgling water and cracking ice made you appreciate the dynamic nature of the glacier

…whilst the sound of gurgling water and cracking ice made us appreciate the dynamic nature if the glacier.

18 Up we went.....

Up we went…

19 ....and along

…and along…

20 Peering into huge crevasses......

…peering into huge crevasses…

21 ...and wondering how deep they were

…and wondering how deep they were!

22 Two and a half hours of ice hiking passed very quickly

Two and a half hours of ice hiking went very quickly…

23 Then an hour walk back to the boat

…followed by an hour’s walk back to the boat…

24 ....and the end of our Glacier Grey experience

…and the end of our Glacier Grey experience.