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Wednesday, 02 July 2014 13:48

Chile's Patagonia

Written by  Karen Loftus

Latin-Chile
Pulling the blinds open at the Hotel Lago Grey (www.lagogrey.cl) in Patagonia’s Torres Del Paine Park was all the wake-up call I needed - no coffee necessary. The sight was far prettier than a picture; the expansive Grey Lake, snowcapped trees, icebergs and Grey Glacier boldly in the backdrop. It was just as I had imagined it. Minutes later, we were able to board the motorboat, the Grey II, steps from the hotel. It could accommodate as many as fifty. Fortunately, there were fewer than ten of us that morning.

Cruising out we had Chile’s iconic Torres Del Paine National Park all to ourselves. It was our fall, their spring. So, it was early in the season and early in our day. The silence and the arctic ambiance were seductive. I was transfixed by the glacial beauty before me. It was a frigid flipbook of otherworldly images; crystal blue water, walls of ice, snowcapped mountains, large balls of snow and icebergs seamlessly floating by as we soared past. Our normally chatty group was quiet on the ride out as there was nothing anyone could possibly say that could trump what we were seeing.

Ninety minutes later we arrived at Big Foot Patagonia’s (www.bigfootpatagonia.com) basecamp by Grey Glacier, which is a part of the Southern Ice Fields, the third largest freshwater in the world. The goal of the day was to get as up close and personal with the glacier as possible.

We were scheduled to ice climb, but due to winds they scheduled us in for ice kayaking instead. I was initially disappointed as I had kayaked all over the the world, but I had yet to ice climb. Once suited up, briefed and given a quick lesson, we were off.

We all had kayaked before, but quickly realized this was far from your average paddle. We were instructed by our guide to use our oars to chop through the ice around us in order to move.

I forgot that we were even headed to the glacier as the arctic apartment sized walls of ice and snow surrounding us, were grand and majestic enough. It was artfully displayed as if curated, site specific arctic art. Holes in large snow walls and evocative icy entrances were begging us to paddle in and
explore more.

In between chops, I stopped to soak up sounds of silence punctuated by paddles and crushed ice and that cool arctic breeze that continued to wrap itself around my sundrenched face. The initial image that morning may have been what I expected, but the kayaking experience was unlike any other.

That was just day one of our trip. I was in Chile’s Patagonia region with ATTA - Adventure Travel Trade Association (www.adventuretravel.biz) and a select group of travel buyers and media for their first Adventure Week Chile. We were there to explore three distinct regions within Patagonia; Los Lagos (The Lakes and Volcano region),The Aysen Region and the Magallanes Region.

In the Magallanes Region, the group separated into three subregions. One group went to Port Williams, another explored the Straits of Magellan, while we explored the iconic Torres Del Paine Park. Once reunited back with the bigger group, one upmanship was shown, and descriptive stories were shared about snowshoeing, horseback riding on the beach and kayaking in the sea. We all felt like we pulled the lucky card.

In Los Lagos, we took on Class III & IV rapids in the Petrohue River with Ko’Kayak in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. We hit the coastal, country road in the Lake Basin for a biking and local craft beer tour by day. By night we were spoiled by The Nomads of the Seas (www.nomads.cl).

Their private yacht caters to luxury travelers for several day or week-long cruises. Birders, fly fishers and adventure travelers take advantage of the helicopter on board by indulging in heli-hiking and heli-skiing. We enjoyed a dinner, dancing and evening cruise.

Each region held it’s own marketplace where travel planners were able to meet with local tour operators. According to Casey Hanisko, VP, Marketing & Communications of ATTA, it was a very successful endeavor. “AdventureWeek will definitely be repeated in destinations in the future, including a confirmed AdventureWeek in Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania in August, as well as several to be announced for 2015 in European and Latin American destinations. During AdventureWeek participants get a unique experience and are immersed in a destination’s offerings, while also meeting with a wide-range of local operators who can give them information on additional options outside of what they have experienced. ATTA’s goal is to pair the best suited operators and travel advisors with AdventureWeeks that meet their product offerings and client’s interests.”

Our final region was The Aysen Region. It is the least populated of the 15 regions within Chile. After a few polar plunges, spa spins, hikes and chic sleeps in Wyoming like lodges, we wrapped up our trip with a visit to their famous marble caves.

Located in the southern tip of the country, the caves are located in the center of Carrera Lake, the second largest freshwater lake in all of South America. The caves include caverns, columns and tunnels in monoliths of marble. The stunning swirl of caves and color were formed over the last 6,200 years. Our boat ride to and through the caves was a photographers dream.

The trip to Patagonia was bookended by mindblowing beauty. Torres Del Paine Park’s grand glacial beauty may be a bit of what I had expected. The marble caves were something I could have never imagined.

Visit www.chile.travel

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