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.
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.