Kura of Awasi Patagonia in Chile tells us her story of guiding through the Patagonian landscape and experiencing estancia life.
“While I was living in Santiago I came down to Patagonia and completely fell in love with the landscape. The immensity of the mountains and glaciers completely blew me away, and after having lived in a city for so many years I loved the vast amount of open space. I had been working in Santiago but was getting a little restless, so a friend put me in touch with Awasi Patagonia.”
“When the wind drops and the sun comes out, the lakes and lagoons reflect the spectacular mountain scenery and everything is peaceful and calm.”
“I love the stunning scenery here and how the landscape changes according to the weather. Patagonia is known for being windy, and it’s sometimes so strong it literally blows you off your feet. However, when the wind drops and the sun comes out, the lakes and lagoons reflect the spectacular mountain scenery and everything is peaceful and calm.”
“I mainly guide in Torres del Paine, the national park surrounding the Paine Massif that’s famous for the huge granite towers of Las Torres and the black-tipped peaks of Los Cuernos. I also take guests to Sierra Baguales, a private park that Awasi Patagonia has access to. It’s a little more out of the way and a lot less visited – so much so, we often don’t see anyone else there. It provides a good contrast to Torres del Paine, as the landscape is very different but equally as beautiful.”
“The Andean Condor can often be seen soaring high overhead or perched on rocky outcrops, however it is best seen feeding at ground level on carrion.”
“There is a surprisingly large amount of wildlife to be seen in this part of Patagonia. The most sought after, but also the most difficult to see, is the puma. There is also the guanaco, which is a camelid that looks a cross between a camel and a giraffe. It’s also possible to see armadillos, skunks and foxes. The two most regularly seen birds are Darwin’s Rhea – known locally as ‘Ñandú’ – and the Andean Condor. The ñandú is a large, flightless bird and a curious fact about it is that the male incubates the eggs as well as caring for the chicks. The Andean Condor can often be seen soaring high overhead or perched on rocky outcrops, however it is best seen feeding at ground level on carrion. Smaller birdlife includes the Magellanic Woodpecker and the Green-backed Firecrown.”
“Chilean Patagonia is all about estancias, and one of the best ways to see it is on horseback. Awasi Patagonia is surrounded by the working estancia Tercera Barranca, and guests can go horse riding with the gauchos at Puesto El Gringo. We also offer horse rides at Estancia La Criollita, which sits just below Sierra Baguales – a beautiful mountain range on the border between Chile and Argentina.”
“When possible the hotel offers some seasonal excursions, such as visits to sheep shearing sheds, visits to estancias to see the lambs being tagged and visits to local jineteadas, which are traditional gaucho competitions that are a little bit like a rodeo.”
“The location of Awasi Patagonia is very special. It sits on the side of Sierra Contreras, within an estancia, which means that gauchos can often be seen herding horses and sheep on the plains below. From the villas and main lodge there’s a spectacular view out towards Lake Sarmiento and the Paine Massif, and it sits just outside Torres del Paine National Park, which gives it a real sense of remoteness and solitude. I think this is an important part of the Patagonian experience.”
“My most memorable moment was fairly gruesome but impressive to watch. I was out with another guide and some guests when we pulled over to watch a group of condors feeding on a dead sheep. Through binoculars we noticed that there was a lamb standing next to the condors. The condors ignored the lamb for while, before one of the younger ones realised that perhaps the little lamb was edible too. I won’t go into too much detail, but condors are always thought of as being scavengers, however on that occasion they killed the lamb, showing that they are opportunists too.”
“I want guests to be able to appreciate the remoteness and solitude of this part of Patagonia, and the extreme beauty of this landscape.”
“I find being a guide most rewarding when nature cooperates, like when I manage to spot pumas with guests, or when we set off on the hike to the lagoon at the base of the towers on a cloudy morning only for the sky to clear just as we reach the towers. I also enjoy noticing new things; as guides we repeat the same excursions, but no two times are ever the same as the landscape changes with the seasons, as do the animals and plant life. I want guests to be able to appreciate the remoteness and solitude of this part of Patagonia, and the extreme beauty of this landscape.”
Kura blogs about her experience as a guide for Awasi Patagonia at www.pitterpatagonia.com.