Sandy & Glenys
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?”
Sandy & Glenys' Trip Date:
17th Nov - 9th Dec 2016
Overall, how was your trip?
The Patagonian ice field when we first saw it after .John Garner pass Stunning scenery and surprisingly varied with the steppes, mountains ,glaciers, mountains and lakes. The animals and birds were very different from any I had seen. Many species of birds. I enjoyed the wild flowers which were flowering as it was spring. In Buenos Aires generally the people were not as friendly but the taxi drivers and reps were fine. The guides, hostel staff, porters, etc were all very friendly. Being able to drink from a mountain stream was a surprise. If I have grandchildren I will tell them that this trip was one big adventure.
In one sentence, what did you think of Patagonia? Did it live up to your expectations?
It was the most wonderful remote wilderness with stunning scenery and amazing wildlife.
Would you visit again?
How was the service that Swoop provided?
Very pleased to have used a specialist company and as you know I had contacted the Sunday Times before we booked but didn't get a reply until after we had booked and they recommended you. The itinerary for the time we had and our finances was good but it was pretty full on to fit it all in and not much time for relaxation until the end. Your service was excellent and you kept us well informed whilst we were making our decisions and the final itinerary was informative and very precise with pick up times and transfers. We did not need your support during our trip. I We asked about what currency to take and on your advice I took US dollars and a few Chilean pesos for Torres del Paine but it would have been better to have done 50/50 with Arg pesos and dollars as we found it difficult to find somewhere to change them and it was always a bit of an anxious time knowing if we had enough pesos to pay for a meal or would they take dollars.
How likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend?
10 out of 10
How was your experience in Buenos Aires?
Buenos Aires was a disappointment. We arrived at our hotel after our long flight at 10.30am. Intersur hotel said we could not access our room until 2pm and we were very tired and needed a wash. The rep who met us asked if the room could be ready earlier and the man on reception said maybe an hour earlier. So we left bags and wandered down the street to visit the large bookshop in a theatre that we both wanted to see. We came back about 12.45 and we had promises of our room in 30 mins then another few minutes and so on. We wasted much time on this and we're getting very annoyed and frustrated and eventually got into our room at 3.30pm. This was unacceptable to us and it transpired that the hotel's computer system and telephones had malfunctioned which was part of the problem but nobody explained that to us. So when we finally went to get the open top bus at 4pm there was then a big political demonstration taking place so all roads were closed. Our flight for 1.45pm the next day we knew beforehand had been changed to 4am so we had very little time to do anything else as we needed to eat early and get some sleep. The front desk had promised us a meal at 6pm for all the problems we had had but when we tried to get our meal it was only going to be a coffee and a sandwich. It was too early for the restaurant so we ended up doing room service and the hotel giving us 50% reduction but for what we had it was very slow arriving and astronomically expensive, 630 pesos for a vegetable risotto! We think it should have been requested that we had early access to our room when we arrived from the airport and I don't know whose responsibility that was. The transfers to and from airports went smoothly and that cars were in good condition.
How was your experience in El Calafate and El Chalten?
Because we had the 4am flight from B Aires to El Calafete it gave us more time to do things there. We enjoyed visiting the Glacierium museum which was very interesting and good to have visited before we saw all the glaciers. We also walked to Lago Nimez and saw all the fantastic bird life there. It was very well done and the guide in the visitor centre was very informative. Chilean flamingos were a wonderful sight. Springtime so many flowers and nesting birds and young chicks. Perito Moreno glacier was awesome and we enjoyed the boat trip right up to it and wonderful to see the amazing colours in the sculpted surface. All the other glaciers we saw on our treks were also great to see. After our early rise at 5.45 in El Calafete to be ready to get the bus which arrived in El Chalten at midday it was a bit of a shock to have only 30 mins to organise ourselves ready for an 18km walk in the afternoon! However we did it and Pablo our guide was superb, spoke good English and was very knowledgeable about plants and animals and the geology etc.we didn't get back until 7pm and our free meal was booked for 8pm so not much respite time. The meal was excellent and a fun restaurant but a bit too tired to appreciate it all. Our walk the next day, Los Tres , was in a group of 9 with Pablo again and that was fine. This was 20km and we found the last bit up to see the glacier and its lake quite tough, very steep and huge boulders to climb over and the descent is hard too if not harder. It was very varied through forests and at the end Lago Capri was stunning. We had sunshine all the time so Cerro Torre and Mt Fitzroy were clear but it was so hot which we hadn't expected. Again a late finish about 7.30. My favourite walk was the last one, Pliegue Tombada which we did with our guide Betty. She was also delightful. There were 4 of us on this walk. It passed through very varied scenery with lovely flower meadows and at the top scree with rock plants. Again extremely warm for walking. The last bit again was hard going but not as bad as Los Tres. We did attempt the summit but only made it two thirds up. I enjoyed the views over the areas we had walked on previous 2 days. We thought Hostal Schilling was excellent and did a very good breakfast. Sometimes fun working out shower plumbing! The El Chalten hostel was very friendly and room comfortable but she didn't serve breakfast until 7.30 which was a bit late for the 8am start time to meet up for the walks. Again the transport arrangements were good. It was lovely to have the morning and early afternoon to relax a bit and look around the town, post some cards and get a nice lunch before the 6pm bus back to El Calafete. Walk Patagonia were helpful when we asked them different things and the 2 guides we had were very good, helpful and knowledgeable.
How was your hike in Torres del Paine?
The highlight has to be going over John Garner pass and seeing the ice field. Again blessed with good weather which obviously made a huge difference to our enjoyment of the scenery. We only had rain in daytime on our last day of walking to Lake Pehoe and that was miserable. The mountains, lakes and glaciers are simply stunning and certainly lived up to expectations. On our minibus ride to the park we saw guanacos in abundance, rheas, a grey fox, a skunk and many birds. Our guide, Maurizio, ensured we made several stops to take photos. The hikes were extremely challenging. The first day was quite a long one which we didn't start until about 11.30 and I didn't think I could make the last steep climb up the boulders but Mauricio was very encouraging and stayed close by and helped and I was very glad to have done it and seen the glacier and lake and the 3 Torres. Without him as guide I probably wouldn't have done some of the hard bits. The next day wasn't as long and that seemed to be the pattern for the hikes. It was again very warm for walking and hats and sunscreen were needed and sunglasses. I had never before been anywhere where you could drink the water from a stream and how good it tasted. The national parks were beautifully kept, no litter and very strict about taking out all our rubbish. Glenys and I were the oldest in our group of six. The 2 Australian men were in their 20s and the girls from USA were 27 and 39 so all much younger and we did feel at times we were holding them back although one of the Australians was not so fit to start with and had been ill. I did tell the girls our age at one point and they were very impressed that we could still do such walks at our age! We all got on fairly well I think. I am not a person who does camping out of choice but I coped OK with the tent but didn't enjoy it the 2 nights it rained especially at Los Perros which was a mud plot and very poor toilet and dining facilities. The Refugios provided perfectly adequate food for our needs. My favourites were Serron and Dickson. Refugio Grey was disappointing because when we arrived at about 4.30 , hot and sweaty after our long day over John Garner pass we found that there was a) only one shower of 2 working and b)that no hot water is available until 7pm for some unknown reason. We were booked for dinner at 7 so Glenys and I had a most miserable cold shower. I did fill in the complaints book but I didn't feel it would make any difference as they seemed very indifferent. The food service was a bit disorganised too in that Refugio and not as good as the others. I thought Mauricio was a fantastic guide . He coped with us all and especially me with good humour. He was very knowledgeable about the flowers that interest me and the wildlife and knew so much about the mountains and glaciers. We saw condors several times which was thrilling. He kept a close eye on how we were doing and when Glenys and I were quite slow on some of the tricky descents and had a very difficult crossing on boulders of a fast flowing stream that quite frankly was terrifying he helped us a lot. I had a trip on the third day and landed on a log hurting my ribs and that hampered me quite a bit as they were very painful. I think the circuit would have been very difficult if we had experienced much rain. The wind at certain times nearly blew us over. Mauricio knew very well our capabilities and suggested that Glenys and I gave much of our gear for the porters to carry on the day of the John Garner pass. We were glad to pay them to carry our stuff and it made a huge difference to us climbing on that long day. The porters were very friendly and hard working and I enjoyed speaking with them in my rusty Spanish. At the end they said we were "muy fuerte" so quite a compliment. Chile Nativo informed us well at the briefing. Isadore sorted out our bus problem successfully and as it happens Glenys and I were happy to do one less day of walking! The young ones went on to do 26km of the French valley in 8 hours which we would never have managed in that time. They also saw 2 puma cubs which sadly we missed seeing.
Do you have any tips or advice for other people planning a trip to Patagonia?
Perhaps have an extra day in Buenos Aires as we were rather rushed and as I explained earlier things didn't go to plan. Take Argentine pesos unless you have more time than we did to find cambios. When you pay in dollars you don't always get much change in pesos, not enough to do much with we found. We had to use the casino to change money in Ushuaia. Food is quite expensive so take more money than you think. Try and get some sandwiches or empanadas before going on a longish bus journey as some of the snack stops sell mainly sweet things we found, or so we thought. Keep a diary as it's easy to forget what you have seen and on which day and where.
Anything else? Tell us anything you’d like to share that we forgot to ask! It’s ok to leave this empty too :-)
We found that there are very few vegetables and not much fruit in this part of the world. Transport difficulties I expect. The Argentinians certainly love their cakes, I have never seen so many cake shops/ cafes in very small towns. We wondered who ate them all as it certainly wasn't us. The wind is phenomenally strong when it blows.
What was the highlight for you of this part of the trip? How was the accommodation we arranged for you?
The highlight has to be sailing up the Beagle channel. Again we had good weather and saw sea lions, penguins and many different seabirds. The Hostal Jarke was excellent. We had a spacious room with views to the channel. The public areas were lovely with armchairs and sofas to sit and relax in and breakfast was excellent too. Our only complaint as such is that the central heating was on all night full blast and we couldn't turn the radiators off so it was too hot to sleep comfortably. By our 5th day we had had long enough in Ushuaia. We visited all the museums in town which were very good and we had walked from one end to the other. The chairlift wasn't working so we couldn't do that. Compared to everywhere else we have visited Ushuaia's streets are full of rubbish. The road and steps up to our hostel were littered with broken glass and bottles, paper and food packaging despite there being plenty of waste bins provided. It was quite sad to see this. We enjoyed the time chilling out at the end of a fantastic trip.