Tag Archives: Hiking

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Leo’s Winter Adventure in Torres del Paine

Leo returned in May from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us a little about his experiences on the trek, shares some wonderful photos, and provides some helpful tips for other people travelling to Patagonia in Winter…

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I completed the 3-day Winter Highlights trek with Swoop’s local host – Victor. It was a really memorable trek. Torres del Paine has both peaceful environment and stunning views in the winter.

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We tried to arrange trips to Calafate afterwards but we didn’t have enough time sadly. We travelled to Easter Island afterwards.

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The temperature is already below zero on the mountain but you are still warm if you keep walking. A walking stick is very helpful when walking on frozen land with slippery ice surface.

Thank you for helping me to plan this awesome trip!

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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 Crusie.  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.

Luciana’s 3 day Winter Trek in Torres del Paine

Luciana returned in May 2014 from a Winter trip to Torres del Paine, during which she took part in a 3 day Winter W Trek in the National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip…

What was the highlight of your trip to Patagonia?

I had so many amazing moments in Patagonia. The highlight was probably arriving at the 3 towers (Torres Del Paine).

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

I am currently in Brazil, but did not get to visit any other places on this trip. I hope to come back again one day, and would love to visit the Atacama desert.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip or operator for you?

They were great, I loved the trekking that they suggested and arranged for me.

Were you well looked after by our partners in Torres del Paine & their guides on the trip?

For sure. Vitor was an amazing, impeccable guide.

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened at all?

Not that I can think of!

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Matt & Sarah: Trekking in Los Glaciares

Matt and Sarah returned in April from Trekking in Los Glaciares National Park. Here they tell us about their experiences on their trip, and in booking with Swoop and our partners, as well as providing some helpful tips for other travellers visiting Patagonia…

doherty 8How were Swoop Patagonia?

Excellent in every way, would recommend them to anyone.

What did we do well?

Everything!  Swoop offered expert advice and it was clear from the outset that you specialise in this area. They were very responsive, friendly and considerate – we typically travel independently but it didn’t take long to realise the benefits of engaging with Swoop.  I do hope we get the chance to return to the region and if so we’ll be sure to contact you again.

[Read more about How Swoop Works]

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What could we have done differently?

It sounds like a cop-out but genuinely, we can’t think of anything we would have liked to be done differently/better.

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How were our partners who supported your trekking in Los Glaciares?

They were also excellent – helpful, friendly, knowledgeable… great to have support from them while we were in Chalten too. Thoroughly recommended.

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How did you enjoy their itinerary?

Excellent – we worked with them to tailor the trip to our preferences and time available and it worked really well.  We were lucky to squeeze in Perito Moreno Glacier, a small trek on Viedma Glacier and 3 great day-treks… and spent time in El Chalten which is a fantastic little town.  I don’t think we could have done any more with the time we had available.

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How were their guides?

Pedro accompanied us to Laguna de los Tres and we really enjoyed our day with him.  We were lucky enough to have great walking conditions and probably didn’t absolutely need a guide, however we got so much insight into the area, local mountaineering etc.  He’s such a friendly and genuinely hospitable kind of guy with a wealth of experience in the area… if we ever return to the area (I really hope we do) we’d be sure to look him up!

Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

More time possibly to take in multi-day treks or head to Torres del Paine though that wasn’t really viable.  We had 5 nights and with the time we had it was perfect.

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What was the highlight of your trip?

Very hard to say but a close call between trekking to Laguna de los Tres & Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

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

1. Consider a guide for at least 1 trek; we got so much out of walking with Pedro.

2. Don’t rush it too much – we thought we were rushing but we heard of plenty of people with so little time in Chalten… the area is stunning and deserves more.  It’s a great place to hang out too.

3. Consider the weather – we were extremely lucky but I don’t think what we had was typical.

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

We also had time in Buenos Aires and around Salta in the North-West.  From here we hired a car and saw some of the surrounding area… Quebrada de Humahuaca, Salinas Grandes, Cafayate etc.  All great and we’d thoroughly recommend it all – although Patagonia remains our firm highlight.

‘Once again a big thanks, I do hope we’ll be in touch again for another trip at some point.’

 

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Excursions from an eco camp in Torres del Paine

Scott & Orlee returned in April from a trip to Chile, during which they spent 5 days of day hikes in Torres del Paine National Park, based from an eco camp. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking through Swoop…

‘We had an amazing time in Chile, one that will not be forgotten with Patagonia being a definite highlight!’

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What did Swoop do well?

Communication and customer service which gained trust.  I also felt that I was being dealt with directly and not as part of the masses…a personalized service in helping organize our trip.

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What did you think of the eco camp in Torres del Paine?

This place is amazing.  Clean, comfortable, & hospitable.  I would (and already have) definitely recommend it to anyone!

We did encounter one issue that could have been serious…one morning the board walks connecting the domes and other facilities had frozen over with a very thin layer of ice that was not distinguishable from wet wood.  Unassumingly my wife led the way to breakfast and nearly fell right outside our dome (double scary when pregnant).  As I sort of rushed after her my feet went flying out from beneath me and fell within inches from hitting my head on the steps leading away from our dome.  I find it unlikely none of the staff noticed this on their way to prepare breakfast but regardless, guests should be made aware of this possibility and if the ground is unsafe, signs indicating icy or slippery ground should be placed in plain view at the very least. 

Also, our room had a hot water urn to make a tea or instant coffee.  These should be filled in anticipation of guests return from excursions so when we change for our brief & dinner we have hot water waiting for us (there was not much time to shower, change, etc…and the 1 time I went for hot water, there was none ready).

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How did you enjoy the excursions from the eco camp?

They were fantastic.  We also lucked out with the weather.  Our last excursion was the Lasso-Webber (sp?) trail hike in place of the French Valley (I think).  This should always be an option…just as rewarding as the towers and less effort.

 How were the staff and guides at the eco camp?

Guides were knowledgeable, funny, and comfortable to be around for long periods of time.  The drivers however went too fast at times on those bumpy roads and car sickness was not a welcomed addition to the trip.  

 Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

No, I don’t think so.

scott glacierWhat was the highlight of your trip overall?

Hard to say…the whole thing was a highlight.

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

If guests are not regular hikers I would definitely recommend this trip, it seemed a better mix of effort and comfort.

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

Yes, Santiago, Puerto Varas (driving around the lake and visiting Osorno was also amazing), and Chiloe.

‘All the best from us to you, Luke and Sally and thanks again for helping us plan a truly unforgettable experience.’

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Lis’s Trip to Torres del Paine & Tierra del Fuego

Lis returned in December from a trip to Patagonia during which they took W Trek in Torres del Paine followed by a visit to Isla Navarino in Tierra del Fuego. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners in Patagonia…

What three words would best sum up your experience in Patagonia?

Wild, Beautiful, Fantastic.

What was the highlight of your trip to Patagonia overall?

It’s genuinely hard to pick one thing overall, it was so varied and beautiful. The light and the windswept, dramatic wilderness of it all was perhaps the most abiding memory of Patagonia – the sheer space and also the diversity.

We dipped in and out of different parts of Patagonia, including a 3 day W Trek (thanks Swoop Patagonia for organising it for us!) in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park, and spending time in Punta Arenas which really felt like a frontier town at the edge of the earth.

Then we also flew in a tiny plane down to Isla Navarino, where there really is the last town before Antarctica (and the most southerly Yacht Club in the world!). This was definitely the most unusual aspect of our trip, and included our best story: drinking with the locals on the German frigate (now a bar) at the Yacht Club, with a Penguin swimming in the bay – and especially the luxurious Lakutaia Lodge and services of local guide Denis (quite brilliant).

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

Patagonia is pretty huge – we would have liked to see more of it; then again, with some smart planning of flights and buses (which are excellent for long distance travel in Chile) we could get around in not too many days. There are so many options for hiking and National Parks – definitely pick your top ones and don’t try to do everything.

We’d also have liked to cross the border into Argentinian Patagonia (a well trodden path at different points) and to take a boat ride (whether the Navimag or a more luxury cruise ) – would recommend investigating these options.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip and operators for you?

They were great: very generous with their advice and support when we were considering  options before making a decision. It was a very personal, tailored service; and thus felt very responsive and flexible to our needs.

What did you think of the operators we set you up with in Torres del Paine?

The operators were reliable, helpful and professional. The Fast Track W Trek we did in Torres del Paine was quite expensive (as there were only two of us in the group); but in return we received a great service, excellent guide (just for the two of us), top equipment and planning and good food. It suited what we needed very well.

How was the W Trek itself, and how were your guides?

The trek was fantastic: we did a 3-day Fast Track loop which suited perfectly as we only had 3 days to spare. I would recommend this itinerary – others do a 5 day W Trek or the Full Circuit, but the 3 days were honestly pretty stretching, even for us as pretty seasoned walkers. The variation on each day was marvellous too, meaning we felt like we saw the range that Torres del Paine had to offer; we left very satisfied.

Talking with other walkers, it’s worth choosing your refugio carefully – some had a reputation as serving pretty meagre portions of food which isn’t great when you’ve walked 9 hours!

Our guide (Viktor) was fantastic – seasoned, professional, good fun, knowledgeable, everything we could have wanted. The packed lunches, tent and equipment which he bought from them were very good quality, and they provided excellent fresh bread for my partner who is gluten free. He went above and beyond to support us and make sure things ran smoothly. Would definitely recommend the operator and Viktor in particular.

How was your stay at Lakutaia Lodge?

Lakutaia Lodge was great too – again, there were only about 6 guests staying there so we had 1:1 attention and service – for instance, they changed the menus around so we could have King Crab on our last day when we had to leave early.

Their excursions were thoughtful and really interesting (bird watching – not something I’d ever think I’d have enjoyed but was breathtaking), tour of the town of Puerto Williams, short trek, museum…); and we also loved using their bikes and canoes.

Local guide Denis accompanied us solicitously during our stay and was so knowledgeable and accommodating – it really made the trip.

The Lodge manager was equally very hospitable and accommodating, looked after us very well. She even introduced us to a famous Chilean opera singer who arrived to stay as we were leaving!

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened?

Only the weather coming in on our third day, and my falling over & spraining my ankle! Otherwise perfect.

Laurie & Rob’s W Trek from an eco camp

Laurie & rob returned in March from a W Trek based from an eco camp in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their trip and their experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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

Swoop were great at coordinating with their partners who ran the trek we wanted to do in Torres del Paine. Overall we appreciated all their input, and there is nothing we would have wanted to go differently.

How was your 7 day W Trek?

Overall the 7 day W Trek and stay at eco camp was awesome. We found the itinerary a little strict at times. For instance a little more down time would have enhanced the overall experience. So too would the ability to have dinner when we wished to. We do, though, appreciate that when running a large group a schedule is helpful in order to keep things running smoothly.

How were the staff at the eco camp, and their guides on the trek?

We were a group of 6 that travelled with another group of 6. Roberto and Niko were our guides. Both were great, however, we found Roberto offered more information to the group. Niko was quieter, his stated philosophy being that if you want to ask questions he is more than willing to answer.

What did you think of the eco camp and the accommodation there?

The camp was great. We stayed in both the Superior and Standard Domes. Certainly the Superior domes were more comfortable with the bathrooms, but the Standard domes were also great.

In terms of the Refugios: Refugio Los Cuernos was not great overall; very crowded; very ‘basic’ facility; nowhere to hang out other then your bunk when the dinner rotations start. We arrived around 3 pm, this is a long time with nowhere to hang out (it was raining outside).

A number of items should have been recommended in the ‘suggested things to bring’, such as flipflops for showering, Chilean dollars (note that when we picked up by Cascada, we were not given the opportunity to obtain Chilean currency).

Our group was split into two rooms, one had 9 bunks (all allotted to our group) and the other had 3 bunks allotted to our group. My husband and I were to be split up between the two rooms. I wasn’t very happy about that! When I mentioned this to our guide he said that there was nothing he could do. A group of 3 women were travelling together and one of the women offered to go into the other room. Nonetheless it was a loud (snoring and no insulation in the walls of the very small and crowded rooms) and uncomfortable night. Our experience in the other lodge (Lodge Paine Grande) was much better.

Is there anything you would have changed about the trip?

Perhaps arriving later in the day, at the Refugio Los Cuerros might be an option, making sure all partners are in the same room, having a detailed ‘suggested things to bring’ for both EcoCamp and in particular for the trek, or perhaps camping instead of staying at the Refugio.

We would also have appreciated learning ahead of time that Refugio Los Cuerros has private ‘cottages’ available (none available by the time we arrived) so that we could perhaps have obtained one! Or continue on to Camp Italiano, and camp. Camping could be an option for those who wish it, and of course this option might be a little more expensive.

What was the highlight of your trip overall?

The beauty of the landscape. It felt surreal at times.

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

Pack light. Get Chilean pesos before heading out to the Camp.

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

Buenos Aires, El Calafate, El Chalten, and Bariloche (Villa La Angostura); all were fantastic!!

Ariana’s Full Circuit & Ice Cap Expedition

Ariana is still travelling on a round the world trip, but contacted us in March to let us know how she got on during her stint in Patagonia, during which she Trekked the Full Circuit in Torres del Paine, and embarked on an Ice Cap Expedition. Here’s what she had to tell us…

I had such a great experience that it is hard to find the right words to explain it :)

How was your Full Circuit in Torres del Paine?

I had an amazing experience on my Full Circuit in Torres del Paine. The guides were great, very well organised and helpful, always looking after us and making the whole experience delightful. I cannot think of anything that I would change about this trip.

How was your Ice Cap Expedition?

I had a great experience on the Ice Cap Expedition, and the guide was very professional. One thing I would mentions is that I was a little unsure on my route to El Calafate, and I may have appreciated more detailed information on this. Once there however, the operators took care of everything, and did all they could to help me with any equipment I needed to rent.

How did Swoop do in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

The way in which Swoop handled my trip was a real treat for me. You helped me a lot, and so far it has been one of the best moments of my whole round the world trip.

Do you have any tips for other travellers planning a visit?

The only thing that I would have appreciated, which may helpful to other people visiting Patagonia with limited time on their hands, is some information on the time it takes to travel between places, and how best to go about it. I was a little confused on where to fly from/ to in order to reach certain destinations, and allowed extra time for this unnecessarily, as in reality it was simpler and faster than I expected.

Thanks a lot again for your help and to make my trip to Patagonia a great experience.

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Holiday or Hard Work? Luke’s Trip to Antarctica.

Last night  my 7 year old son asked about my upcoming trip…
Where are you going? What are you going to see?  Who will you meet?  Why are you going? Do you NEED to go?

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Let me answer his questions and a few others that are often posed.

What are these research trips all about?
We aim to get out to Patagonia at least twice a year and to Antarctica once a year. We meet with our network of partners across Chile and Argentina – those that we’ve been working with for four years, others who just finished their first season with us, and new partners who are hoping to look after Swoop’s customers in the season ahead.

By day we’re out on the hiking trails, kayaking, horse riding to get first hand experience of the routes, guides and operators that we work with. By night we check out as many accommodation options as possible, from refuges and hostels through to some of the most unique and exclusive properties in the whole of Latin America. For our customers we try to avoid itineraries that involve unpacking and repacking their bags every day; but for us it’s quite the opposite – the rule has always been try a different hotel every single night.

In November 2012 I travelled 1,500 miles overland, staying in a different place each night. Then in February 2013 I treated myself to an expedition climbing Aconcagua  and then ran a three day adventure race around the volcanoes of northern Patagonia.

So of course it’s not just about the practical matters. I love it down there – the landscapes (both the wonderfully familiar and the excitingly new) feed my soul and my passion and drive to help people plan and arrange unforgettable holidays to the Andes. To a large extent these trips are about recharging the Swoop batteries.
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Where are you going on this trip?
Each trip has had a different purpose, but this one in principally about gaining first hand experience of an expeditionary cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula, and forging partnerships with new partners in Argentina and Chile to support our customers.
I will be:
- Spending 2-3 days in Buenos Aires to meet local guides and hoteliers who will support some of our customers when they first arrive into Argentina.
- Flying south to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world and base for not only some amazingly wild and adventurous treks across Tierra del Fuego, but also the gateway to Antarctica.
- Setting sail aboard the Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula for 4-5 days of zodiac boat excursions amongst the icebergs and marine life of the Great White Continent.
- On our return I’ll stretch my legs on a trek in Tierra del Fuego before taking the 12 hour bus up to Punta Arenas (which is better than it sounds, I’ve done the reverse route before).
- We have six different partners based in Puerto Natales alone and we’ll be meeting with all of them.
-  Then flying to the Chilean Lakes to meet other operators and hoteliers and my first visit to the island of Chiloe.
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Do you have any concerns?

Out on the Antarctic Peninsula I’ll be offline for 8 days. I know this sounds ridiculous but I’ve always been there for customers planning their trip, and those on the ground in Chile and Argentina. The decision has been a hard one for a long time, however things were made a lot easier yesterday when Sally Dodge joined the Swoop team. Sally has been a Tour Leader in Chile and Argentina for the last 8 years and her knowledge of the region and passion for helping people explore it are very special indeed. I’m confident that our customers will be in very good hands while I’m away.

And, yes, I’m a little nervous about crossing the Drake Passage. It’s the most infamous waterway in the world, and this is the last voyage of the season. However, like anyone Antartica bound my overwhelming emotion is the excitement of catching my first glimpse of the icebergs, whales and the peninsula itself.

For my son Alec let me answer your questions in a few words…

- I’m going to the most charismatic city in South America, a wild island at the end of the earth, a place where the whales live amongst huge icebergs, the gateway to the eighth wonder of the world, and a land of lakes and volancoes.  

- I’ll meet dozens of guides, expedition leaders, hoteliers and travellers, each of them with their own wonderful story to tell

- Yes, I do need to go. Swoop needs the best of friends and helpers down there, and every year we need to learn about new places to go and things to see and do. But it’s also time to recharge my batteries…Swoop’s batteries.
 
And, in a few years time, when you’re ready, it’s going to be a lot of fun introducing you to Patagonia and Antarctica.

Trekking in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares

Chris & Steve recently returned from a trip to Patagonia where they spent 5 days Trekking in Los Glaciares National Park, followed by 7 days on the Full Circuit Trek in Torres del Paine based from an eco camp. Here they tell us about their trip and their experiences in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

I was very happy with the service we got from Swoop Patagonia – you helped us create an itinerary that enabled us to do all that we wanted to do in the short space of time we had for the trip. I think ultimately that saved us a lot of time and effort in organizing the trip and we were grateful for that. It did prove exhausting, but we knew that and coped well and I am glad we didn’t have to miss out on anything, in fact I’d say we were super fit by the end of the trip!

How was your time with our partners in Los Glaciares?

The 3-day trek in Los Glaciares was excellent. I liked the guide, he was very knowledgeable about the local fauna and flora and had a good sense of humour, and so he was good company.

Luckily for us the people who joined us for our trek were very fit and keen and also wanted to do a more challenging walk. It was a great, scenic climb and set us up well for the rest of the trip. I loved the campsite where we spent our first night, and the food was great.

The second day’s walk was probably the highlight of this trek, with some amazing scenery culminating in the lagoons underneath Fitz Roy. I liked the fact that our guide was happy to take his time to allow us to enjoy the scenery and we arrived into camp after 8pm that night, and so we felt like we had made maximum use of the day.

On the third day we felt that we could have spent more time enjoying the views on the way down, but having said all that, the scenery was again amazing.

How was your time with our partners in Torres del Paine?

The Full Circuit Trek was scenically spectacular (obviously, that being why its famous). We again got lucky with the weather – we barely had any rain over the whole trip except for the John Gardner pass. I didn’t mind that so much as it kept it cool for the climb.

A lot was made out to us about the strength of the winds, but as someone pretty experienced at walking in the Lakes and Dales in winter and have nearly been blown of mountains in the UK in those conditions, didn’t find it too worrying.

The ecocamp was pretty cool. The food was really good and on the first day there was a Puma casually walking round the campsite, which was different. We could have happily spent a few days chilling out there.

I think on this trip we slightly regretted not doing it on our own. I think what would have worked best for us would have been a self guided trek but still with the porters – I don’t know if anywhere has that option. We did appreciate not having to carry our tents and having our food cooked for us though.

We again enjoyed the company of the others on our trek, who were really nice people and we had many nice evenings chatting with them and working our way through many bottles of Carmenere.

We also greatly appreciated the guides offering us the chance to walk up to the towers in the dark using our head torches and sit under the stars for a few hours before the sun came up on the towers. This was a highlight of the trip for me and I realize the guide didn’t have to do that. That experience, along with the hike into the French Valley under the horns, were probably my highlights on the Paine trek, though I also really enjoyed the quietness of the northern part of the circuit.

Overall, it was a really great trip and lived up to our expectations.

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

I’d say if you have a little more time than us, then do the Full Circuit trek independently. If Id have had a few more days I’d have taken a little longer over it to do shorter distances each day, and that would have made it easier to carry all our stuff.

We also had a great Steak Stew in a place called Isobel in El Calafate and can recommend the Pop hotel in Buenos Aires as a convenient, good value and English speaking place (for those whose Spanish was as inept as ours). Oh, that brings me to another tip – learn some Spanish!