guest post by Swoop Patagonia
For those more adventurous souls out there a few weeks inter-railing around Europe might seem a little tame. But don’t worry, the world might have shrunk but it has not lost all its mystery yet: Patagonia is a totally unique region of the world, a sparsely populated, prehistoric landscape that beckons a challenge and promises majesty.
A seven day trek with Swoop Patagonia through the region’s invigorating Torres Del Paine National Park presents a holiday like no other.
On the first day travelers will land in the exotic city of Puntas Arenas and travel through Puerto Natales, getting the chance to experience the local culture and learn what the region means to the real residents before setting off into the barely populated national park.
The tour begins by seeing the world famous Cueva del Milodon, home to the remains of one of Patagonia’s infamous ‘Giant Men‘. The distant region, discovered by Magellan was reputed to home a race of Patogon giants. Cueva del Milodon, is not only a geological and archeological marvel, but held the bones that to some people proved the existence of giant Patagons, although now seems more likely to have been the skeleton of a species of giant sloth.
From then the trek really gets underway. The adventurous fellowship strap up their packs, wave goodbye to civilisation and step outside into the greatest landscape on earth, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.
You will pass the beautiful lake Nordenskjold, taking in Patagonia’s unique variety of fauna and flora. You will see the roaming herds of native guanaco; Patagonia’s unique breed of llama, the Patagonian Fox also known as the Grey Zorro and the Patagonian Mara. The skies of the Torres del Paine National Park too are no strangers to superb displays, ruled over by globe’s second largest bird of prey, the Andean Condor is the true lord of Patagonia.
Trekkers through Torres del Paine enjoy this remarkable range of fauna as almost constant companions. The march presses on, further into the unknown and, after passing Lake Nordensklold, taking in views of the fantastic black peaks of Paine’s Horns which crown the centre of the Massif, the voyagers pass into the Valle Frances.
In the Valle Frances the challenge of the trek really begins, the party must hike up the steep pathways which wind precariously up into the very heart of the Paine Massif, and over the French River itself via an impossibly high hanging bridge. In the Valle Frances you will be awarded views of some of Patagonia’s most famous and striking geological landmarks. Formed from the movements of impossibly ancient glaciers, the Valle Frances is home to dramatic cirque formations such as the Catedral, so called because its east face resembles the facade of a Cathedral, and the magnificent Fortaleza: the fortress.
From the sweeping views of the Valles Frances, the journey passes down into the incredible scenery of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Travelers will experience the challenges and thrills of a moving behemoth of ice that makes Lake Grey. Taking to the waters on board a catamaran, navigating through treacherous ice drifts, the party of adventurers will pass underneath the over-awing power of the calving Grey Glacier, before hiking along the surface of the ice itself.
After conquering the Grey Glacier, the trek finishes its infamous W shape, crossing Lake Pehoe and through the beech forests of the Ascencio Valley. Finally facing the most challenging scramble up a treacherous moraine; a steep mountainside of boulders and brush that this, now experienced band of adventurers, must climb up in order to meet the ultimate sight of the trek: the three gigantic monoliths of Torres Del Paine themselves. Crowned by Andean Condors, the world’s second largest predator bird, that majestic vision of the prehistoric Torres Del Paine is the greatest self-affirming and perspective altering experience that you will find anywhere in the world.
So if you think a hotel’s not exciting enough, trekking in Torres Del Paine; land of the Condor, is an adventure like nothing else on earth.