How was your trip?
Overall I had a great time in Patagonia, met very nice people, had fun with my trekking mates, and the operator looked after us very well. Please note that any critical comment I might make is more to do with personal preferences/expectations than with the quality of the services.
What was the highlight of your trip?
Outside of Torres del Paine, the highlight was undoubtedly the ascent of Volcán Osorno in Los Lagos…very thrilling!
Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina on your trip?
How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip or operator for you?
I found Swoop Patagonia very responsive when resolving the queries/doubts I had. Both Chloe and Luke were friendly and approachable, so it’s always nice to deal with people like that.
I found the little gift you sent me (a Swoop Buff) and card a nice personal touch. Unfortunately, I used the Buff on the day of the trek it was raining (going up the Valle del Francés :-(), so unfortunately I have no photos wearing it to share.
In terms of the holiday planning, I found that there was not much to organise as I had queried for a specific trip on particular dates so I was introduced straightaway to the operators of the trip in Torres del Paine.
How was the operator in Torres del Paine, and how were their guides on the trip?
They were friendly and responsive. The trip pre-arrangements were straightforward, apart from the payment process, which took a few attempts due to problems with their secure online payment link. But I suppose this is understandable when one tries a new system, as it was the case.
One thing I didn’t like about the payment process was that they pass on to the customer the charges that their bank applies to them. I would rather if they had included an allowance in their original price to cover those charges.
Talking to local people and from my own research online it appears that this particular operator were a bit more expensive than other operators, but obviously not having the experience with their competitors I’m not in a position to say if that apparent higher price is due to a higher quality service.
Our guide was correct and professional, although I would have expected him to manage the group mixed abilities a bit better. I also felt that with a good guide book I could have learnt more about the local flora.
Was there anything that you wish had happened differently or not happened at all?
I would have liked that the ferry on Lake Grey hadn’t been cancelled due to technical problems, but obviously this was outside everyone’s control.
As the day walks were easy and straightforward I would have liked to have had more time observing and learning about the local flora.
Do you have any tips for other people who are planning a trip?
One thing I would suggest is to try to buy internal flights through a Chilean travel agency. I found that buying internal flights within Chile is significantly cheaper than buying them from the UK. This was confirmed when a UK Flight company quoted a flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas (with Sky Airlines) for £350, while I found a flight for the same dates (with LAN) through a local travel agency for £217 (and this included the additional charges of making an international transfer). It would be worth looking this to offer your clients better value.
Guided versus Self Guided
In retrospect, I personally don’t see the value of having a guide for the W Trek, as it is very clear and even in adverse weather conditions it is very easy to follow. Even if one is into flora and fauna, a good guide book would provide good information and would allow you to learn more by doing your own research rather than having someone telling you names.
Obviously this is a question of preferences and some people want a hassle-free holiday where one booking gives them everything organised. In my case this was my first guided holiday and personally didn’t feel as involved in the planning and the experience. If one wants a bit more involvement and freedom, but still doesn’t want to go through the hassle of multiple refuge booking, I would definitely recommend a self-guided trek of the W (the operator Swoop put me in contact with offers a self guided version) as a better value (and maybe more “authentic”) option.