Jane Hemstritch & Sue O'Connor
Customer Rating On return from their adventure we ask customers: “On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest, how likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend or colleague?”
Jane Hemstritch & Sue O'Connor's Trip Date:
10th Dec - 24th Jan 2018
Jane Hemstritch & Sue O'Connor's Ship:Stella Australis
Overall, how was your trip?
The trip rated 12 out of 10. Its very hard to pick a highlight - but (before I change my mind) the walk in French Valley in the Torres del Paine NP. Or maybe the day we drove into the Perito Moreno NP, or sea kayaking in Chiloe or walking the Aviles trail in Park Patagonia or visiting the Marble Caves or... The landscapes were sensational - I'd love to see them in Autumn. 🍁 We really liked the Chileans - they have a great sense of humour! Of all the many lovely places we stayed Mirador de Guadal was my favourite.
In one sentence, what did you think of Patagonia? Did it live up to your expectations?
Loved it. It was more wild and more beautiful that I expected and so HUGE. Exceeded expectations!!
Would you visit again?
How was the service that Swoop provided?
Very pleased with the service Swoop provided. For a fairly long and complex itinerary the logistics were flawless. We never needed the 24/7 support. The itinerary (with one small niggle) was great, the choice of places to stay was fantastic and our road trip was sensational. The final itinerary had all the information on it that we needed. I particularly liked how the road trip gently moved us from splendid isolation (and no mobile phone coverage or internet) back into "civilisation".
How likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend?
10 out of 10
How was your experience on Easter Island?
The highlight of this trip was the visit to see the sunrise at the Tongariki ahu. This wasn't on my original itinerary but was suggested by my guide Christy from Easter Island Spirit.She was great, knowledgeable and fun to spend time with...and very willing to flex the agenda to accomodate my interests. I'd certainly recommend her and them. The hotel was very nice and everything (including the transport) worked as planned
How was your experience in El Calafate and El Chalten?
El Chalten is a bit of a Wild West town but not without charm. I loved the Hosteria Kaulem and they were great about recommending shops and places to eat and drink. Ro ( our guide from Walk Patagonia) was terrific - as was Zoe. We did two hikes - Both terrific - but the park was significantly more crowded than Torres del Paine. Walk Patagonia addressed this by having us start the days early which helped a lot. We saw a Huemul which was fantastic! Aguas Arriba lodge was beautiful; a wonderful location, a beautiful building, great staff, enormous amounts of food and the yoga was an unexpected bonus. Their guides were great. My only criticism was that the central heating in the bedrooms was stuck on full (easily fixed by sleeping with the windows open) and they offered no facilities for laundry.
How was your road trip?
First off - Jose Fernandez Pinar was fantastic. A good driver, extremely knowledgeable, patient with us old girls, well prepared (snacks, tea, books on plants and birds, maps etc), endlessly willing to stop for photos and carry excess poles and a lot of fun to be with. The 4X4 was comfortable (although how it would have been with four of us plus Jose I'm not sure) and the roads were fine. The non metalled parts were mostly fine and certainly better than I've experienced in parts of Africa. The scenery was terrific - everywhere - and the accomodation was fine. La Estancia Oriental, while basic, had fantastic home cooked food and the beds were very comfortable. The Lodge at Valle Chacabuco looked like some one had dumped a midwest USA Country Club in the middle of Chile but it was comfortable and beautifully appointed nonetheless . The Mirador de Guadal was my favourite accomodation of all - sensational views and the loveliest people running it. The cabins were cozy and inviting and comfortable. Tierra Chiloe was almost as wonderful as Tierra Patagonia. A highlight for me was the trip to the Marble Caves. We invested in a boat all to ourselves which was a good move. But the hiking was also wonderful although the wind in Perito Moreno NP made one of them very challenging. My only niggle was the day trip to Chile Chico. It was, basically, too much for one day. Even though we cut the walk in the Jeinemeni RN short it was a very long day, a very tiring drive for Jose and it left us so tired that we scrapped the Jet Boat excursion the following day and just hung out at Mirador de Guadal. The views over the lake were terrific on the drive but we got most of the idea in the first hour. I would rather have moved the Marble Caves excursion to Day 6 and scrapped Chile Chico OR done a much more limited drive towards it
How was your experience in Santiago and the surrounding area?
Pro Tours were excellent. The guides were helpful and informative - especially as this was my first visit. I loved The Singular - the rooftop bar was great, the rooms comfortable but it was the outstanding service that made it so special. Of the museums I visited the one I thought was exceptional was The Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino - an astonishing collection beautifully displayed. I'd love to go back to Santiago and spend a bit more time. Valparaiso was a lot of fun, the street art (my main reason for visiting) was every bit as good as I thought it would be and I loved the Casa Higueras - both its location and its style. Again I would have liked more time in the City.
How was your experience in Torres del Paine?
We stayed at Tierra Patagonia which is, hands down, one of the most beautiful hotels I've ever stayed in. It was also very well run with great staff and good food and wine. I loved the pool with its views of the Torres. The hikes and excursions the hotel organised were excellent and the guides were sensational - knowledgeable and lots of fun to be with. We saw a Puma one day, foxes (red and silver) many guanacos (and sheep), a huge variety of birds (including condors) and, being early summer, the wildflowers were plentiful and lovely. We were lucky with the weather so had ample opportunity to admire (and photograph) the scenery. The trails had people on but the park didn't feel crowded.
How was your Patagonian cruise?
The cruise was a well oiled machine. They deserve enormous credit for dealing with the number of passengers - getting us off into the zodiac excursions. All the excursions were good but I particularly liked the one to Pia Glacier. The ship was good, modern, comfortable and with a variety of public spaces which I liked. I also enjoyed the tour of the engine room - fascinating! The guides were good and I'm indebted to one (Javier) who introduced us to the "Patagonian minute of silence". He got us to stop, stop talking, stop walking, stop taking photos and just drink it all in - a discipline we applied often. All the logistics worked well - and the guide who met us in Ushaia (Marcella) was exceptionally helpful - coming with us to check in at the airport in case there was a problem with overweight luggage (there wasn't!).
Do you have any tips or advice for other people planning a trip to Patagonia?
Having had the luxury of nearly forty days on this trip I'm so pleased we took time in all the various places rather than rushing through. It's so beautiful that it deserves a slower pace and attention. Take lots of Buffs (the Swoop ones were much appreciated!) They really help with the wind.
Anything else? Tell us anything you’d like to share that we forgot to ask! It’s ok to leave this empty too :-)
Despite having read guide books I was unprepared for the "no paper in the toilets". This was sometimes a bit squalid (no soap/towels for hand washing) and I wished I'd brought hand sanitiser/ wipes with me.