Tina and Steve returned in November from a W Trek in Torres del Paine and Huemul Circuit in Los Glaciares National Park. Here they tell us abut their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners….
‘I would unhesitatingly use these agents again if we return to Patagonia and we have already been recommending Swoop very highly to friends who are contemplating a trip. Very many thanks.’
Our trip started with a visit to Swoop’s office in Bristol where we met Luke and some of the team. Other than having heard a bit about Torres del Paine from a friend, we had no real knowledge of the region or what we could do in the short time available to us. During that visit and over the course of subsequent e-mails Luke, and the Swoop Team, helped us come up with a plan to squeeze plenty of activity into our two-week timeframe.
Torres del Paine National Park
We started in Torres del Paine where we did a Self-Guided W Trek organised by Swoop’s recommended partners in Puerto Natales. We had just one night in Puerto Natales at the start after a 36-hour journey from Devon, with an early transfer next day into the park to begin the walk.
The walking was great, very mixed terrain, and hugely changeable weather; we really did get everything from hot sun to snow, invariably accompanied by the notorious wind; luckily the rain was largely overnight. It was nice to be able to change and shower in the Refugios each night (contrast the next bit of the trip), although Refugio food was distinctly unmemorable.
Walking highlights here were the beautiful lakeside walks, and the trek to Glacier Grey. Sadly the French Valley (the middle bit of the W) was closed to walkers due to snow. Swoop’s partners were superb – Johana met us (unannounced, which was a lovely surprise) off the bus when we arrived late in Puerto Natales, got us to the hotel safely, and came up with the best packed lunch of our whole trip for the first day’s walking the next morning.
We must also mention the young lady who was waiting to check us back into the hotel when we returned from the park, again late at night. I’d stupidly left our passports, travel documents and lots of cash in the taxi we’d taken from the bus station – she confidently made lots of phone calls, poured us a cold beer, ushered us over the road to eat in the fab restaurant Aldea (highly recommended) just before they closed, and happily the young cab driver bowled up with all our stuff about 15 minutes later.
Los Glaciares National Park
We transferred to El Calafate, visited the Perito Merino glacier, and had a night in Hosteria La Estepa – very comfortable, lovely welcoming manager Agustino, and a very nice dinner.
Then on to El Chalten; Swoop had put us in contact with a Chalten-based expedition company who organised this bit of our stay. We picked up some rental camping gear, had one night on a self-guided (rather wet) walk, and then went off with our guide Fabio to do the Huemul Circuit. This was just awesome and for me was the very best bit of our trip. The walking was strenuous at times, but we saw some amazing stuff. The trek involves four days of walking with three nights of wild camping – I think we saw no more than four other people during the whole period.
Highlights – the zip-wire river crossing, the joys of very basic camping food, wonderful scenery, the blow-you-off-your-feet (literally) winds, and the last night camp eating our supper just below the glacier Viedma.
Again, this partner of Swoop’s was absolutely faultless – a friendly welcome, very helpful in the shop, a great mountain guide, and an upgraded hotel in Chalten. Both agents were responsible for recommending and booking various hotels, bus transfers, taxi pick-ups etc, and everything went totally smoothly – not a single glitch in the plans.
Our trip ended with a stopover in Buenos Aires, where we had some great cocktails (we seem to have developed a Pisco habit), and the biggest steak you’ve ever seen. So top marks to Swoop – always available to respond to questions or with advice during the planning stage, but also happy to leave us to communicate directly with their partners in Patagonia, who (as I’ve said) were both superb.
I would unhesitatingly use these agents again if we return to Patagonia (there are some other interesting-looking challenges); and we have already been recommending Swoop very highly to friends who are contemplating a trip. Very many thanks. Antarctica, anyone?