Awasi Patagonia (5 stars)

This is a subsection of our larger blog “OutsideGo-Awasi Patagonia-Antarctica 21” that comments specifically on the Awasi Patagonia portion of our trip.  If you just want to see our pictures from Awasi Patagonia, click here.

General considerations, pre-tour communication and arrangements (4 star)

We knew very little about Awasi Patagonia before we left except for a small brochure describing different outings and activities and the information on their website.  We also knew that we would have a private guide that would tailor the experience to our interests and needs.  Shortly before the trip, we received a brief email questionnaire about diet, medical issues and our interests.

We were relying on the recommendation of OutsideGo and that it is a Relais & Chateaux  facility.

We stayed for four nights and then returned to Punta Arenas to join our Antarctic 21 portion of the trip.  This was an excellent recommendation from OutsideGo as it created a bit of a buffer in case there were travel delays getting to Chile that would interfere with the Antarctica portion of the trip.

Communications during the tour (5 stars)

A driver hired by Awasi Patagonia met us at our hotel, Hotel Cabo de Hornos, and drove us north along Route 9 from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales.  We were very comfortable with the driver, Gustavo, who stopped along the way so we could take some pictures.  Sadly, he spoke very little English and our Spanish is extremely weak (Note to self: learn Spanish).  In Puerto Natales, we were met by our Awasi guide, Eduardo, who drove us the last couple of hours to the Awasi Lodge. Eduardo was our guide for the remainder of our time at Awasi.  Much of the second part of our ride was on unpaved rocky ‘roads’ in a modified Hilux DX (a vehicle designed to travel over very rough roads and through rocky rivers!)  We suspect that this change in road quality was a major reason for the change in driver and it was a great opportunity for us to learn about Eduardo.

Gated Gravel Road on our way to Awasi Patagonia

 Gate on gravel road near entrance to Awasi Patagonia
(The black thing in lower right corner is an air vent for driving through rivers)

We had a warm welcome from the assistant manager, Catalina Bacells, and staff; and served refreshments while we checked in.  Afterwards, Eduardo brought out a huge map and we discussed various activitiy options for the next three days.  Eduardo was excellent and helped us formulate a good and doable plan that allowed us to experience much of what Torres del Paine National Park has to offer.  He was able to teach us a tremendous amount about the different things we saw and he made sure we stopped at the most iconic sights in Torres del Paine.

As a side note, being in our 60s-70, we are not expert hikers, but love to walk and see things.  Torres del Paine has many wonderful and world-famous hiking trails that exceed our abilities, but Eduardo guided us to see the best of the best.  Everything (what, when and where) were always perfectly clear throughout our stay.

What was seen or experienced (5 stars)

The experience begins on arrival. You sit in the main lodge sipping a glass of delicious wine and nibbling on snacks while registration is completed.  Your view of the Cordillera Paine rising above a valley, the absolute quiet except for the blowing of the wind, begins to make you understand the powerful enormity of the place.

View from Awasi Main Lounge

View from Awasi Patagonia main lounge
Snacks and wine are always available

There are 14 villas with considerable distance between them.  The villas are very comfortable with gorgeous panoramic views.  There is nothing better than waking to dawn appearing just outside your room bringing the landscape to life, cattle and rabbits foraging for food.  

Pano from our Awasi Patagonia room

Sunrise as seen from our Villa
(Other villas can be seen on far left and right--lots of distance between them
)

Refreshed from a good night’s sleep, we had a relatively short uphill walk to the main lodge, nothing better to start a day then a bit of cool fresh air and a walk.  

Every day, Eduardo took us to a different part of Torres del Paine.  Our first day, we drove past a small group of Guanacos backdropped by the Torres del 

Guanacos with Torres del Paine

Guanacos backdropped by Torres del Paine as we are leaving Awasi Patagonia

Paine through a small river into Zone C to see Laguna Amarga, Cascade Paine, a gorgeous waterfall and Laguna Azul.

Laguna Amarga

Laguna Amarga in Zone C in Torres del Paine National Park

Cascade Paine

Cascade Paine in Zone C in Torres del Paine National Park

This trip provided several different wonderful views of Cleopatra’s Needles.  At Laguna Amarga, the white shore is caused by living stromatolites.  This is one of the few places in the world where this can be seen.  The Rio Paine originates from Dickson Glacier terminal lake, Dickson Lake, so it is predominately a glacier river.  This explains the magical milky blue green color.   This is just one of the many glaciers of the world’s third largest icefield, Southern Patagonian Ice Field.  In our travels, we saw Guanacos, a Southern Crested Caracara and a Buff-Neck Ibis.  Click here if you just want to see all Zone C pictures.

On our second day we drove to the end of Route 9 along the Rio Baguales to hike a bit further to a marine fossil field in La Cumbre-Baguales Geological and Paleontological Park, known as Estancia 25 de Mayo that contains numerous remains of marine fauna.  These fossils belong to the Miocene Age in which the Atlantic Ocean came to the Sierra Baquales as the Patagoniano Sea about 18-23 million years ago.  The fossils were plentiful and easy to find as were Guanacos skeletons, a reminder of Puma activity in the area.

Fossils in Baguales

Fossils from La Cumbre-Baguales Geological and Paleontological Park

Sadly we did not see a Puma, but the Baguales with their dark, sharp peaks rising out of the gold-brown valley create a forboding feeling.

Sierra Baguales

Sierra Baguales with an estancia

We passed through several estancia and saw several gaucho homes and considerable cattle and horses along the way.  On our return to Awasi, we gave a ride to a gaucho’s wife, her son and cousin to Estancia Cerro Guido where they caught a bus to Puerto Natales on their way home.  Gaucho’s live a very solitary life so it was unusual we actually met one’s family. 

Gaucho with home in background

Sierra Baguales gaucho and his home

If you want to see all of the pictures from Sierra Baguales, click here.

On our third day, we awoke to a beautiful sunrise.  After breakfast we traveled west and a bit south through Zones B and A to Grey Glacier                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This took us to the other side of Cordillera Paine along the north shore of Samiento Lago.  We stopped to enjoy many wonderful sites: Almirante Nieto Mountain looking over Los Cisner Lagoon, the west portion of Samiento Lago   

Almirante Nieto Mountain

Almirante Nieto Mountain of the Cordillera Mountain Range of Torres del Paine National Park

and the two Horns overlooking Nordernskjöld Lake.  It was fascinating to view the bicolor nature of the two Horns.  This unique pattern was caused by a Miocene-aged laccolith (5-23 million years ago) lifting cretaceous sedimentary rocks (black-dark-formed 65-145 million years ago) and underlying granite (light grey) with subsequent glacial erosion of the sedimentary rock leaving behind the underlying more resistant granite.

The Two Horns

The Two Horns of Cordillera Mountain Range

The landscape is littered with skeletons of trees, the result of several fires started by park visitors.

Between two large glacier lakes, Nordernskjöld Lake and Pehoe Lake, is the Salto Grande Water Fall.  This is a spectacular view, but perhaps the most

Salto Grande Water Fall

Salto Grande Water Falls

surprising aspect was the very high wind that made walking to the falls an adventure.  There is a hand written warning visitors: “Wind gusts 80-90 km/h Be Really careful!”  That is between 50-55 mph wind gusts.  This is true, enough so that I decided that I could not use a tripod safely!  There was a beautiful rainbow formed by the mist of the falls.  A wonderful site to see.  We then drove south along the Rio Paine stopping to take a picture of Pehoe Hosteria on Pehoe Lake.  We crossed over the beautiful blue Rio Paine nestled

Rio Paine

Rio Paine near Lake Togo Lookout

between golden brown hills and looked back toward the Horns and Paine Grande Hill on our way to Lago Grey, the terminal lake of Grey Glacier.  Eduardo went to the main lodge to pick up our tickets for the catamaran while we took in the view of Lago Grey.  We crossed the Rio Grey on a suspension type bridge (limit 6 people at a time) vigorously swaying in the wind and proceeded along a tree lined path that ended in a wide expanse of rounded pebble gravel formed by the water of melting Grey Glacier to the landing of the catamaran.  The high, gusty winds enhanced the sense of barren desolation of the landscape.

Once on board the catamaran and sailing on Lago Grey, we had to stay inside due to the high winds and rough waters.  As we approached the glacier, the winds settled but got colder.  We were then allowed to stand on the upper deck, while we picked up a group of hikers from a very small rocky beach.  

Grey Glacier-first look

One terminus of Grey Glacier

The water was milky green-white, typical of glacier lakes.  Grey Glacier is 3.7 miles wide, and divides into three termini, all three of which we visited.  The glowing blue between the rugged ‘crystalline-like’ spikes of ice on the glacier

Grey Glacier

Another terminus of Grey Glacier highlight the blue colors

front is an image we will remember forever.  The blue color was far more visible than in the Tasman Glacier in New Zealand, although that glacier also had some lovely blues.  We returned to the main lodge via a bumpy, wet zodiac ride with wind howling around us.

We returned to Awasi for another lovely dinner and prepared for our departure to Punta Arenas to join our Antarctica 21 tour.  

If you want to see all of the pictures from Zones A and B, click here.

Food: (5 stars)

Breakfast was pretty standard buffet, but you could also order off a menu as well.  Dinners were spectacular.  Below is an example of the menu and a few pictures of the food.  While not huge servings, the quality and diversity are

Awasi Example Menu

Example of Awasi Patagonia Menu

Eggplant Dumpling

Eggplant dumplings, tomato, olives and zucchini

Silverside fish boqueron

Silverside fish boquerón, rhubarb confit, pickled radish and celery

Main course and wine

Main Course and lots of fantastic wine and beautiful views

excellent.  In our travels, there are only three other places in the world that are better than Awasi Patagonia: The Test Kitchen in Cape Town; Camp Jabulani Restaurant, South Africa; and Astrid & Gaston in Lima, Peru.

To read about our Antarctica adventure, click here.


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