Forty years ago, in my 20’s and into bushwalking, my dream/goal was to walk the 9-day Torres del Paine “O” Circuit in Patagonia” – writes Sue Hudson, back in her home in Australia. “Twenty years later, the dream was still there, but age slightly modified it to trekking the shorter 3-day section of the Circuit, the “W”… Then, last year I turned 60, and with yet another 20 years behind me, completing the one-day trek to the base of the Towers was more my style – it was now or never!

Here are Sue’s reflections of the unforgettable experience she shared with her friends at both Awasi Patagonia and Awasi Atacama:

What were the highlights of your trip?

Whilst we had 6 weeks exploring many unforgettable places in South America, including trekking to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands and Iguazu Falls (sadly there was no Awasi there at the time!), Patagonia and Atacama were right up there at the top. We were totally blown away by the beauty and diversity of both areas, and experiencing them with Awasi was definitely the icing on the cake. Oh … and I really should mention the discovery of Pisco Sours … how could THAT not be a highlight??

And as a guest at Awasi, what were your highlights?

The freedom to explore extraordinary environments with our own guide and vehicle; the relaxed atmosphere and the friendly, super efficient staff; enjoying gourmet meals and top quality wines (oh, and did I mention Pisco Sours!?); top class, luxury accommodation; jaw-dropping scenery; unusual wildlife; and finally, being all-inclusive, removing any financial stress during our stay.

Actually, I probably could have simplified this answer by replying, “Just about everything!”

I’m grateful that I didn’t make it to Patagonia when I was younger. I wouldn’t have been in a position to experience Awasi back then, and would therefore have missed out on something very, very special.

Did anything in particular surpass your expectations?

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said, “Pretty well everything”. After reading countless positive reviews on TripAdvisor, we left home with reasonably high expectations of Awasi.

But nothing really prepared us for the quality of experience that awaited us.

If I had a dollar for every time one of us said, “WOW” during our stay at either Awasi Patagonia or Atacama, I would be able to buy a plane ticket back to Chile!

The three couples and their guides in Awasi Atacama, during a trekking excursion through the Valley of the Cacti.

What excursions did you do, and did having a private 4WD and guide change your experience?

I wouldn’t say “changed” our experience, but rather, “enhanced” it – big time! We looked at other companies with their inflexible itineraries, trying to cater for large groups with varying ages and interests. NOT very appealing! Having our own guides meant we didn’t have to compromise. With their guidance, we put fantastic itineraries together, achieving everything we had hoped to, plus more. It is definitely the only way to go! As for the quality of the guides, I think you would do well to find better, anywhere.

They quickly perceived we were a fairly active group and tailored our excursions accordingly. We enjoyed everything we did, but there were highlights. In Atacama it was cycling to Laguna Cejar and bathing in its waters; walking through the Valley of the Cacti; Moon Valley; and a full-day “not in the book” excursion, where we saw amazing scenery and wildlife … and no other tourists!

In Patagonia it was walking to the base of the Towers; horse riding on a local estancia; and a full day spent enjoying the many beautiful sights in the national park, such as Laguna Amarga, Los Cuernos, Guanaco Hill and Lake Nordenskjold. Our guides selected our second day for this, believing this would be the best day for views and photos, and they were spot on – a Picture Perfect day!

Why did you choose these 5 images for your trip?

For Atacama, I love the group photo in the Valley of the Cacti, with the guides. On our excursions, it never felt like we were 6 friends, accompanied by 3 guides. More like 9 friends enjoying each other’s company, and for me, this photo captures that.

The second photo perfectly encapsulates our Awasi Atacama experience – “Oh, what a feeling..!” (Hopefully you have seen the Toyota ads to understand that one!)

In Patagonia, the base of the Towers was the inspiration for our trip – how exhilarating to finally gaze upon them!

The reflection at Laguna Amarga [main image] was our first stop in the National Park – it literally took my breath away.

The final photo really sums up Patagonia – stunning scenery, complemented by the most interesting and unusual wildlife!

Sue Hudson