1. General Patagonia Information
Nestled among the high volcanic peaks of southern Chile, generally referred to as Patagonia, lays a heavily forested region known as the “Andean Corridor of Lakes”. This vastly undeveloped region of Chile is by far the most stunning landscape one could ever imagine, containing hundreds of pristine glacial lakes and thousands of kilometers of wild rivers, the heart of which is the Futaleufu River, home of the "Greatest Whitewater on Earth".
Geographically speaking, Patagonia is primarily located in Argentina between the Andes and the Atlantic Ocean. At the extreme southern end of Chile, however, the border jogs eastward to reach the Atlantic Ocean thus becoming part of Patagonia. Patagón means "big feet," referring to the Tehuelche Indians who, when first seen by Fernando de Magallanes, in 1520, were wearing raw leather footwear rapped around their feet, which left big footprints where they walked. Thus, Patagonia is the place of the people with big feet. The regional governments in both Chile and Argentina are embracing the name Patagonia as a collective name for this southern region. The idea is to assist both countries in the development of tourism within this sparsely populated and rarely traveled area. For maps of this region of the world, go to: Patagonia Maps.
Formed by the collision of tectonic plates over 70 million years ago, the landscape of the Andes is more than merely impressive. If laid across North America, the mountain range would stretch from Havana to Juneau Alaska, some 4,500 miles in length. Towering at heights of up to 22,000 feet, these peaks are second only in magnitude to the Himalayas. The range's lofty spine creates a naturally defined border that is shared by Chile and Argentina along a 2,000-mile section. To the north, the range is high and arid while to the south - in the Andean Corridor of Lakes - the peaks are less extreme (14,000 feet around the city of Temuco), glaciated, and blessed with hundreds of pristine lakes joined by wild rivers. This Andean Corridor of Lakes lies both in Chile and Argentina and is commonly referred to as the Lake District-Chileno and Lake District-Argentino. This region is a dramatic wonderland of glaciers, native old growth forests, lakes, rivers, fjords, volcanoes and sentinel mountains making for a spectacular Patagonia travel destination.
A brief look at the lay of the land and the region's moisture patterns explains why the world's best whitewater rafting, kayaking and fly-fishing is found here. This is a region of geological and climatic extremes. If one were to take a cross sectional slice of the continent and trace a vertical line down the highest peak of the Andes, one would note that on the Chilean side the land descends quickly towards a central valley then rises to a much smaller coastal range, finally descending to the ocean. On the Argentinean side, the land gently plateaus off into an arid region known as the Patagonia Steppe. Our Patagonia travel and adventure trips run during the peak of both Chile and Argentina's summer season. December in Chile is the equivalent of June in the U.S. and thus January like July and so on, and so forth, so when one join us for a winter getaway one’ll return home tanned and happy!
If the country were superimposed on North America (as we did with the Andes Mountains) it would stretch as a narrow ribbon - averaging 110 miles in width - from Mexico City to Juneau Alaska (2610 miles). Its total square mileage is slightly larger than the state of Texas and the population of 14 million is weighted with 45% living in Santiago, the capital city. Chile achieved independence in 1818 and now has a democratic form of government under the president Sebastian Pinera. The area, in which we raft, kayak and fly fish, is the Andean Corridor of Lakes, which spans 800 miles between the cities of Temuco and Coyhaique. The most spectacular section of the Corridor of Lakes is in the heart of Patagonia, the Futaleufu River Valley.
Some 760 miles wider than Chile at its widest point, Argentina is some 500 miles shorter north to south. The country's square mileage is three and a half times that of Chile's and its population is almost two and one third times larger (33,533,256). Buenos Aires, the capital city, is home to 9% of the population. Like Chile, Argentina has a democratic form of government. The current president is Kristina Kirchner of the Peron party. at least for this week. Some of our fly-fishing and kayak safari trips venture into Argentina. Our recommended arrival to Futaleufu valley trips is through Esquel-Trevelin. Trevlin is some 45 minutes from the remote border crossing into the Futaleufu river valley.
We think this is arguably the most gorgeous valley in Patagonia. Known for it's outrageous whitewater the Futaleufu valley's canyons, lakes, trails, and easier tributary rivers, makes this valley multi-sport paradise, as well as great place to learn to kayak. The border crossing is just some 15 minutes from town and Campo Tres Monjas and CondorNest is some 25 kilometers downriver situated in a beautiful setting under the Tres Monjas peak at the confluence of the turqoise Futaleufu with the Azul river. This remote strategic location is our private take out for the upper Futaleufu and the Rio Azul. It is the put in for the lower sections of the Futaleufu. In all five sections are easily accessed from our Campo and CondorNest. We have trekking, horseback and bike trails radiating from campo. Three lakes are accessable Lago Yelcho, Lago Espolon and Lago Lonconao. Our teaching river the Rio Espolon is a twenty minute drive to the put in. The town of Futaleufu will usually be visited sometime during your trip and is an interesting mountain Patagonia mountain village.
2. Weather and Climate
The summer in South America lasts from November to March. Santiago and Buenos Aires are usually extremely warm during these months. In the city, daily temperatures range between 23° -32°C (70°-90°F). At night they drop to around 15°C (60°F). In Patagonia, the weather is much less predictable, and can change quickly and drastically. On a sunny day, daytime temperatures can be very warm, ranging between 15°C-32°C (60° -90°F). However, rain, high winds and cold air can blow in swiftly, even during the summer, making the temperatures drop to 1°-5°C (30°-40°F). Snow is even a possibility. We recommend packing in preparation for these dramatic extremes; to be sure one are comfortable for oner entire trip. Rest assured, the weather can just as easily turn warm and beautiful. Nighttime temperatures are usually between 4°-10°C (40°-50°F) depending on the weather.
3. Food and Drink
Chilean cuisine consists of many local specialties, which include humitas (seasoned spiced grated corn wrapped in husks and boiled); empanadas (savory steaming hot meat pies); and cazuela (beef or chicken and vegetable stew). Seafood in Santiago, Puerto Montt and Chaiten, Chile is abundant and rich. Steak is a savory must in Argentina. Chile and Argentina are also famous for their many excellent brands of wine, including Antigua Reserva, Undurraga, Casillero del Diablo, Cousino Macul and Concha y Toro, which are exported worldwide. The water in Futaleufu and at our camps is potable. Until arrival in Futaleufu, we recommend drinking bottled water and soft drinks and eating only well-cooked food. All of our food is safe and hygienically prepared by an experienced staff. Over the past twenty years we have never had a problem with food or water.
4. Medical Attention
Please be aware that hospital facilities for serious medical complications may, depending on where one are, be far away. Doctors may not always be available and evacuations can be prolonged, difficult and expensive. There is a small local hospital in the town of Futaleufu for injuries, but more serious cases may require medical evacuation to a larger hospital across the border in Argentina. First class clinics are available.
At this time no immunizations are required to enter Chile or Argentina. However, it is recommended to be immunized for: Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Check with the CDC for any updates. Since this is the South American summer Swine Flu is less of a factor than in the USA. However since you will be traveling a vaccination may be a good idea.
Our activities require a lot more physical preparation than most vacations. Most days involve hiking, kayaking, paddling or biking. We advise that one be in good health and physical condition to enjoy oner experience and prevent injury.
5. Cultural Questions
It is important to remember that while traveling to a foreign country, one does so as a visitor and should be willing to adapt to the culture and customs of the local people. Although English is fast becoming an international language, it should not be assumed that everyone will understand or speak it. Should difficulties with communication arise, please ask our guides for assistance. Please be advised that all comforts one may be accustomed to might not be available. Patience and respect are crucial for a successful trip and enriching experience.
We request that clients do not smoke in vehicles, at meals or in group situations. We ask our guides, drivers and staff to follow the same consideration. It is absolutely forbidden to smoke inside domes and/or tents.
7. Internet - Cell Networks
There are two cell networks in Futaleufu, Telefonica and Claro and high bandwidth Internet at several Internet cafes. Blackberries and iphones have been able to send data with minimum configuration. These devices activated for Chile and Argentina have come in really handy for our clients while they travel. We are working on getting Internet to the Campo Tres Monjas camp and CondorNest for the 2012 season. Usually during your trip you will be able to connect during the week and in case of an emergency we will get you to a signal as soon as possible. Fax machines, telephones and Internet access are available at Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales. In Torres del Paine, one will find a satellite public telephone at the mountain hut close to the Ecocamp Torres. If you can activate a cell phone for international use, it is a great security to have communication with our office.
Q: How much money do I need to bring on this trip?
A great deal of money will not be requisite on our trips, just enough for gifts, souvenirs, massage, drinks and any incidental items such as tipping the guide staff. If everything is prepaid we recommend taking about $500 to $600 USD depending on how much shopping one will want to do, plus any amount that one may want to give the staff and trip leaders. Try to use your visa card for anything that you can saving your cash. We suggest keeping any cash and financial instruments on your body while traveling. We have a safe at our office and it is safe in your accommodations.
Due to the recent global fluctuations of currencies, it is hard to predict the exact value of the Argentina and Chilean peso, but generally real dollar costs have increased substantially in both countries the past few years. They are no longer as inexpensive as years ago. The national currency in Argentina is the Argentine Peso Click here Currency Converter Argentina >> In Chile the Chilean Peso Click here Currency Converter Chile >>
We recommend exchanging cash upon arrival at the international airport, as it is most convenient. When arriving in Argentina, it is possible to pay for almost everything with US dollars. In more remote towns, it is more difficult to find banks and ATMs. The ATM in Futaleufu is only compatible with Mastercard or Cirrus. Therefore, it will not be possible to obtain cash using Visa. US Dollars only (not Argentine Pesos) can be exchanged at the bank in town for Chilean Pesos. Several stores and restaurants, including ExChile, do accept both Visa and Mastercard. Travelers checks are not recommended.
US Dollars – Foreign Currency
US dollars, Argentine pesos and all other foreign currencies are not accepted at businesses in Futaleufú. Beware: The bank will not exchange US Dollars with even minor tears or markings. Exchile will accept dollars in reasonable condition.
Although it is at the discretion of the customer, it is customary to tip about 10% in restaurants. Taxi drivers between airports do not expect tips.
Depending on one's trip and route, please take this information into consideration when planning payment.
Tipping on your trip
In Futaleufu: Tips we feel are meant to reward exceptional service. They are not an obligation. If one thinks the team worked very hard to make the trip a success it is a nice gesture that will be remembered. Because of the realities of life in Futaleufú and the short season, one's tip has a big impact. We also feel that it means the most when guest gives discreetly it to the employee themselves on the last day of the trip. Traditionally, the amount spent on tips by our guests has varied from 5-10% of the guests trip cost. The median has been approximately 6%. If you want to give the tip to one person to be divided up we recommend giving it to the the head guide or a company manager. Our company policy unless otherwise directed, is to break it down to the guide team working with you receiving 65% and support staff receiving 35%.
In Torres del Paine,tips are handled somewhat differently. Trip members contribute toward a group tip to be shared among the drivers, assistants, cooks and the staff that handles the logistics of the camps and who have assisted during the trip. For that purpose there is a “tip box” at the Eco-camp Torres. We suggest a range of US$6 to US$12 per day depending on the level of satisfaction. Trip members usually tip the trip guide. Typically, individual trip members tip the trip guide $6 to $15 per day, depending on the level of satisfaction. Tips are best paid in US cash or in Chilean pesos (traveler’s checks are more difficult for the trekking staff to exchange). US currency in small denominations ($5, $10, $20) is useful for distributing the tips among the entire staff.
10. Futaleufu Fast Facts
Population of Futaleufu: 1,500
Time Zone: GMT/UTC –4
Country Dialing Code: +56
Area Code 65.
Weights & Measures: Metric
Electric Outlet in Futaleufu:
Electric Outlet at Campo Tres Monjas is 110 american type plug. The solar system is good for charging cameras and computers, however it does not support hair dryers etc.