Tomorrow I leave for my next trip — 3.5 weeks in Patagonia!
This trip sort of fell into my lap. In early December, a travel deal popped onto my Facebook feed — only $170 roundtrip from Washington D.C. to Santiago, Chile. Was it an error fare? Just a good deal? I saw the link minutes after it was posted so I clicked on it… and sure enough, the fares were real.
I glanced at my calendar and realized I could book a trip for April. Without thinking about it too hard, I entered my credit card numbers and booked it. If freelance work prevents me from going, then fine, I’ll simply forgo the airfare and visit Chile another time. But by early February my work schedule was still wide open for April, so I made the call — I was going to Chile!
As soon as I started planning the trip, I had to reconcile a few things:
— Chile is 2,600 miles long and only 150 miles wide, so everything is really far apart. And while I booked the flights rather spontaneously, Chile is a dream destination for me so I had to take this seriously — no winging it. Time to plan and prioritize. Did I want to go to Easter Island? How about the Atacama desert in the north? But after looking into those options and more, the answer was clear: hiking down south in Patagonia has always been high on my bucket list. I HAD to get there.
— It turns out that Patagonia stretches over both Chile and Argentina, so while I’d been telling people I booked a cheap flight to Chile, Patagonia is really where I’ll be traveling. And technically I’ll be in Argentina more than Chile on this trip.
— I feel a pretty deep sense of guilt for taking a vacation when there is so much horror happening in the world. Especially after my last international trip working with refugees in Greece — I know how good that feels, and how much of a difference it can make. So many friends I met there are still suffering. Shouldn’t I be doing more to help? I Googled volunteer opportunities in Santiago and didn’t come across anything that really stood out. Most require volunteers to pay to participate, which I’m on board with to a certain extent, but the red tape around the application process for some of these organizations often turns me off (“jump through these hoops and then you can volunteer with us”). I realized how badly I wanted to hike in Patagonia and, in order to do that properly, I needed to prioritize spending my whole time down there instead of splitting the trip in half to volunteer. But by no means am I done with volunteer travel.
— Having decided to focus exclusively on Patagonia, I realized I would arrive there at the tail end of their trekking season (it’s currently autumn down there). This is both good and bad. Good because there will be less people on the trails, and it will be easier to book refugios (spartan structures with dorm beds tucked high up in the mountains). But bad because Patagonia’s already unpredictable weather is even more likely to be cloudy, rainy, and snowy as winter approaches. My vision of an alpine trek with breathtaking views — images I have been picturing ever since Patagonia officially went on my bucket list years ago — could very likely be a cold, wet, miserable experience. I am rolling the dice by going in mid-April.
So I dove into itinerary planning, and here is what I’ve come up with for my 24 day trip:
Note: all photos below are linked to their source.
Week 1: Torres del Paine National Park
After flying into Punta Arenas near the southern tip of the continent, I’ll take a bus to Puerto Natales, which is the base city for visiting Torres del Paine National Park. I’m going to do the “W” trek in the park, which is five days / four nights of hiking through some of the most incredible scenery. (For anyone looking to plan their own trip, here are seven bloggers’ guides that I’ve relied on: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)
This is Mirador Las Torres, which I plan to visit on the first day:
And on day four I hope to kayak at Glacier Grey. When I contacted them yesterday, they said they’d only be open if there are enough people still hiking next week. So… this might happen, fingers crossed:
Then I’ll cross over into Argentina and explore the region around El Calafate — this is Perito Moreno, their most famous glacier:
(Originally I planned to take an overnight bus from El Chalten up to Bariloche for two nights, and then another overnight bus to Mendoza for two more nights — instead, I backtracked from El Chalten to Punta Arenas and flew to Santiago, then took a bus to Mendoza. So Bariloche got cut out of my itinerary. Maybe I’ll return to visit there on a future trip?)
And then I’ll head north to Mendoza. This area has both mountains and wineries — a combination I love.
And for my final couple of days, I’ll bus over to the colorful city of Valparaiso on the coast:
For the record, I have tickets to see a play the night I get back (this is very much par for the course of how I plan my life) so hopefully my return flight won’t be delayed any more than a couple of hours. I just jinxed it, didn’t I?
As always, thanks for following along. I look forward to sharing updates on Instagram as time / wifi allows. And while I’ve been horribly tardy at recapping my past two trips (Spain/Portual and Central America), I will blog about this immediately upon my return.