Erin Chambers & Sandra Long tell us about their adventures hiking in majestic Patagonia, in Chile and Argentina.
Erin traveled with with one of ATA's affiliate partners, Active Adventures. Here' a clip of the 14 day multi-sport ‘Condor' tour. On this adventure, you hike around the famous Fitz Roy area in Argentina and Chile's Torres del Paine National Park, bike in Laguna del Desierto and kayak up close and personal with icebergs in Grey Lake! As long as you're down there, combine this holiday with 14 days doing the Puma tour in Northern Patagonia for the ultimate Patagonia experience.
Some of the links used on this page and website are affilate links which means that Active Travel Adventures may earn a small commission or receive free products should you decide to purchase after clicking on the link at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! So by using my links, you show support for ATA plus it helps me to defray some of my costs of putting together this free website and podcast. Thanks for showing a little love! Kit
Glacial calving is a naturally occuring event where massive, often building-sized chunks of ice break away from the mother glacier. You'll have several opportunities to hopefully witness glacial calving, but especially in Perito Moreno Glacier – the third largest ice field reserve in the world.
Check out this spectacular video captured at the Perito Moreno Glacier of an ice bridge collapse. I've scrolled it to minute 2:40 so you see the collapse, but the entire short video is worth a view! Absolutely AMAZING!
If you're going all of this way, make sure you use a reputable tour company. One of my favorite adventure travel companies is Active Adventures (I know our names sound the same but we're different). They are an affiliate company, though, and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission, so if you do decide to use them, please use the links on my site so that they know I sent you – thanks! Kit
3:39 Erin Chambers introduces herself and talks about adventure travel
6:35 Adventure travel is “camp” for adults
7:53 Benefits of using small guided tours for adventure travel
10:38 Adventure overview
14:10 Fitz Roy
20:10 The Landscape
21:35 The wildlife
22:30 Erin's advice to those considering this or other adventure travel
23:28 Intro of Sandra 26:09 About Sandra's adventure
Here's a complete time-stamped Transcript of the podcast:
Kit: 00:00 Sure to be on nearly every hiker's bucket list, today we are heading as far south as you can imagine: we're far far past the equator to the very end of South America. We go where the Andes meets the pampas (or the grasslands) where Argentina and Chile combined to showcase jaw dropping chiseled granite peaks and glaciers to the land we call Patagonia. You'll see soaring condors with 10 foot wingspans, cuddly looking guanacos, an animal that looks like a camel and a llama had a fling. You might even be lucky enough to spot a puma and Torres del Paine National Park. But you could be sure that the charming and adorable Magellan penguins will make you crack a smile. This is Patagonia. It is wild. It is challenging but it's doable and is it ever worth it.
Kit: 01:02 Welcome to Episode 12 of the Active Travel Adventures podcast. I'm your host, Kit Parks. Today we're checking in with not one but two women who have taken the adventure trip of a lifetime to magical Patagonia. Our first guest is 45 year old Erin Chambers, and she describes her adventure to Patagonia with her husband Jeremy. While they mostly hiked, their adventure also included a little kayaking and biking. Then we'll hear from Sandra Long. You actually met her briefly on Episode #10. detailing the benefits of adventure travel. She's a remarkable 86 year old woman who is still incredibly active. She still adventure travels and competitively dances– amazing! Sandra hiked Patagonia at the age of 82, if you can believe it, which is a challenge no matter what the age. It just goes to show you if you keep in shape and you train, you can do this adventure.
Kit: 01:52 Sandra's trip was strictly a hiking adventure. Erin and Jeremy's trip with my affiliate tour company, Active Adventures, was a little bit more rigorous. Nonetheless, there are some difficult days on both trips, so to get the maximum enjoyment I recommend that to train for these adventures. I've got a free training guide link on the website. This adventure ranks a 4, possibly even a 5 out of 5, but it is doable if you do train. But like the other difficulty 5 adventure to Mont Blanc on Episode # 7, this is definitely worth it. Outside of the fabulous hikes along the base of Mount Fitzroy — and that's the… Fitzroy is that iconic jagged granite mountain peaks that you see in many of the photos that you'll ever see of Patagonia — you'll also hike to the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina plus some others.
Kit: 02:40 You're going to get to see the massive penguin colony on Magdalena Island, visit the famous Perito Moreno glacier, kayak and cruise in Grey Lake, and hopefully get to see some glaciers calving. Glacier calving means when the glacier breaks off into the water. It's majestic when you see it on film and hopefully you get to see it in person. On the website, ActiveTravelAdventures.com, I put a spectacular video of glacial calving at Perito Moreno glacier. You've got to see it — it's absolutely stunning! Erin and her husband did the ‘Condor’ two week long adventure. If you have the time, take a few days like Sandra did in Buenos Aires and possibly even an extra day or so in Punta Arenos. You can get lots of planning details with the FREE Travel Planner that goes with this episode. You'll find the link in today's show notes and also the ActiveTravelAdventures.com Resources page.
Kit: 03:31 To begin with, could you please just tell us a little bit about yourself… perhaps how old you are and how you started getting into adventure travel?
Erin: 03:39 I am 45 years old and originally from Tennessee. We moved to Boise, Idaho about five years ago. We do not, me and my husband did not have kids, and so we took this opportunity to try to start traveling the world, and found that it was our passion. So we got hooked up with Active Adventures because we wanted a company that… we were still active, we are avid hikers and backpackers and campers, and so we hooked up with them for our New Zealand trip. And then we like them so much we did a second trip to South America.
Kit: 04:22 You are physically fit as far as you said… you're an active hiker. So where would you put yourself on a scale of fitness level where 5 is like super hardcore and one is a couch potato?
Erin: 04:34 Probably a 2 to be honest with you, it depends on the time of year. But, you know, I'm a little bit older and so I can tell that my physical fitness levels is going down over the past couple of years. But that doesn't excuse or knock me out of wanting to not do adventure trips.
Erin: 05:04 They're harder. I'll tell you, they are. And it really depends on how much effort a person puts into it with their training. I feel like I was more physically fit when I did the New Zealand trip, because I put a little bit more effort into training. And to be honest with you, the South American trip I just took, I hardly did any training at all and frankly it kicked my butt. But I was still able to do most things.
Kit: 05:31 Did you always do adventure trips on your vacations or is this something relatively new?
Erin: 05:36 We've kind of progressed into it since we've been married (for about 10 years). We started off with national park trips out West and started with Yosemite, and we fell in love with our national parks in the United States. And at that time we were living in Tennessee, and so we would come out west every year and pick a different park. That's one of the reasons we moved out west to be honest with you, to be closer to the Parks. But really, the New Zealand trip was our first true active travel trip that we took. In the national parks, we did a lot of hiking,but nothing compared to these two trips.
Kit: 06:29 Erin's going to talk to us about her New Zealand adventure in a future episode. What is the appeal of adventure travel like the types that we're talking about today?
Erin: 06:35 I think the appeal for us– and my husband says it's all the time– it's kind of like adult camp, where you have people that are experts on the country, on the culture, and they're telling you what to do, and so you don't really have to think about it that much. And that's in a way, relaxing. And we get in a van and they take you someplace and they say. “Now hike this mountain, ” or, “Now we're going to get on this bike”… “Now onto to at this river, lake or whatever.” And so for us, it kind of takes a lot of thinking out of it when you're relying on the experts of this country to tell you the best places to go so you don't have to plan as much. The other perk with the travel adventure companies is they really take care of you. We eat well, all the places that we stay are fantastic. Some of them are a little bit more rugged, but that's cool, because you're in the back country. And so you really as a traveler don't have to put too much effort into it besides just the physical part of it.
Kit: 07:53 That's what I like too, Erin, the tour companies make all the arrangements. They've done all the planning, and figuring out the logistics. All you have to do is get there and then go on the adventure. I just love how your husband calls it camp for adults. I'm totally stealing that.
Kit: 08:08 Do you find that you bond quickly with your fellow adventurers on these trips?
Erin: 08:16 Actually yeah. And I am an introverted personality, and I actually can look forward to being in a group of people that I don't know… getting to know them… they're from all over the world. One of the things that I enjoy the most is listening to their travel stories and where they have explored in their past travels, to get ideas for us. On this recent trip to South America, we had some South African couples, some Australian couples, Canadian and Puerto Rican, and then American. So it was old wide range of people from all over the world.
Kit: 09:05 How old were the folks of the Patagonia trip?
Erin: 09:08 The Patagonia trip was ages from, I think mid 20s… the oldest person we had we've had on the trip – this is very impressive – he was from Australia. He was 72 years old. A couple of years before he wanted to be the oldest man on Everest and he was there when the earthquake hit Everest. And I would say the average age on this trip in Patagonia was probably mid 40s. And these older couples out hiked the younger couples by far.
Kit: 09:08 Interesting.
Erin: 09:08 They were machines! They were really cool. So for people who might be a little hesitant… “I'm too old or not in this particular physical fitness right now,” today that really should not hold anybody back from doing adventure travel. Because you can train and age is just a number.
Kit: 10:14 And with age comes wisdom of course I think as we get older we know the limitations of our bodies so be we know it's important for us to train. And that's why you're probably finding that the older folks have conditioned themselves and their bodies to prepare for these adventures, instead of just going there and winging it like probably a lot of the younger folks do. And I know that I have found that the excitement and anticipation of going on an adventure trip makes it fun to do the training.
Kit: 10:38 Can you give us a brief overview of your trip?
Erin: 10:41 It was awesome! We went to both Chile and Argentina. And so we basically spent half of our time in Chile and half in Argentina. And the two biggest locations that we explore was we did the “W” Trek in Chile, and then in Argentina, we were at Fitz Roy. And so there was a lot of other things in between, such as glaciers and other shorter hikes, but those are really the two places we went the most.
Kit: 11:19 When you look back on your trip what comes to mind first?
Erin: 11:28 The wind! I really enjoyed being in a country that was truly so far removed from the United States and we kept saying to ourselves we're at the bottom of the world. But the people were fantastic. And those mountains are just absolutely incredible. It was hard. It was a very tough physical trip. I think not only from me being at a two or three level, but for everybody. But it was so so worth it. It was amazing!
Kit: 12:04 You said there's times that was hard. What was the hardest day?
Erin: 12:11 I'd say the hardest day on the trip was on the “W” Trek. We were supposed to catch a boat because we were done. It was the end of our trip. We were a Grey Glacier and we were supposed to catch a boat to take us out. Because the winds were so high, I think there were like 70 or 80 miles an hour, while we were there, the boat decided to cancel. And so we had the hike seven miles that we were not anticipating hiking to try to catch another boat to take us out of that region. And so that was the hardest thing because you weren't expecting to hike seven more miles. But we had to order to get out, and I would have hiked seven miles or more to be safe. And the winds and the boat on the water was a little sketchy. So I think that the Park made a good decision to do that.
Kit: 13:21 I find when these unexpected obstacles come up that I get proud of myself for working through them. What are your thoughts on that?
Erin: 13:29 Oh yeah I'm absolutely surprised. I mean we were exhausted. We had high 40 miles in just four days, so about ten miles a day over all kinds of terrain in the wind, in the rain. And yeah you have a feeling of accomplishment when you get done with something like that. Then they tack on seven more miles to get out??? Then you really feel like you've accomplished something.
Kit: 14:00 Those end up being my favorite memories or at least the best stories.
Erin: 14:03 I don't think I would strongly say my favorite memory.
Kit: 14:07 Do you have any other fun stories you'd like to share?
Erin: 14:10 The most memorable hike for me was Fitz Roy and I think that that was 12 miles altogether, so it was a pretty long day. The elevation was not bad going in or coming out. It was the last section, where you hike up to a viewpoint to see the mountain range and that was a really tough hike. It wasn't very long, maybe a mile/mile and a half, but it was it was almost straight up. But you get up to the top and you're looking at this iconic mountain range you see in all those pictures. I could have stayed up there all day.
Kit: 14:10 While out there, were you ever concerned that you weren't going to be able to do it?
Erin: 15:29 You have it in your head that you're done. Your feet are sore, your body's sore, you're just exhausted from hiking in the conditions, and then you find out that you've got to do it again. So I had a lot of reservations the evening before. Now when there comes the day, you just you do it because you really don't have a choice to be honest. I did rely on the doctors in the group that I talked to about. He helped treat some of my blisters that were causing me pain. I got some energy bars from other people on the trip. That truly really did help. And you just kind of put your mind to it, and you do it.
Kit: 15:53 Then what happened.
Erin: 15:54 So we get back to the refugio and we have to wait I think about three hours before the next boat comes to take us out. So we have a long period of time from when we get done hiking to when we can actually leave. Alcohol was consumed, and we've got snacks and just kind of hung out with everyone. We played cards. Some people in our group played cards. We were in this large kind of cafeteria. So we were with all kinds of different hikers from all over the world in different groups. There were some singers, I think they might have been from Switzerland, that just started singing a capello. I mean it was sort of a party atmosphere.
Kit: 16:47 How did it make you feel?
Erin: 16:53 We were thrilled that we made it back. But then the next challenge, to be honest with you, was getting on the boat to take us completely out and the winds are still really really 70-80 miles an hour and we're on this beautiful lake: bright clear blue. There's about a hundred hikers that are on the boat to take us out. It was a little bit nerve wracking. The waves were huge on this lake because the winds. But when we started moving away from the “W” Trek, we got this view that is another one of the iconic views of Patagonia that you see, that we really were not able to see on the “W” Trek because we were in the mountain. And so that was really worth it. Getting off of the boat and riding out of there in the van, and then being able to see the whole scope of the mountains and the Torres del Paine.
Kit: 17:57 So even after a challenging day like that do you still wake up the next morning excited and raring to go?
Erin: 18:03 Yeah because you knew what the day was going to bring. And again it's the landscape and the atmosphere that you're in that leads to that excitement because you're in beautiful countries. And so if your passion is hiking and looking at beautiful scenery then you're automatically excited.
Kit: 18:27 Tell us about some of the people you met for the Patagonia trip.
Erin: 18:31 We got our flight into Santiago. We were unable to get a flight out to Punta Arenas and we missed our flight with like 15 other people and everyone else it seemed to be was also hiking the “W” Trek. So the funny thing was, we were able to get on the next flight now we had a little bit of a layover but then we kept seeing this one particular couple on the “W” Trek that we had made a connection with in Santiago. So that was a little cool, and we'd give each other high fives and like, “We're doing it! We made it! We're here! We're doing it!” So that's really cool.
Kit: 18:31 Who else?
Erin: 19:18 We met a lot of people on the “W” Trek. We stayed there and refugios, which are basically backpacker hostels, and we stayed with one woman and she was doing the hike solo. So she told us her stories (I think she was German). And again, that's really cool to meet some people on the trail, find out what where they're from, and out why they're doing it.
Kit: 19:53 Why do you do these kinds of adventure trips?
Erin: 19:56 I think again it's a passion for being outside. It's a passion or being in these landscapes that you are not normally in in your day to day life.
Kit: 20:10 Tell us about the landscape.
Erin: 20:14 It really depends on the area we were in. One thing that surprised me is in a lot of the places that we stayed or just traveling from one place to another, it was what we consider in Boise, Idaho, kind of high desert or desert like. Maybe you Americans can think of like Utah or Wyoming. So that was a little bit of a surprise for me. And then other areas were more lush when you're closer to the mountains.
Erin: 20:56 It's really at sea level in all the locations of Patagonia except when you're on these trails in the mountains and I think that that's what makes them so dramatic is because they're coming straight from sea level. So they're not really that high. I mean the Rocky Mountains have a lot higher mountains then what's in Patagonia. So dry desert like. I really wouldn't say alpine, of what we think of in America as alpine wilderness.
Kit: 21:35 What kind of wildlife did you see?
Erin: 21:43 We saw a lot of condors. and the animal that is down there, guanaco, I think that that's how you pronounce it. It's kind of a cross between a llama and a camel. We really wanted to see puma, but we were not able to.
Kit: 22:00 Erin shared some amazing photographs. Be sure to check them out at ActiveTravelAdventures.com. On a scale of 1 to 5 How would you rate this, with five being the hardest?
Erin: 22:17 5. It was hard. It was hard. It was very challenging and hard.
Kit: 22:21 Challenging yes but oh so worth it. But remember folks you really do want to train for this. Is there anything you'd have done differently?
Erin: 22:30 I would have learned a little bit more Spanish. As I said we were able to get by when we were on our own, especially in the airports like that, but I feel like learning more the native language can always just be helpful.
Kit: 22:51 What advice would you give folks?
Erin: 22:52 Just do it. You know I think people and their lives or, make Bucket Lists, or always wish or put things off or we can't this year because of this… and and my advice is: just do it. I mean there's research out there that shows that spending money on experiences is a lot more rewarding in life than spending money on material goods.
Kit: 23:21 How glad were you that you did this adventure on a scale of 1 to 10?
Erin: 23:21 Definitely a 10.
Kit: 23:28 Our next guest Sandra has got some insights and stories of her own to share about Patagonia Sandra, to begin with, why Patagonia?
Sandra: 23:38 Well I hadn't been there and I've been most everywhere else frankly. And I had seen enough material either in travel brochures because I'm on the list. So Patagonia looked wonderful. It looked you know… so I started looking into it.
Kit: 23:59 Sandra is smart to do her due diligence and making sure that she found an appropriate tour company for her activity level and that is important because once you're on these adventures you're committed and you must do the adventure and you don't want to be dragging down your fellow teammates who are in your group. So do make sure that you've done the training if it's necessary. And I believe in this trip that you should do so and match the adventure to your physical fitness level. And again this is a doable adventure for anybody that's physically fit, particularly if you're willing to train. And by that I mean just get used to wearing a pack on your back and doing some aerobic activities. There are times your guide might be able to give you a harder or an easier route depending on how your body is feeling that day.
Sandra: 24:45 It was great. I mean we'd be walking all day sometimes. But it was, like there would be options. If you wanted the really steep route or if you wanted one that was more gradual and moderate.
Kit: 25:00 But Sandra's adventure was by no means easy. Here's she talks about one of her longer days.
Sandra: 25:05 The one day of 14 miles I think it was, was the most challenging but not dangerously so. It was it was more of endurance and I had enough endurance to do that without a problem.
Kit: 25:23 Did you find being in a group helpful on those challenging days?
Sandra: 25:27 Oh yeah yeah. Well you know when you, it's like being in the service when you have a challenge and you're together, you help each other out and you bond because you're all in this challenge together. And so, it was only 12 in the group. I think this kind of travel you bond. You have much more of a connection with your travel mates then you would on a regular tour.
Kit: 26:09 Can you tell us a little bit about like what you're doing did you do any glacier treks, or tell us a little bit about your days.
Sandra: 26:20 Yes we did. We did. I left San Diego four days early and spent that time in Buenos Aires and then flew on down. I rented an apartment Buenos Aires and then flew down to El Calafate in Argentina and it was there that we went out from that hotel. We went out on a first trip into more of a moderate hike so that the leader can get his feeling about the ability of everybody. And it was an interesting area because it was a petrified forest that was scattered in all these ravines and over hills and down into valleys. And so it was fascinating as well as had enough degree of challenge that he could tell what we could do you know. Well actually we got some nice views of Mount Fitz Roy from there. And right away, by day two we were — and this was in February I think– we were experiencing a lot of wind and the wind stayed with us for most of the trip. We had a lot of wind which handicapped the photography, and one day when we were taking a boat out to the foot of the face of a glacier on which we got crampons on and trekked over the glacier for a while, when we got off the boat, to scramble over boulders and all to get up to the where the glacier was. The wind was so strong that just standing up – you wouldn't want to stand up you get blown over – and and we were holding on to each other and helping each other over those boulders because they were huge and that was probably the most physically challenging aspect of that trip was just getting over those boulders in the wind in order to get up onto the ice field.
Kit: 28:41 Don't they have a saying down there that you can experience all four seasons in one day?
Sandra: 28:46 Yes it is. I believed it quickly.
Kit: 28:53 Did you did you have much rain or cold?
Sandra: 28:56 We didn't have any rain but it was it was cold because of the wind coming off the glaciers. Yeah. That was the way it was in Antarctica too. It was not temperature without the wind was so cold but boy you had to be really bundled up and have your face covered and everything else. When the wind came up off the glacier.
Kit: 29:25 Patagonia's wild and rugged and I do recommend that you take this trip with the guide. I do have information on my recommendations on my Resources page and also on today's episode page as well.
Kit: 29:38 Thanks to Erin and Sandra for a great information about Patagonia. It's a super terrific trip that should be on just about everybody's bucket list. It's difficult but if you train for it you're going to do just fine. Remember there's a training link on today's website that'll work through how to train for an adventure such as this. There's a free Travel Planning guide link also on the website and some amazing photographs and videos. So be sure to check out ActiveTravelAdventures.com.
Kit: 30:04 If you've enjoyed this program please share it with a friend to help get the word out. I'd appreciate it. I'll be back in two weeks with another great adventure. Until next time, Adventure On!
Adventure Travel Patagonia : Hike, Bike and Paddle by Kit Parks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://activetraveladventures.com/patagonia.
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