Tag Archives: Hiking

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Bader Valley – Paine’s hidden valley

In Torres del Paine the W trek is the classic route that many people hike that takes you to 3 magnificent valleys – the ascencio, Frances and Grey valleys. For more experienced hikers there are a number of different routes including the Paine Circuit and others that take you off the beaten track and allow you to see another side to the park. On my recent trip to Torres del Paine I wanted to see these routes that I hadn’t seen before.
Read here about my foray up to the Oggioni pass.

The second route was the Bader valley, a small valley that most hikers walk straight path. The turnoff isn’t obviously and it slices into the range between the Cuernos and the Torres giving you an extraordinary close up of the Cuernos and a different view of the south tower.
We took some camping kit and spent a day hanging out at the climbers camp there.

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When you wander from the ascencio valley to refugio Cuernos you’d never notice the Bader valley or the path that takes you there.

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But a teeny tiny path heads right at the Cuernos. Snow had fallen in the night and the Cuernos were white with a thin layer of snow

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As we climbed the Nordenskjold lake lay below us …

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 …the fresh snow made the going tough at times.

 

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As we climbed the valley revealed itself and the Cuernos towered overhead…
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…until our necks had to strain upwards to see them.

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In a small thicket of trees we pitched our tents…

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…and continued up the valley with just the lids of our rucksacks.

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The path stops at the camp and to continue onwards we hopped from rock to rock which was made tricky by the fresh snow.

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We continued to marvel at the Cuernos ( I really am obsessed with these fellas) as they changed shape and size. My guide Justin traced mental climbing routes up them with his eyes

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A toothy ridge of pinnacles played in and out of the clouds up ahead, and the wind started to build.

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The snow, boulders and wind made for slow going so we decided to leave exploration for the morning when better weather was forecast.

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Bader camp is a climber’s camp with no facilities just a shelter made from branches, tarpaulins and string. A shovel for digging cat hole toilets hangs from a tree trunk in the centre of the shelter.

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We prepare and consume an enormous pot of lentils and precooked pork with enough garlic to keep the vampires away.

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After a 12 hour sleep we wake to the roaring of the wind in the trees. The wind is so strong that we can’t walk in a straight line, it is certainly not great for boulder hopping. So we pack up camp and head down.

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1Check out the squalls on Lago Nordenskjold!

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There are beautiful blue skies and the Cuernos look spectacular!

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…as we descend with legs braced against the wind.

If you want to know more about Paine’s hidden valley, get in touch today.

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Sally’s Hike in the Tagua Tagua Park

On Sally’s most recent visit to the Patagonia, she was fortunate to take a 2 day hike through the Tagua Tagua Park. Relatively new, this park is a Private Protected Area (PPA) not a National Park, dedicated to the preservation of biodiversity.

Map

The Hike In

The entrance into the park is unlike any other I have seen before, reached by boat across the vast emerald waters of the Tagua Tagua Lake.  As the El Salto River falls into the Tagua Tagua Lake the boat approached a cluster of rocks, here we clambered off and scrambled up onto the trail.

Arrival

The trail starts from the information centre at 20 metres where you sign in. There was a pile of bamboo sticks which hikers can borrow to help them on their way as they head up into the valley.

The first hour, although forested, is through an area which has noticeably been inhabited as there is grass and introduced plants such as blackberries and apple tree. The only family to live in this area were the Melipillan Sanchez family between 1953 and 1994 who made a living from farming and also making the alerce shingles for building – a trade locally known as a tejueleria.

Tagua walk

There was a lot of humming birds (green hooded fire crowns) activity in and amongst the fushias bushes – flitting from here to there, fighting and being really noisy. As there were no other hikers we were able to stand and admire these beautiful birds.

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After the first hour of patchy forest and open grass land we then entered the dense forest where the vegetation becomes almost mythical with hanging lycans, trunks covered in creeping vegetation and the rain dripping through to create the illusion that the forest is moving! There were ferns of all shapes and sizes – giant ferns, monocell transparent ferns and umbrella ferns that looked like they were made of velvet.

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Also funguses – some as large as dustbin lids – mostly mushroom type or enormous layers of yellows, oranges, purples, more abundant and bigger than I had ever seen.

After crossing various riverson newly built wooden bridges and climbing up to 535 metres, you reach the Refugio Alerces.

Refugio Alerces

Looking out over the flooded Alerce forest, the Refugio Alerces sits 6.5km up the trail at 535 metres (the park guide says 4.5 hours but we had done it, taking our time in 3 hours). The refugio has sleeping space for 22 in open bunks and an open kitchen – it is really just 1 big room with bunks built into 1 wall – all in wood. As it is just 1 hut the heat from the wooden stove burner benefits all. There is an outdoor porch with a hammock and stunning views of the mountains behind.

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This refugio is manned by Sol and Felipe, the park rangers, who live up here all year round maintaining the refugios, trails and park in general.

The next 2 kms heading out from the Refugio Alerces climbs almost 200 metres in a series of ladders. They are not totally vertical and could be described mearly as steep walkways resting on the ground below.

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After 9 kms from the start you reach the valley top at 710 metres where the forest opens up to large patches of mallin (fragil, spongy ground cover), the large granite walls show themselves and the expansive forests of Alerce and Cypress trees. As it had rained all day, there were waterfalls appearing from everywhere.

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You can easily track your progress along the path with handy signs every 500 metres .

We arrived at the Refugio Quetrus after about 5 hours hiking, absolutely soaking wet. Having worked previously as park ranger, Mauricio my guide was a dab hand at getting the fire going and the kettle on. This higher refugio is un-manned so was absolutely freezing!

Refugio Quetrus

This refugio, currently at the end of the trail but there is plans to extend the trail, sits at 710 metres so from the trail head you have gained 690 metres on the 10 km hike. There is sleeping room for 8 with a similar layout as the Alerces but the sleeping space is up a ladder on another floor. There is a porch with benches to sit out on and look out across the truly breath taking view of the Lake Quetrus, islands forested with cyprus trees, granite walls and waterfalls.

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At both refugios the toilet is housed in a separate wooden hut, a 2-3 minute walk up another trail, deep in the woods. This hut is just a toilet which flushes with rain water (all toilet paper should be bagged up and carried out of the park). The refugios have a supply of fresh water in containers which the park rangers get from higher up the mountain and the sink has running water which is just rain water (for cleaning teeth etc). There are no other facilities or privacy.

Inside

All food that you have in the park has to be brought in and rubbish carried out. If you do the trek as a guided trek, the guide will provide food, stoke the fire and cook up a storm. On the menu during my trek we had a local dish called Cancato, a sort of pizza using Salmon as the base or better described as salmon stuffed with tomato, courgette, onions and cheese. Really delicious after a hard day in the rain.

Candle light

We chatted by candle light, read back copies of the Patagon Journal and had an early night listening to the howling wind and sound of the rain.

During the middle of the night I was aware that the autumn rains had definitely begun – I thought it had been raining hard the previous day but this was nothing, just a passing shower, in comparison to what we woke up to hear in the middle of the night. Since 3 am there had been thundering rain on the roof and we woke up to a curtain of rain outside; there were waterfalls cascading down the granite walls which surrounded us (in fact, the weather was so bad that I couldn’t see the granite walls just the white water) and the lake in front, Lago Quetrus, had risen significantly. The water had flooded the firewood store but luckily Mauricio had brought in enough the night before so within just a few minutes in the morning, we were nice and toasty with hot tea & toast.

The Descent

What an adventure the descent turned into – the footpath and river had become indecipherable! Knee deep in water, using trees to keep us up right, we waded out and back down the valley. Luckily the Refugios have their own store of rubber boots so I borrowed these instead of getting my own boots wet.

Waterfall

On reaching the valley decent back at KM 9, we could see that there was bright light on the horizon, this gave us great hope that the rain might stop…and it did! The sky cleared and the sun came out, what a treat. On the descent we took various side paths out to see hidden waterfalls and a stunning viewpoint which gave us views out over the whole valley.

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As we neared the end of the hike, the Tagua Tagua Lake suddenly came into view and with the sun shining on it that turquoise colour of the water seemed even more intense. As we sat on the rocks waiting for the boat to collect us, I felt totally exhilarated. The trek had been quite challenging, not because of the distance, more for the rain, slippery terrain, basic facilities and the thick dense jungle forest that literally breath air back into my lungs. On the opposite shore of the lake I could see the Mitico Puelo Lodge and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the hot shower and pisco sour.

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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.

Patagonia_002_Waterfall at Patagonia Camp

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.

Patagonia_003_Scenery above El Chalten Patagonia_004_Scenery above El Chalten

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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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.

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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Teri & Deb’s Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares Adventure!

Teri and Deb returned in March from a trip to Patagonia, which included 4 days of excursions in Torres del Paine, and some hiking in Los Glaciares National Park. here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

We had a great trip and enjoyed both areas of Patagonia. 

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How was your time with Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares National Park?

We were very well taken care of from pick up & delivery services to hiking recommendations…all good. They even loaned us hiking poles during our stay in El Chalten.

We hit some rocky weather but it didn’t spoil our adventure. Sometimes we didn’t get to see the full view points on our hikes (due to snow, clouds & wind on Laguna los Tres & Laguna Torre) until we were leaving town on the bus, but then we might never have hiked in 100 Kph winds if we hadn’t ventured forth! It was an experience.

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We loved El Calafate (& the beer by the same name), and would have liked to explore the wine country after trying the local Malbecs too.

Glacier hiking on Perito Moreno was a huge highlight. We had great guides, good weather and it was a spectacular site. We only wish they would re think the age restriction on the Big Ice hike.

El Chalten is a beautiful hiking town, and a very sweet location. It was very gusty though and we sure appreciated the Buff supplied by Swoop, it kept my nose stuck on my face when the wind threatened to tear it off and fly it to Antartica.

All transportation was very comfortable and timely (except the American leg on Delta).  We spent a lot of time traveling, but those busses have great views and are cushy compared to flying.

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How was your time in Torres del Paine

The eco friendly camp…ahhhh!  What a delightful way to wrap up our trip. Blissful location, comfortable, great food, good wine, just a wee bit of travel to get where you were going to hike.

We were fortunate enough to see a Puma up close on our first excursion from camp.  She had just fed on a Guanaco kill and was lazing in a rock overhang right beside our trail.

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Were also lucky enough to get to do both our big hikes – the French Valley and Base of the Towers.  Weather threatened our Base hike but knowing how much we wanted to see it, they decided to give it a go on our last day in camp. It turned out to be spectacular. We were thrilled.

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

Swoop was a font of information about itinerary options and tips. We were just a bit confused early on to be introduced directly to your local partners. I suppose we were thinking that you would be our single point of contact and all coordination/details would be with you. Your partners wonderfully helpful and delightful to us however. They were ready & waiting for us on arrival and all went smoothly –  so I would say you have your ducks in a row and are working with some great folks over there.

We appreciate all that you did to make our trip a success.  We were a bit late in getting the planning started but with your help it was stellar.  Not just another location checked off the bucket list for these 60+ hikers, but a beautiful, surreal series of experiences, sights and memories that will warm our hearts for a lifetime. Thank you.

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Dan & Alina’s Extended Full Circuit

Dan and Alina returned in April 2015 from a Trek in Torres del Paine. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trek and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

All was great . We discovered a universe that needs to be preserved.

What did Swoop do well?

The trip was great – both the Extended Full Circuit itinerary and Swoop’s selection of the best local partner to support us were good. I am actually going to go on a quest to try to convince all of my outdoorsy friends that this is a must do – and categorically recommend Swoop.

What could we have done differently?

The only thing I would suggest (which may work for some others like us who only spend 2 weeks there) would be to advertise a Torres De Paine Full Circuit with an El Chalten leg. This is what we ended up doing, with a night in El Calafate in between. The two places are close enough and it ended up being absolutely the best, since you see  El Chalten (Fitz Roy, Cerro Tore, etc) and the Torres Del Paine Circuit.

The other thing I would suggest is to try to promote the Torres de Paine Full Circuit  more, since it is different (and way better in my opinion) than just the W Trek. There are places like Dickson, Perros, El Paso, the view of Grey Glacier from El Paso that are ‘once in a lifetime’, and a simple W Trek does not include those.

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

They are great – Laura was so great to accommodate a last minute change (quite radical actually, as we wanted to include El Chalten on the Friday before the trip).

How was your guide?

Our guide, Nico, was not only a world class climber, but also ended up being like family! He was very knowledgeable, passionate, and in love with Patagonia. Dario was of the same caliber also- they were some of the best guides we used. We could not have been treated better, honestly.

What was the highlight of your trip? 

For me, every day was special, really. I cannot pinpoint to one unique highlight – Patagonia creates in you a state of inner peace that takes over everything that you experience. Really special.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

The only other part of Argentina we saw was a ½ day in Buenos Aires. Very pretty, highly recommended if you have a long enough layover. And the bus system is so great that you don’t even need to hire taxis from the airport to the city centre, nor to rent a locker in the airport. The bus system offers all, for very very convenient price (we ended up storing our backpacks for a day for 30 Argentinian pesos, both – the equivalent of 3 UDS – not bad for 2 big backpacks!

Thank you again for organising such an amazing trip, it was wonderful indeed.