Torres del Paine is huge, remote, and wild, with unpredictable weather and dramatic scenery. Travel here is like nowhere else on Earth and working here takes dedication and passion. In this new series, we introduce you to the staff working behind the scenes at our fully sustainable ¨alternative hotel¨, EcoCamp Patagonia. This time round we start with EcoCamp Wildlife Safari guide, Claire Hourticq, to find out just what it's like living in such an extreme environment.
Meet Claire, EcoCamp Wildlife Safari Guide
When did you start at EcoCamp and what brought you here?
I first got to explore beautiful Torres del Paine when I studied abroad in Chile three years ago. I fell in love with the place and felt that I needed to come back to spend more time in these mountains. After I finally finished my studies, I applied to many places around the National Park, and I feel extremely lucky and proud to now be part of Ecocamp staff for the second season in a row.
What is a day in your life like?
Every day in the park is unique. Different seasons bring different beauty, weather changes constantly, I guide fascinating people from all over the world, and wildlife sightings never stop to amaze me, making every outing special.
What would you say is the best thing about being at EcoCamp?
The best thing about Ecocamp is to work with your best friends. I have come to closely know every single member of the guide’s team. We are all very different but Ecocamp values unify us. We are a strong team: I admire all of them, have learned so much from each of them, and know they will always have my back.
What has been the hardest thing to adjust to living at EcoCamp?
The most challenging thing about working in Ecocamp is trying to separate private life from personal life. Because it is such a small community, you get to know people rather quickly and all share the same interests as you, so making friends is easy. But sometimes, work comes in the way of friendship.
How do EcoCamp’s sustainable policies affect you?
Ecocamp sustainable policies shape the way I work and the way I live every day. I am so proud every time I take guests on an eco-tour, not only to show them how Ecocamp produces its own energy to operate, but also to explain how it involves the local community and all the efforts and progress it has done regarding inclusive tourism. I try to have the most conscious and low-consumption lifestyle as possible, and working for an environmentally and socially responsible company is very important to me. And last but not least, all the friendships and special bonds I have made here both with staff and guests, which makes this place so special to me, would not have been the same or as strong if it wasn’t for the digital detox this place brings to people.
What is your favorote excursion to do from Eco?
Because every day spent out on excursion is different, I have too many favorite hikes. To a person who only has a few days here, I would definitely recommend spending them waiting for an avalanche in the French Valley, bird watching in Lazo Weber, sweating in Cerro Paine, and tracking wild horses in the remotest parts of Torres del Paine.
What do you do on your days off?
On my days off, I like to keep exploring the region. Trails are infinite in Patagonia, including inside the National Park, around the Magellan district, northern Patagonia, but also on the Argentinean side of Patagonia. When I have the opportunity and strength to do so, I take my backpack, tent and sleeping bag and keep exploring. Otherwise, I go home to beautiful Puerto Natales, sleep lots, eat lots, and go out with my Ecocamp friends (AGAIN!).
Do you have any activities or restaurants that you recommend nearby to Torres del Paine?
Puerto Natales is a beautiful and peaceful town. I recommend going to the museum downtown, take a walk on the seashore, eat chupe de centolla (crab gratin) or pulpo (octopus) at Restaurant Cangrejo Rojo, or a mañoso at Cafe Artimaña, the best sandwich in town. Then, try the calafate gin brought to you by Last Hope, the world's southernmost distillery.
Besides Torres del Paine, where else would you recommend that tourists visit while they are here in Chile?
Besides Torres del Paine, I would recommend taking the time to explore the Carretera Austral, a long broken up and sinuous road built in the 80s to try to connect and unify the remotest parts of Patagonia with the rest of Chile. The difficulty of access is what has made it one of the most pristine areas of Patagonia. These are the fjords, snow-capped mountains, turquoise rivers, endless lakes and forgotten ports that the late Douglas Tomkins dedicated his life to preserving. From Puerto Tranquilo, you can reach by boat the superb glacier San Rafael or the splendid Marble Cathedrals.
The EcoCamp Wildlife Safari is an all-inclusive package that includes nights in an EcoCamp dome, all meals, transfers to and from Punta Arenas/Puerto Natales, and daily excursions. Each day there are three activities to choose from with a varying degree of difficulty (easy/medium/hard) and each small group is led by two expert guides such as Claire. Do you want more information?, visit cascada.travel and learn about our programs