To the Ends of the Earth: Previewing our Trip to Patagonia

In just two weeks now, my friend Reuben and I will be departing on what will certainly be the most adventurous trip of my adult life. We will pass through gateway cities in Peru (Lima), Chile (Santiago), and Argentina (Buenos Aires) on our way to the far reaches of the South American continent to the wilds of Patagonia.

Once in Patagonia, we will visit the base town of El Calafate before heading out on a week-long backpacking journey on the full circuit of Torres del Paine National Park. Upon our return from the trail, we will retrace our steps to El Calafate. Then, a beautiful AirBnB rental awaits us in Bariloche, jewel of the Argentine side of the Patagonian Lake District.

Leaving Patagonia just after New Year’s, we will make a quick touch-down in Buenos Aires and then fly back to LAX via Santiago. All of our flights were paid for in airline miles, which you can read about here and here. In total, we will fly over 15,000 miles on this trip, which gives a sense of the remoteness of Patagonia.

As the moment of departure comes closer and closer, I thought it might be fun to write down a few main concerns and expected highlights. Usually a few of one’s worst fears end up being irrelevant, expected highlights bomb, and vice versa, so it will be interesting to compare after the fact. Here are six of each category:

Expected Highlights

  • A week of relative solitude and general “unplugging,” courtesy of the Torres del Paine trails
  • Seeing unusual wildlife in the Patagonian wilderness (guanacos, condors, etc.)
  • Exploring the nightlife of Santiago and Buenos Aires
  • Steak and lots of it
  • Relaxing lakeside in Bariloche after a busy first ten days
  • Sharing an international trip with someone I’m neither married to, nor related to by blood

Main Concerns

  • Navigating the many transitions from city to city and the general fatigue that entails
  • Currency exchange, particularly in Argentina
  • Surviving the notoriously lackluster performance of Aerolineas Argentinas for five flights
  • Negotiating a ride directly from El Calafate to TDP and back
  • Language barrier, especially with Reuben’s gluten allergy
  • Weather in Torres del Paine and, to a lesser extent, blisters/trail weariness