“Sometimes what you're looking for comes when you're not looking at all.”
When Tomás Smits passed through the door of the Santiago Patagonia store, he had no idea this would send him and his girlfriend Constanza 2,200 (1,365 miles) kilometers away to the vast, untamed, silent wilderness of Chilean Patagonia. His fingers brushed against some of the many waterproof pants he had in front of his eyes. He finally picked up a dark, simple pair he would use for his next trip. As he passed the checkout, the Patagonia staff beamed at him. “Congratulations. It seems you found the right place to shop for pants. You’re going to Patagonia, amigo. In Torres del Paine del Paine National Park, on a 4-day Wildlife Safari with EcoCamp Patagonia!”.
— Patagonia Chile (@patagoniaCHL) April 23, 2015
One winning ticket - only one in the whole country - had been hidden randomly in one of the thousands of products you can find in the Patagonia stores.
Tomás has found it. It wasn’t everything. Patagonia gifted him and Constanza a free windproof jacket, just in case they met southern Chile’s infamous gales. The plane took them to the far south on the 17th of September, right at the beginning of the season, as the snow was still melting on the pampa.
Constanza : “As the van entered Torres Del Paine, the emptiness of the landscapes really impressed us. There were almost no houses, no people, no infrastructure. Nothing but the wind, lakes, and astounding mountains. No pictures could express the immensity we were witnessing. We felt part of nature, really. To top it off, we caught a glimpse of the puma just before arriving. Gosh, that was wild!”
An eco-dome in the sunshine...A warm welcome in front of our Welcome Dome!
Despite the recent snow storms, the sun was shining on the granite peaks of the National Park. Tomás and Constanza were shown to their Suite Domes by our ever-smiling reception staff who told them about the geodesic hotel’s “complex and easy” sustainable concept. Patagonia and EcoCamp share a common sense of respect for the Earth and urge their clients to travel responsibly, reusing, recycling - basically, everything that’s good for the planet!
Tomás : “When we first saw EcoCamp online, the fact the hotel was minimizing its footprint made us more eager to come. In Chile, relatively few people realize the importance of leading an environmentally-friendly life. And strangely, the impact of climate change is obvious here, with an increasing drought, the retreat of glaciers, the scarcity of resources, among others. We’re sure alternatives do exist to avoid an uncertain future. Patagonia raised awareness with the “Worn Wear” campaign that aims to reuse clothes you do not necessarily need to buy. Why buy you can reuse, repair, recycle? EcoCamp convinced us that solutions are within reach. Our time there made us more aware of environmental issues and how people can tackle them. Surprisingly, this didn’t mean a total sacrifice of our comfort!”
At dusk, Tomás and Constanza gathered with fellow travelers in the Community Domes. They got to know the guides over the unmissable Pisco Sour and prepared for the upcoming excursions. They hiked a lot. Even though the windproof jackets were not a requisite for their survival, they helped them stay warm on some of the most majestic lookouts in the world. They hiked for miles and marveled at the landscapes for hours.
Constanza and Tomas in one of their numerous Patagonian hugs (it's true the place is quite romantic, isn't it?)
Constanza: “Chileans tend to be more curious about other countries and cultures than about their own land. Yet there are unique places here. Hiking through Torres Del Paine made us proud of our country. There is a stunning contrast of landscapes, colors, and fauna; now we understand why we call the area the “eighth wonder of the world”.
As if on purpose, their stay coincided with the Fiestas Patrias, Chile’s very own Independence Day. Here at EcoCamp, we wanted to honor this date with a traditional asado (barbecue) on the terrace. Accompanied by the sound of cueca music - typical to Chile - the EcoCamp family gathered with guests to enjoy an unexpected opportunity to form new friendships in the moonlight. Constanza and Tomás clinked their glasses. That very night, we enjoyed a full-bodied Chilean red wine at the foot of one of the most fascinating rock formations in the world: the three Towers of Torres del Paine.
Smiling to life on the "Toro Lookout" We hiked a lot...
and jumped a lot, too!
Tomás: “We’re only in our twenties and are blessed to have been able to live that. The people really made the experience. Everyone here did their best to made us feel good. We were surrounded by people who shared a common passion for the place. It was amazing to feel part of a community...we’ll miss it! Now we look toward the future. The world is full of surprises, full of opportunities. We’ll keep traveling and, for sure, try our luck, again and again!