Torres del Paine "W" Circuit Trek - 5 Days - Dec 30 - Jan 5, 2019
We have recently returned from our travels, which included our W trek co-ordinated by your team from 31 December – 5th January 2019.
Overall – we thoroughly enjoyed our opportunity to experience Patagonia and the wonderful places we visited during our time in Puerta Natales and Torres Del Paine National Park.
We would particularly like to give mention our guide Sophia. She was simply outstanding. Her experience, and the knowledge she could share with us ensured that we had the best possible time on the trek. She is clearly very well-known and respected by her peers that we met along the way as well, and certainly we cannot recommend her highly enough for her skills, humour, practical sensibilities and care she took to ensure we had the best possible time. Sophia was also not advised that one of our group had a Cheese allergy.
We experienced many different weather scenarios along the way – snow on the walk to the towers and blazing sun on our way to Frances. Wind in the French Valley and gale force 80+kmh gusts heading to Glacier Grey. Throughout our entire time we felt confident that Sophia had our back and put our safety first.
On day 4 – we were meant to walk to Refugio Grey and catch the boat to go to the Glacier before return to the bus pick up point. This could not occur due to the fierce wind on that day, and indeed we watched the ferry turnaround as it was unable to continue on the lake in the extreme weather that was in play that day. As such, we returned to Paine Grande and caught the ferry across Lake Pehoe to pick up the bus transfer there. We assume as a result there is a refund due to us for the Grey Glacier boat tour that we unfortunately could not enjoy. Can you please advise details on the likely refund for this portion of our travels.
On a more serious note, we also need to provide feedback on the planning and execution of our trek. What we had discussed with us prior to departing NZ, and also during our briefing with Emily in Puerta Natales was not the trek experience we had and as such we planned poorly for some aspects of our trip which could have mitigated had the correct information been provided. As travellers, we are all very experienced and well rounded people who can manage what is required through careful research and planning. We are not a group of people who try to wing-it. We like to be sure we are careful and well informed on what we need to have with us to ensure our safety.
During our time corresponding with you, we started out with a plan to stay in the Refugios during our time on the trek. As there was limited space available – you suggested an alternative itinerary which saw us camping – the first night out of the park, an hours bus ride away at a camping site, then camping Frances on night 2, camping at Paine Grande night 3. We had expectations that this indeed was our itinerary until we received our paperwork and itinerary from Emily late Nov/Early December before we departed NZ. This shows that instead we were back on track with the original plan – that we would be in refugios, we would be staying at Los Torres on night one, Cuerno on night two, and Paine Grande night three. We queried this as we wanted to be sure we packed appropriately for camping versus refugios, and it was confirmed that we would have beds as per the itinerary. We met with Emily and had a detailed briefing with her upon arrival in Puerta Natales on Dec 30th – again querying our accommodation details, and having it confirmed that we were in Refugio accommodation as per the itinerary. So no need for camping style preparations, we would be in the refugios.
The morning of departure we met Sophia, and embarked on our journey in the bus. She mentioned our camping arrangements prior to departure, and we met Daniel our lovely driver as he would be driving us to the offsite location etc. You can imagine we were all quite shocked to hear that now we are back to the Camping plan as per our previous correspondence with you. Mentally and indeed from a gear perspective – we had all prepared for our time in refugios. During the first hour of our journey to the national park, we all took time to reflect on this new development, and indeed at our coffee stop – we sat Sophia down and explained that we are quite taken aback by the news that we are camping as only 36 hours prior – we had sat with Emily, in the Dittmar offices, and confirmed a completely different itinerary. Sophia could see we were all a little concerned about what we were doing, so took the time and went through step by step with us, the camping plan, the fact Rodriguez would be cooking for us on the first two nights and breakfast mornings, and ensured we had all the details about what were actually booked for.
Our first day was particularly long, in part due to the snow and cold, and the fact we were prepared for a day of around 18km, when in fact it was more like 23km. We arrived at our camping site on night one, and there were no tents for us. It was 10:30pm, we were freezing cold, the shower block had no power, and potentially we had no bed. With no power, we showered in the dark, in the hope we would warm up a little. Thankfully Sophia clearly managed to call in some favours for us and was able to get two domes for us to sleep in, and we squeezed our party of 7 into domes designed for 2 people each and through exhaustion all slept fitfully on night one. The team at this camping site found some sleeping bags, but due to their thin-ness, also rustled up some blankets and cushions as make shift pillows, and found some sleeping matts for the extra bodies that needed to camp on the floor. It wasn’t a great start to our trip, as we are sure you can appreicted. But at his point we realised how invaluable having our guide Sophia would be. Night 2 and 3 – tents were ready for us when we arrived so that was reassuring to us all.
As a group of travellers, we are resilient and we will roll with the punches. Indeed this is what we did during our time. We had to make the best of our situation. And we did, and so did Sophia.
However as far as the organisational skills that went in to preparing us for this guided tour experience, we would like to express our abject disappointment. We were not prepared for the trek as well as we should have been. We paid well for a guided all-inclusive experience, as we wanted to do our best to have no surprises (within all reasonableness). The team at Dittmar let us down by being ill prepared with the wrong itinerary. It was potentially dangerous as we did not necessarily pack the right level of clothing and accessories for the camping accommodation we ended up with.
As such we feel that it’s very important that we bring this to your attention, to try and eliminate this kind of error for your future travellers. We would be interested to hear about Dittmar’s willingness for some compensation for the group as well, as I am sure you can appreciate where we are coming from around what we felt we paid for versus what we ended up being delivered.
Finally, we would like to reiterate that Sophia made our time on the W trek, special and memorable for us all – and for that we are eternally grateful to her. She was the consummate professional always and it is a credit to her for her ability to assess and manage every day and we absolutely enjoyed the scenic splendour. Our thanks to Rodriguez too for looking after our cooking for us(very tasty and muchly needed!), and to Daniel for looking after our transportation.
We look forward to hearing back from you with you feedback.
Gabrielle Satherley and friends