LATIN AMERICA JOURNEY END: CHILE CASA BLANCA VALLEY AND PATAGONIA (PART 3 OF 3)

We arrived in Chile from Cusco at midnight but the local agency partner mistook the flight number and though we missed our flight so left us at the airport! We waited a two whole hours before arriving at the hotel in the dead of night freezing and hungry! Well no trip is perfect and Chilean leg was off to a rough start…..

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Fortunately things got much better when we reached the hotel, delicious albeit cold sandwiches were waiting on the table (the little things really matter!).  Upon hearing what happened to us the night before, upgraded us to the largest room with soft light streaming in and a huge bathroom. Ahh heaven indeed! You truly appreciate the good after the bad.

The meals and the resort itself was lovely. A warm breakfast awaited us full of cold cuts and cheese.

A set lunch was prepared for us with the highlight being the Syrah braised lamb and delectable Abalone and Asparagus risotto pared with the local vineyard wines. I recommend their award winning “Riesling

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We took a bike ride along the fields surrounding the vineyard and we came upon two “hermanos” or brothers who are local cowboys called “Huaso” (Note: Do NOT call them guachos that is chilean and they do not like it! haha). It is so nice see the older brother teaching the younger one how to ride (Passing on the tradition)

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My husband busted our the drone for a quick shot of the countryside… note the Black beauty in the background
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Black beauty! Well he was actually the stallion
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Farewell to Casalanca Valley!

It was a nice trip with Luciano as our guide and we learned about the sad yet proud history of the local Chilean people called Mapuche who were never conquered by the Spanish yet sadly died off overtime.

We end this part with our mascot for the trip: LUCHO! Who was the most active and funniest Llama we ever saw…. he acted more like a dog jumping around with bright inquisitive eyes!

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Patagonia 

As they say we saved the best for last, which is why it took so long to make this last post

Torres Del Paine is a national park located at the southern tip of Chile almost 5 hours by car from the nearest airport. It felt like discovering an untouched valley for the first time.

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Hiking was the order of the day with half day and full day hikes at your very doorstep!

img_3177I really meant literally at your doorstep… this pathway leads to the Condor hike which goes up steeply but gives you a chance at seeing the largest flying bird in the world.

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The Explora hotel is truly unique being situated right in the heart of the national park and offering the luxuries of a five star resort yet blending naturally with its surroundings. Every room has a stunning view right out of a postcard.

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Our guides were exceptional with their blend of good nature and in depth knowledge. Do have a drink with them after a long trek and learn more about them (For example they need to spend a 6 month stay at the resort since it is so remote…. almost like being on a cruise ship)

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The next day was horseback riding with the Gauchos. This is what Patagonia pictures always seem to feature and with good reason. The majestic back drop combined with beautiful horses while breathing in the cool crisp chilean air make for a fantastic experience.

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Gauchos!

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Hikes

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Our first hike was the Condor hike that was short but steeply uphill with a portion of high winds that make you feel like flying. In fact in really high winds they cancel this hike as it is dangerous.

The puma hike was unfortunately a “no show” for the puma  but hikes make up the majority of the experience.

Travel tip: Always look out for the impala that suddenly rear their head and face on direction as it may mean a puma is nearby. If the clouds at the top of the mountain are swirling around in a circle that means that the winds are high and the hikes will likely be closed.

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I am so proud of myself for hiking the signature “Torres Del Paine” to the base of the Towers. A 22k hike that took a grueling 8 hours with many portions  going up steep trails, creeks and mountain ledges.  The view on the top of the granite Towers is just spectacular with snow covered cliffs and a frozen lake in the middle.

Travel tip: Bring layered thermals as going up may be warm as you exert yourself but once you get to the top it gets very chilly.

When we finally walked back to where we were dropped off before the ascent, I thought the coaster would be waiting for us. In fact it was another 30 minute walk to get to the parking lot! When your feet are so numb already you just have to keep going no matter what. Truly one of my most challenging hikes. My hubby said it was the first time I was too tired to talk after a hike and my body was so tired the next day… luckily there was a hot bath in the room awaiting me.

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With a toast of a Strawberry Margarita, I say farewell to the beautiful Torres Del Paine Park and the wonderful Explora hotel. Truly one of the best trips of our lives and a discovery of the “active” vacation which combines hiking and fine food. My husband and I did not gain a any weight for once! We will be back one day and hopefully they have a nearer airport by then.

Travel tip: Go soon as there are more and more people discovering the area which will spoil the untouched beauty of the place. It almost felt like Iceland was more than 5 years ago but is now so packed and prices at double what they used to be.

 

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