Tag Archives: Chalten

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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.’

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.

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.

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.

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’

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 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!’

 Thank you again for making this dream trip come true!

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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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15...and half expecting a Huemul to jump out

Los Huemules Reserve, El Chalten

Harriet from Swoop recently returned from El Chalten where she checked out  the Los Huemules Reserve, a private 5,800 hectare reserve, to the North of Chalten and bordering the Los Glaciares National Park. It was created 15 years ago to preserve the ecology of this area and protect it from development. Experts were brought in to assess the ecology, geology, flora and fauna of the park and help develop a reserve that would highlight the beauty of the reserve whilst helping to preserve it.

Some areas have been urbanised, 90 lots have been sold and on 11 of those, houses have been built. Sustainability is very important so water is brought down from Laguna Azul to supply the buildings and a hydro-plant powers them.

 A series of trails of different difficulties have been developed so that tourists can do a number of hikes.  The rest of the park has been left to grow wild and hopefully the Huemules, foxes, Magellanic woodpeckers, condors and puma will find sanctuary there. Although the trails will not get the spectacular views that you will get from Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Torre, these hikes are special because of their solitude, exploratory nature, the pristine landscape and diversity of species within the reserve through which they pass.

Here is Harriet’s story of her day spent discovering the reserve…

01 From our cosy cabaña at Ricanor

From our cosy Cabaña at Ricanor…

02 we headed to Los Huemules reserve

…we headed to Los Huemules Reserve.

03 There isnan interpretation centre and the park rangers passionately told us all about the project

There is an interpretation centre, and the park rangers passionately told us all about the project.

06 It was a dreich day...

It was a dreich day…

07 ...but we set off into the woods none the less

…but we set off into the woods nonetheless…

08...heading towards Laguna verde

…heading towards Laguna Verde

09 Crossing a new bridge across the Rio del Diablo

…and crossing a new bridge across the Rio del Diablo…

10 Up to Laguna Azul

…up to Laguna Azul

11 with views of Cerro Electrico

…with views of Cerro Electrico….

12 ...and a Chilean Flicker

…and a Chilean Flicker!

13 Carefully sticking to the newly made paths following yellow waymarkers

We carefully stuck to the newly made paths, following the yellow way markers…

14 ...following the signs...

…and signs…

15...and half expecting a Huemul to jump out

…half expecting a Huemul to jump out!

16 But instead we spot some funky mushrooms,....

But instead we spot some funky mushrooms…

17 and PUFFBALLS!!!!JPG

…and PUFFBALLS!

18 The mountains clear for a moment but it doesn't last and the rain returned so we went home

The mountains cleared for a moment but sadly it didn’t last and tghe rains returned, so we head on home.

In order to reach the Los Huemules Reserve you will need to take a transfer from Chalten, it is a good idea to base yourself near the reserve for a couple of nights in order to thoroughly explore the trails. There are a cabañas, hotels and camping nearby so do let us know what you are looking for and we can check availability for you. This is a great option if you have time in Chalten and want to access some remoter areas without getting completely off the beaten track.

08 ...and we reached Lago Huemul

The Huemul Glacier Mini-Hike

Harriet from Swoop recently returned from El Chalten where she checked out a short hike that is great for people with half a day free to explore, or for those who do not want something a little easier. You climb for 30 mins to 1 hour through beautiful Lenga Forest to the Lago Huemul and hanging glacier Huemul. Allow 1-2hours for the whole hike.

This mini-hike makes a great day out when combined with a boat ride on Lago del Desierto on which you will get views of Mount Fitzroy from afar and the Vespignani glacier from close up. Alternatively hire a bike, get driven out to Lago del Desiero, complete the hike and get blown/pedal back to Chalten. Please ask for more information about this hike and other activities near Lago del Desierto.

Here Harriet takes you on the mini-hike with her to show you the way…….

01 We drove to Estancia Lago del desierto...

 First we drove to estancia Lago del Desierto… 02 ....just 37km from Chalten at the end of the road on the banks of Lago del Desierto

…just 37km from Chalten at the end of the road on the banks of Lago del Desierto.

03 The Huemul Glacier minihike climbs through the Lenga forest, gently at first

The Huemul Glacier mini-hike climbs through the Lenga forest, gently at first…

04 Before becoming steeper

…before becoming steeper…

05...where the roots of the Lenga create a staircase for you to climb

…where the roots of the Lenga create a staircase for you to climb.

06 After just 30 mins we emerged from the forest, this may take you a little longer as we were going quite fast

After just 30 minutes we emerged from the forest (although this may take  a little longer as we were going quite fast!).

07 The path flattened...

The path then flattened…

08 ...and we reached Lago Huemul

…and we reached Lago Huemul.

09 You can continue climbing the moraine to your right

You can continue climbing the moraine to your right…

10 ....but instead we had a drink...

…but instead we had a drink…

11...and enjoyed the glacier views

 …and enjoyed the views of the Glacier. 

This trailhead is 37km from Chalten so take a transfer from Chalten. There is an entrance fee of ARS$100 to enter the Estancia and climb to Lago Huemul.

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Patrick’s Trekking holiday in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Patrick returned in April from a trekking holiday in Patagonia that included treks in both Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Thanks for all the help leading up to my trip. It was a fantastic journey and Swoop’s assistance was a great part of making it a success. 

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How were Swoop Patagonia? 

You guys were fantastic. Patagonia is such a big area and it’s kind of intimidating to begin the planning process. But with Swoop’s help, I was able to put a solid travel plan together with ease. I’d say the biggest thing I appreciated was you getting me started with ideas and connecting me with reputable companies in Patagonia. It was like working with a friend who just got back from her own trip.

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How were Swoop’s partners who supported you in Chile and Argentina?

Both were fabulous.

Zoe in El Chalten was amazingly helpful with bus transportation, hiking planning, and just offering advice on how to get the most out of the area. And my guide for the Huemul Circuit, Pablo, was incredible. He was professional, knowledgeable, and helpful in every way. That trek would’ve been much less enjoyable without him guiding us along.

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Similarly, Julieta, my guide for the Torres del Paine Full Circuit trek made that experience greatly enjoyable. She did so many little things, like having her friends make brownies and granola bars for us, that really made the adventure special. I didn’t work with your Chilean partners’ office folks as much, but they were very friendly and helpful when I did interact with them.

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was the Huemul trek. It was more of a back-country adventure, which I really enjoyed. We pretty much had the trail to ourselves and the terrain was varied and challenging. Plus, the scenery, while perhaps not as famous as Torres del Paine, was still iconic Patagonia. I got pretty lucky with the weather, so I was able to get some great shots!

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

I did make it down to Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego and I would say that area is not quite as magical. The hike up Cerro Guanaco in Tierra del Fuego national park was as challenging as any day of hiking I did in Patagonia and offered incredible sights from the top. But other than that, nothing else in that part of the area really amazed me. I suppose part of this could be that I visited Ushuaia after seeing the rest of Patagonia, so maybe I’d recommend people start in Ushuaia and then head elsewhere.

Thanks again for all your help! If there are any websites where I can brag about you guys, let me know.

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Lisa’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Lisa returned in March from a Full Circuit Trek based from an eco friendly camp in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

Trip to Patagonia was fantastic.  Fortunately we had great guides, a really fit group (everyone was a hiker), pretty good weather and perfect weather for the 1 day that meant the most to me :)

How were Swoop Patagonia in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

Swoop were great – very responsive to my emails, and thanks for sending me the pre trip gift, it was a  nice surprise :)

How were swoop’s partners who ran the Full Circuit?

They were not as responsive to emails and queries as Swoop, but we got there in the end.

What did you think of your itinerary?

The 9 day Full Circuit Itinerary was good – though the first day is a very tough introduction to the hike due the number of kms walked – and it would have been nice to have a “grace” day somewhere in case of bad weather (though realise this makes logistics very difficult).

What did you think of your Guides?

The guides were fabulous – we had a lot of fun :)

What was the highlight of your trip?

My highlight was the perfect day we had for the Paso Yungai coming down on top of the Grey Glacier.  No wind, sunshine, perfect weather for the most important day of the trip for me (I’d done some of the hike before – it was for this moment/view that I wanted to do the full circuit). Another highlight was having a wonderful bunch of people to walk with.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

Also visited El Chalten region in Argentina for 8 days. Unfortunately the weather was not so kind to me there but I did manage to do some day hikes.

Paul’s 2 week Road Trip in Patagonia

Paul returned in March from a two week road trip from El Chalten to Ushuaia. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop did very well by getting me in contact with their partners who run the trip immediately after my inquiry. I was very pleased with the seamless communication and organisation of both companies and I would enthusiastically recommend them both.

How were Swoop’s partners who ran the tour in Patagonia?

This was my first time using a tour company, and they exceeded my expectations. Just about all aspects of their operation were outstanding.

The couple who oversaw the tour could not have done more to attend to each and every traveler. The local guides they employed went from outstanding to good, but mostly the former. This is an extremely well conceived itinerary with personal touches that were remarkable. Long trips were always broken up with stops at interesting places.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Patagonia is full of highlights because of its natural beauty, but the experience was certainly enhanced by the operation of the tour.  Weather called for a change of hiking plans at one point and the guide with Melinda and Franco came up with an alternative that was nearly as good as the planned activity for that day.  These are creative people who have obviously given great thought to the organisation of the tour. This was particularly reflected in the choice of restaurants that ranged from very good to mind blowing.

Hiking & Kayaking Torres del Paine & El Chalten

Jiamin returned in January from a hiking and kayaking trip to Torres del Paine and El Chalten. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

We enjoyed working with swoop Patagonia because of your good planning, level of detail, patience and quick response time. Your recommendations of activities were also helpful.

If I was to make a recommendation it would to indicate on the itinerary which days we need to source our own accommodation when transiting between trips.

Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia? 

Yes.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine and Chalten?

Trekking in Torres del Paine: While generally professional, your partners who supported our W Trek in Torres del Paine were not very responsive in the lead up to the trip. We enjoyed the itinerary though,  the guide was overall above average and his experience enabled us to see the Torres del Paine. However, on the last day for the hike to the grey glacier boat trip he had stayed up late the night before (New Years Eve) and woke up late. We thus had to walk really fast to catch the boat ride to the grey glacier, doing 12 km in 3 hours which meant that we could not enjoy the hike or take photos.

Kayaking in Torres del Paine: It was with Swoop’s Kayaking partners on our Kayaking trip that we had the best experience. The guide was very knowledgeable and experienced and they made an effort to provide good food on the kayaking trip. I would strongly recommend working with them.

Trekking in El Chalten: Swoop’s partners in El Chalten were also not very responsive in the lead up to the trip. The guide Marianna was nice and generally good. She gave us flexibility to take our time during the hike and explained the flora and fauna of Patagonia well. Overall, they were above average.

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

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip. We also had fun in Buenos Aires and Santiago.

What was the highlight of your trip? 

The highlights of our trip were the Perito Moreno Glacier, Torres del Paine, French Valley, and the Kayaking trip. Weather was bad and we could not see the Fitz Roy. That was the toughest part of the trip but no less rewarding.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?  

Possible tips would be definitely to bring hiking poles and waterproofs. Fit hikers could consider ice hiking on the Perito Moreno glacier, which would probably be very beautiful. Also, might be good to manage expectations of people staying at Refugio’s which generally serve bad food and box lunches.

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Wallis’ trip to Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Wallis returned in December from a W Trek in Torres del Paine and some hiking in Los Glaciares. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners. As a 75 year old woman who found aspects of this trip challenging but still hugely rewarding, Walli would like to encourage other people of similar ages to consider a trip to Patagonia.

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I have wanted to go to Patagonia to hike for about 20 years and just never could find a way to go until now. When first thinking about it and knowing that I just had 3 weeks it just seemed overwhelming! I did some internet research and wrote some emails to organisations that I found. I said that I wanted to go to Ushuaia, some places to hike in Argentina and then go to Chile to hike and end up in Buenos Aires before coming back to Caracas. I just didn’t know where to start or how to plan… and then I found Swoop Patagonia!

How was your experience of planning your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

I really enjoyed working with your company and all of you. I felt well taken care of and my questions were answered promptly and there was a lot of good advice on the website.

Harriet sent me a very detailed plan of what I could do, mapping out the whole three weeks for me. We adjusted the plan a number of times as she answered lots of questions. She gave me some suggestions for Ushuaia but told me you did not have an operation in that area so I figured that out quite easily and also loved that area.

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 I Wish that you  did trips to more places, but narrowing your regions is probably what makes you so good at planning and arranging people’s trips, and makes you real experts at what you do.

How was your experience with Swoop’s partners in El Chalten?

Harriet put me in touch with Swop’s partners Barbara and Zoe in El Chalten, and they did a wonderful plan for me for Los Glaciares. I liked very much the places in which I stayed, very much enjoyed the hikes I took in the area, and all the logistics went smoothly, I wish I’d had time for more!

How was your Ice Hike?

I am so glad that I was encouraged to do the ice climb and not just the trek and am so glad we found a company that did not have an age limit!IMG_1584

I ended up doing the hike with two guides, a Canadian couple and a Polish couple. The guides really helped me out whenever I was uncomfortable on the glacier (Juan and Carlos) and everyone encouraged me when I was on the walls. I didn’t do great, but well enough to really have had fun.

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Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The only day that I wish I had spent otherwise was the day I went to Lago del Desierto. For me there was too much time spent travelling there and back, and also sitting on the boat (on which I was the only passenger). It was beautiful, but I missed having a more active day. Zoe showed me where to go for a short hike when I got back though, so it all turned out just fine.

How was the weather during your trip?

My only rain to speak of was a for a few hours one morning in Chalten. I could therefore not do Fritz Roy justice as I saw the bottom but never did see the top out of the clouds. Oh well something I’ll have to come back for…

[More about weather in Patagonia]

How was your experience with Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine on the W Trek?

Everything thing went well for the W Trek (including the wonderful vegetarian cafe the Living in Puerto Natales). I loved our group, and our guide Izzy was amazing; she could not be a better guide. Everyone got along with and supported each other well, and the rest of the group really encouraged me. I particularly loved the first day where we were able to get so close to the animals. The terrain reminded me a lot of Mongolia.

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The refugios were comfortable with good food, and Christmas Eve dinner was perfect!

The Torres were magnificent!!! We had windy days but basically all clear days…I don’t think that the weather could have been better.

By the end of the French Valley I did get a little tired from carrying my pack all day. Everyone went at his or her own rate here, and although I was a little slower, Izzy kindly walked with me.

The last day, which included a hike and boat trip, was also beautiful and Izzy carried some of my things for me so it felt like I had just a day pack. I just could not have gone fast enough. The others in the group were cute about my pace…I felt sort of bad about it and they would say…you are NOT slow, you are just slower then we are! It was great at the end to get dropped off at the hostel!

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Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

Firstly, bring ear plugs when you sleep in refugio dorms! Secondly, know your limits – I am just not able to go very far very fast if I am carrying much more than a day pack over a number of days. When I do day hiking I usually take the minimum…so a regular daypack even seems a little heavy to me.

I felt so fortunate to have small groups and great weather. It was just a perfect trip…thank you all for your part in making a dream of mine come true.

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Larry & Susan’s Trek in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares, & Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

Larry and Susan returned in March from a trip to Patagonia with friends Jane and Jim. Their trip included an Independent trek in Torres del Paine and El Chalten, followed by a cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in planning and arranging it with Swoop and our partners in Chile and Argentina…

What was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop?

Speaking for Susan and myself, I think that the most important point in terms of the structure of the trip was that it worked very well.  I believe that there are certainly logistical and language issues with a trip such as this, and I feel that the arrangements made by Swoop and the other operators were well worth the money.  Having self-arranged trips elsewhere in the world, at least 5 times previously, going via Swoop was a different structure, and I would encourage others to do likewise, especially with potential language issues.

What were the highlights of your trip?

In El Chalten, we were pleasantly surprised that a small village of its size has the amenities that it does.  Nothing like walking into the Mirador for Fitzroy, and walking out to enjoy a pint at the microbrewery, followed by a great restaurant meal, and a good sleep at Kaulem. For me, El Chalten was the highlight, given the total surprise at what we had expected for facilities, and the relative ease at getting into the objectives.

The cruise was wonderful; great meals, wonderful tablemates, very knowledgeable interpreters.  The choice of a berth in the lower deck was the right one, given the rough seas, going towards Cape Horn.

Swoop is commended for recommending Parc Nationale los Glaciares; this was a highlight also.

How did you find the Trekking in Torres del Paine & Chalten?

I would not describe the “W Trek” as a life-changing experience.  Having hiked, scrambled, and climbed in the Canadian Rockies for 35 years I guess I have been spoiled.

The trails in both countries are well maintained and clean; the daily itinerary was very do-able, for people of our age and relative fitness.

We found the Refugio staff to be less than helpful, not at all service based, and the meals monotonous and of dubious quality, especially some of the vegetarian options.  I certainly think these young people could learn a lesson about guest expectations and service from the folks at Palermo, and on the Cruise.  I picked up bed bugs at one of the Refugios as well.  Could they not charge a little more, and offer a little more?

On the ground , we found your partners in Torres del Paine very helpful and a good resource, although we also took in the 3:00 p.m. talk at Erratic Rock.  She could do with a little more prominent sign.

How were your other accommodations during  the trip?

In Buenos Aires, we found the Palermo Hotel and its concierge service quite exceptional.  We are not normally effusive in our praise, but Luke really picked a winner here. The facility in El Calafate was unexceptional,  no strong memories, one way or the other.

In Chile, the people at both Erratic Rock were helpful, and it was appreciated that they held our spare kit while we were elsewhere (as did Palermo, in Buenos Aires).

The B&B in Punta Arenas could have been better.  We were in side by side rooms, nearby the upstairs dining area.  Noise from the front desk carried, the staff seemed to be oblivious to their all night “yakking” and then the German group got up (or maybe never went to bed) at 4:00 a.m. or so, to have breakfast.  So, a real lack of commitment to other guests, and I’d encourage you to find something smaller, and quieter.

Overall…

In conclusion, a well planned and well organized trip, for which considerable recognition should also go to my wife, Susan, as well.  I really think her secret job is also tour operating, and should you have any vacancies, please keep her in mind!

This is a trip we have been working on since we read Bruce Chatwins’ book, “In Patagonia”, in approximately 1980.  We still have the book, and brought it along to reread.  Then, we were poor University students and all we could afford was “armchair travelling”.  So, 34 years later and the circle closes.  We have fulfilled one of our dreams as a couple, between armchair and wheelchair, I guess you’d say.

Thank you, once again, for the effort. Cheers! Larry.