The Drake Passage: the body of water extending from Cape Horn to the Antarctic Peninsula. Satellite weather surveillance images consistently depict cyclonic lows of hurricane strength travel through the Drake Passage on the average of once every three weeks.under best condition, you can expect rolling seas of twelve and upwards of twenty feet.
Decision: Quickly lost interest in attempting a crossing of the Drake Passage..so much for seeing Antarctica. Will attempt venturing no further south than Cape Horn.
Research: Mare Austrials sails the inside passage and indicates a 70% landing rate for Cape Horn.good enough for us.
Research: Patagonia is generally defined as that large land mass lying between 37 to 51 S (777,000 sq km), primarily in southern Argentina, south of the Rio Colorado and East of the Andes, but also includes extreme Southeast Chile and Tierra del Fuego.
Mariano Cash, an Argentinean guide youtube iceberg kayak jump.and example of adventure experiences in this part of the world.
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Explora - Hotel Salto ChicoWe recently completed three weeks of driving, flying, and trekking in Patagonia. This is a region of the world which still lends itself to a sense of exploration and adventure, whether enjoying simple level one trekking or accepting the challenges and risks of more aggressive hikes or technical climbing. Many visitors are still attracted to the possibilities of extending solo time under wilderness conditions.
Torres del Paine, Magallanes, Chile
After reading a number of books and Internet postings about Torres del Paine National Park, we decided to end our South American journey in this unique destination. The park is just slightly more than 600,000 acres in size and offers some of the most awe inspiring natural sights in the world. With present governmental controls allowing fewer than 150,000 annual visitors to the park, the opportunities to soak in the solitude and natural beauty of the towering granite peaks, the incredibly deep blue lakes and the overwhelming majesty of the glaciers and fjords still exist. Torres del Paine is as much about what does not exist (noise, development, crowds, etc.) as it is about what exists one of the last great wilderness areas on the planet.
Wishing to remember Chile in luxury surroundings, we decided to spend our last four night at the Explora - Hotel Salto Chico in Torres del Paine http://www.explora.com
If budget travel is a major consideration, there are several alternative lodges inside the park and a number of additional choices just outside the park. Also a less expensive and unique camping choice is EcoCamp Patagonia http://www.ecocamp.travel/index.php .... for us, camping was not the right choice for this trip.
Explora Hotel Salto Chico is expensive.let me emphasize, EXPENSIVE! Postings in some Internet threads complain about the costs(maybe tents would have been a better choice for them).
We thought the costs for their all inclusive services (lodging, meals, unlimited bar service, surface transportation, guides, and almost unlimited in park activities) were acceptable. The property is rated Five Star. However, more accurately, the rating should be called a relative Five Star..that is to say, the facilities are absolutely the finest available in the very remote location, but not to be confused with a lavish Five Star European hotel.
Management at Explora places an emphasis on service for their guests. We were fortunate to have the Sub-Administrator, Rosario Villagra, overseeing the staff and property during our visit (apparently, the General Manager was in Santiago). Rosario proved to be an experienced hospitality professional and certainly understands and executes the versatility in the supervision required to deal with the needs of visitors from all over the world. We were particularly impressed with the rising stars on her hospitality team, one of whom, Angela Jacqueline Gonzales Vargas, appeared to be available 24 hours a day to assist in the dining room, lounge, common and meeting areas and deal with individual personal needs of guests. Angela was fantastic!
We found the cuisine ample and satisfying.maybe not exceptional by many five star properties! However, considering the remoteness of Explora, we were constantly impressed with the freshness of the food items presented and the variety of choices (we are serious vegetarians and we were just as pleased as the carnivores among us). We made on a couple of special dining requests, which were addressed without delay.
Many Internet postings praise (1) the extraordinary architecture.we agree, (2) the incredible location and majestic views.we agree, (3) the variety and degree of difficulty or ease of treks and other available outdoor activities.we agree, and (4) the quality, flexibility and sincere efforts of the guides to accommodate participants.we whole heartedly agree!
Your treks will offer many opportunities to enjoy the expanses of the pampas and mingle among the grazing gunacos and if you are really, really fortunate (as we happened to be one morning) you might just see one of the Huemul Deer (estimated to be fewer than 2,000 remaining in the wild).
Depending on level of physical fitness and interest in hiking, you may wish to consider attempting the Glaciar de Grey or Laguna Verde, both of which will take the better part of a day to complete. Both hikes include excellent box lunches and snacks and are escorted by several of the top guides from the lodge. If horseback riding and trekking is of interest, you should consider the ride and trek around the Granite Circus of Valles Del Frances. If not a frequent rider, the lodge offers a short training session on the day prior to the exploration in order for youto develop a level of comfort. They offer both English and Western saddles.
Should you visit....seek out one of their top guides, "Nacho," a unique personality and always willing to take the extra effort to ensure his guided hikes or treks are never-to-be-forgotten encounters with nature.....ask him about FLYING Torres del Paine style on windy days!
Should you visit Explora - Hotel Salto Chico and not have that once-in-a-lifetime experience, dont blame the staff, property or weather (we had wind gusts in excess of 45 mph, snow in the morning, light rain showers in the afternoon, and bright sunshine and blue skies the remainder of the time....and that was all in one day)!
One tip we picked up here from an Internet posting was the (extra cost) option to use NanduAir for travel between Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas, Chile.this 45 minute flight saved us four or five bone jarring hours of riding on mostly unpaved roads (we thought the fare was a bargain for the service and our hind quarters needed the rest). If you have an interest, your travel agent may not know about their services, but youshould be able toresearch, locate and book them directlyon-line.
Message Edited by omegaet on 01-30-2009 03:58 PM