The Andes To Patagonia
Although we have visited both Chile and Argentina with OAT before, we were pleasantly surprised to see more of both countries than in the past. The Chile & Argentina: Andes To Patagonia trip was very well organized and we covered a lot of territory within the 22-day pre-trip to the Atacama Desert and the main Chile and Argentina trip. There were 8 internal flights that allowed us to travel the expansive distances of both countries.
Even though we had those multiple flight days, they were not wasted days as we have experienced in the past. Either before or after each of the flights, we had several hours to explore a new community or experience an activity that helped us acquaint ourselves with the new area we were visiting.
Christian V. was our Tour Director (TD) and he is to be highly commended for keeping the trip lively and interesting. He told us often that due to national laws he could not be a local guide, but his knowledge and understanding of the two countries enriched each day’s learnings.
Of so many exemplary attributes, Christian was the organizer, he supported the local guides, he made sure the responsibilities were carried out; he solved each and every problem as they arose and he more than filled our days with adventure.
As an excellent teacher, at the end of each day he reviewed what we had done and seen, went over our next day schedule, gave us options, and was very patient with those who could not walk on difficult terrain.
Once we were in our rooms he checked to see if all was OK, he helped with providing tables, more chairs and took care of Internet concerns. On our expeditions Christian worked to get members of the group to interact with the native population in local markets, during the Day in the Life experiences, and on local busses.
With a member of our group celebrating a birthday, Christian took the responsibility to have a dinner organized, a cake baked and beverages (alcoholic and non) for the group. He organized our group so she would be the last person to enter and we all sang Happy Birthday in both languages including party hats and horns. "The Party Never Ends!"
We were especially grateful for his personal recollections and the real life comparisons between the two national cultures. Although neighbors in the southern tip of the Southern Hemisphere, Chile and Argentina and their peoples are very different.
The group of 12 got along very well and although we had varied interests, our personalities blended into a like-minded group. People were generally on time and very considerate of others. We understand this has much to do with our Tour Director, Christian, who kept us laughing and energized by the upcoming “surprises” that seemed to be popping up every other day and with "IT IS 5:00 SOMEWHERE".
Our local guides were all very well versed in their specific cities and regions. The fact that they were with us on the bus and in multiple venues helped the continuity so they got to know us by name and we were able to appreciate them even more than a step-on guide.
In addition to the 10 flights on this trip, we experienced many modes of local transportation. We traveled on local city buses, floated on river rafts, rode horses, experienced the Santiago metro system, enjoyed a serene chairlift ride up Cerro Campanario in Bariloche where we had a 360 degree view, and of course, we had a variety of buses that carted us from one location to the next.
This trip was our first in the new OAT policy of having the tips for drivers and local guides included in the base price of the tour package. What a relief not to have to come up with tips for the many drivers and guides, but to be able to thank them, knowing that OAT was taking care of them and that our fellow travelers were not “shorting” them as we have seen in the past. Well done OAT!
One more THANK YOU and Well Done needs to be sent to Pablo and the OAT regional office in Buenos Aires. On our last day in El Calafate, Argentina we were told that on the flight day all of Argentina would be under a transportation strike. No flights! Our reservations would be null and void and this would jeopardize our flight home to the USA.
Pablo and OAT got us on an early flight from Rio Gallegos to Buenos Aires so we would make our departure flights that same evening. FANTASTIC JOB!
Upon our return to the US we signed up for GCT Antarctica's White Wilderness next year and we are hoping that Christian is on board.