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Patagonia Highlights: our most popular trek

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Sunset over Torres del Paine Chile

Patagonia Highlights: our most popular trek

Alan shares his experiences on our popular Patagonia Highlights’ trek – from lost luggage to sunny days to snow in this beautiful part of the world.

Check his photos on Facebook.

 

He writes:

PATAGONIA

I set off during one of the UK’s worst winters plus a Spanish Air Traffic control strike to Patagonia, to experience Andean Trail’s Patagonia Highlights group trip.

I missed a connection in London, the next day’s flight to Madrid was cancelled, and needing to get to Buenos Aires any which way, I did not bat an eyelid when offered a re-routing via…Johannesburg!

I arrived well in Buenos Aires. My bags didn’t. The next day I flew to El Calafate without my luggage and South African Airways’ promise to forward my bags on to me. Luckily I had my boots with me -but the rest of my gear was elsewhere on the planet.

At El Calafate airport, I saw the guide with my name (amongst others) on the board and soon was being whisked to the hostel. The mixed dorms were comfortable with two bunk beds and I did hope that my snoring would not keep people awake.

 

Perito Moreno Glacier Patagonia Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

 

Meeting the group

We were a group of 16 of mixed ages and nationalities. English was the common language and this was to be the start of new friendships. One thing everyone had in common was a love of the outdoors.

The next day we set off on the 3.5-hour drive to El Chalten, the gateway to the trails into Los Glaciares National park. We had already sorted out our gear for the next few days as we were to carry our personal belongings for 2 days and leave the rest in storage in El Chalten.

I still had no luggage but had time to go to one of the local stores and rent some equipment such as a jacket etc.

As we had a tour leader and a local guide, the different paces of the members of our group were well taken care of as one led the way whilst the other took up the rear. The weather was good, no wind and the sun would break through the cloud cover every now and again. After a reasonably easy 3-hour trek we reached our campsite.

 

Camp life

In Fitzroy National Park, there are no roads and the only pack animals permitted are llamas. This means that the campsite has no running water and the WC is latrine style. However, the campsite was already set up when we arrived.

Good-sized tents as well as sleeping bags with liners are part of the service. There was also a dining dome and a separate kitchen tent. We were soon sitting down to a hearty meal and the vegetarians amongst us were also well catered for, and wine and beer were also available for purchase.

The next morning we woke up and there was a thin layer of snow covering the campsite. Mid summer, December and snow – welcome to Patagonia!

 

Trekkers at laguna de Los Patos Fitzroy Patagonia Argentina

Laguna de Los Patos, Fitzroy, Argentina

 

We then headed off to Laguna de Los Tres at the base of the Fitzroy Granite Tower. It was a good climb, but the weather conditions (snow) conspired against us and the famous granite rock was nowhere to be seen.

The next day we set off for Laguna Torre, looking out for the pinnacle-shaped mountain and the Torre Glacier. The sky was blue and the conditions glorious. On the current itinerary you return to Chalten this day and then the following day set off on a day trek to the Loma de Pliegue Tumbado and if the conditions are favourable will be treated to spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Then it was back to El Calafate (where I was reunited with my luggage) for a couple of nights and a shared tour to the magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier. It is touristy, but for a reason. It is well worth spending the extra money to do the optional boat trip.

 

Chilean Patagonia

We were then off to Chile and the Torres del Paine National Park. We set off in our own vehicle for the 5.5-hour drive. After about 4 hours we were at the Argentine border post, formalities taken care of and soon at the Chilean one. Here there was also a shop, exchange facilities and a restaurant where we had lunch.

We were soon settled into our campsite in the Torres area of the park. Here we also had running water, hot showers and flushing toilets and the food was equally as good.

In the early morning we set off on the 8-hour round trip to the base of the Towers and the conditions were on our side. Sunshine and a slight breeze made for a thoroughly enjoyable day. The packed lunch after a 40-minute moraine climb with spectacular views at the base of the Towers was the best of the whole trip.

 

nordenskjold-view-chile

Nordenskjold lake view, Torres del Paine

 

The next day we headed to Puerto Pudeto, took a ferry across the blue waters of Lake Pehoe to Refugio Paine Grande, where our next camp was. We left our gear at the campsite and then headed off for the French Valley. This was a hard day. The wind was up, the rain was sideways and the clouds were low. There were some great “whirlpools” spotted on the lake, however.

We saw the French Glacier. Dinner that night was in the Refugio and an enjoyable time was had later in the bar as the clouds had now cleared and there were great views of the Horns of Paine.

Our last day in the park was spent trekking to the Grey Glacier viewpoint and was a fitting end with brilliant sunshine.

That evening we sailed back across Lake Pehoe and drove to Puerto Natales, a small and friendly town on the Last Hope Sound.

 

Tierra del Fuego

In the morning we set off to the end of the World and the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego.

It was to be a long drive, across Patagonia steppe, a ferry crossing the Magellan Straits accompanied by jumping dolphins and then from North to South on Tierra del Fuego with much hanging about at the Chile/Argentina border. The drive was worth it though and we finished up on a small estancia, sleeping in the bunkhouse and treated to a typical Patagonian barbecue.

 

beagle-channel-tierra-del-fuego-argentina-patagonia

Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego

 

It was then on to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world and a visit to the Tierra del Fuego National Park and a sail on the iconic Beagle Channel.

It was 15 days well spent; great sights, great experiences, great friends.

Andean Trails’ Patagonia Highlights operates with guaranteed departures every Saturday from the end of October to the end of February.

Contact us for more.

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