Preparing for Patagonia

DESTINATION

Santiago, Chile
Coyhaique, Chile
Aysén region, Patagonia, Chile

ActivitY

Recycled waste infrastructure building
Multi-day backpacking
Day hikes, boat/raft tours
Permaculture lessons


What volunteer work will we be doing?

Transform communities into sustainable towns

Expanding on the impact of your economic contribution to the small communities in the Aysén region, you get to roll up your sleeves to build storage centers for inorganic and recyclable waste in a centralized location in each town. We will visit schools and collaborate with students and committees to integrate educational programs related to recycling and facilitate transportation in the area, in special partnership with established Chilean organizations Kyklos and Fecunda Patagonia.

All equipment and tools related to the storage build projects are provided. Be prepared to dress according to any potential weather changes, including sun, rain, and wind; e.g. closed-toe shoes, sunglasses, hat, rain jacket, long pants, etc. Before starting the volunteer work, your Trip Leader will give a safety briefing highlighting the potential hazards on site.

Landscape & Culture Tour

As we make our way through Patagonia via the famed Carretera Austral (Route 7 highway) by vehicle, we will exercise sustainable travel practices by paying carbon offsets to Patagonia Sur to fund tree planting.

As we trek through national parks and reserves, we will exemplify “Leave No Trace” principles by picking up trash in our surroundings and leading by example. We’ll pitch tents in designated camping areas and gain deep appreciation for the untouched natural beauty and wildlife around us. We are committed to embodying sustainable travel.

Further, we’ll connect deeply with locals and immerse in their daily ways of life, and try to lasso quality time with gauchos.

 

What does the road tripping look like?

Transportation

You will have the opportunity to experience various forms of motor- and human-powered transportation in Patagonia. Our road trip tour will be via a large van, with side trips of day hiking, multi-day backpacking, short boat tours, and easy rafting. Although road conditions are good (mostly asphalt and maintained gravel), trips can be long and windy, so please bring remedies for motion sickness if you are susceptible. Please note that wearing a seatbelt is mandatory in Chile.

A Typical Touring Day

Our program includes 8-10 days of driving over many kilometers across the region, and also includes 3-4 days of self-supported backpacking on treks through national parks and reserves.

The following is a typical schedule on touring days (subject to vary based on conditions):

7:30 AM | Wake up, pack bags
8:00 AM | Breakfast
9:00 AM | Depart to next activity and lunch destination
12:00 PM | Lunch
1:00 PM | Depart to next activity and evening destination
5:00 PM | Tea time, settle into hostel/camp
7:00 PM | Dinner, evening activities/relaxation

The fun doesn’t end when we settle into camp! There will be time to mingle with locals, play games, and take photos at nearby landscapes. Feel free to bring games, instruments, hobbies, speakers, etc. to share with your fellow trekkers. And who knows, perhaps the people who will enjoy the entertainment the most will be the locals!

Our Guiding Staff

Our excellent team of local guides will be supporting us on the tour and working alongside us at our project sites. Each group will have an English-speaking guide to lead the way and answer any questions you may have.

Accommodation and Showers

Accommodations are on a shared basis. In Santiago, you will be staying in a modern hostel with shared bathrooms. In Patagonia, you will stay in both cozy hostels and equipped campgrounds. Lodging and campsites are specifically selected for comfort and access to spectacular hiking.

As we embark on our 3-day trek into Patagonia National Park from Tamango National Reserve, expect typical backcountry camping without showers or toilets. Please bring toilet paper/cloth and a small trowel to properly manage bodily waste, as well as a wash cloth if necessary (avoiding disposable body wipes to prevent excess trash). Note that what you take in, you must take out.

In Patagonia National Park, expect well-equipped campgrounds with wash sinks, flush tolets, and even showers (with warm-ish water)! Please bring quick-dry towels for both body and dinnerware.

Laundry services are available in cities (such as Santiago and Coyhaique) at the hostel for about $7-9 per load.

Food and Water

Fresh, local, and organically grown vegetables will be a staple part of our meals, as we promote local permacultural farms.

For breakfast, soft white breads with simple toppings—such as avocado, marmalade, and manjar (similar to dulce de leche)—form the basis of Chilean desayuno.

Along the road trip, we will dine at local restaurants with omnivorous options for your choosing, and while trekking in the backcountry we’ll each carry our own rations and prepare our own meals in the comfort of campsite shelters, with cooking equipment shared by our guide/Trip Leader and grocery shopping trips covered by us. As a special treat, at Patagonia National Park we will enjoy one night of fine dining (all-you-can-eat parilla-style barbeque) at their onsite restaurant.

If you have any special dietary restrictions or allergies, please let us know in the volunteer application form so that we can make adequate preparations for you. Note that lacto-ovo vegetarian diets are easy to accommodate, and while vegan, gluten-sensitive, or lactose-intolerant diets can also be accommodated, limited Chilean familiarity may mean options are less creative than you might be used to.

Though all food is covered on the trip, we encourage you to bring snacks and comfort foods from home for variety. Alcohol is not included in the coverage, so BYOB.

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Fresh water from Patagonian streams are some of the purest in the world and can be drunk from directly! However, our guide will be equipped with a hand-pump water filter and we also encourage you to bring your own filter if you are sensitive. Alternatively, you may purchase mineral water from local markets (although we want to decrease our load and use of disposable plastic).

Electricity and Internet

The voltage in Chile is 220 V and the plugs used are C or L. You will find limited opportunities to charge your batteries during the road trip. Please come prepared by bringing a a universal plug adapter, headlamp/flashlight, extra camera batteries, portable battery bank, and/or portable solar panel.

For cellular network service, if you choose to get a SIM card you will have pretty good coverage on some parts of the road.

WiFi is available in all cities and also in some small towns in hostels and cafes. Do not expect WiFi at campgrounds.

Weather

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Patagonia can experience four seasons in a day.

Temperatures can drop below 0°C at night in November and December. January and February are warmest, but can still turn cold on a whim. Rain is a norm, as are hot sunny days, but in general the weather is cool for avid hiking.

Below is the average monthly temperature and precipitation in Cochrane, a city central to our road trip and nestled beside Patagonia National Park, where we will spend most of our time outdoors camping and trekking.

 

What travel considerations should I be aware of?

Visa and Immunizations

Citizens of USA, Canada, Australian, and many EU countries do not need a visa if visiting for fewer than 90 days, but your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your date of arrival. Additionally, citizens of Australia and Mexico must pay a “reciprocity fee” upon arrival.

Please confirm entry requirements for your specific country. Review Chile’s requirements here.

Currently no vaccinations or medical exams are requested to enter Chile.

Money and Tipping

Local currency is the Chile Peso (CLP).

In the capital city of Santiago, foreign credit cards are readily accepted at most establishments. In smaller towns, cash is king. ATMs are readily available in cities and airports, but be wary of the various transaction and exchange fees if you prefer to withdraw cash from banks.

A service gratuity (“la propina”) of 10% is almost always requested upon payment at restaurants and cafes, and is optional but recommended.

Trek Relief does not cover tips—this is up to your discretion.

Note that bargaining is not the cultural norm.

City Transport

A good way to get around Santiago is via public transportation, particularly the subway or bus. Simply head to a metro station and purchase a Bip! card and load it with a couple thousand pesos to get you started.

To and from the airport, we recommend using Transvip to safely and securely get you to your destination. You can book in advance online (or through the mobile app), as well as upon arrival at the airport counter as you exit the arrivals gate.

Cultural Awareness

COMMUNICATION

Of the Latin American countries, Chile is rather unique in their version of Spanish. Take note of the nuances of Chilean Spanish, of which it is accented distinctively, with final syllables and “s” sounds dropped, and soft pronunciation of some consonants.

GREETINGS

When meeting and greeting, Chileans are often warm and look for reciprocation from visitors. Common greetings include a handshake, hug, or a kiss on the right cheek. Visitors should greet the head of the household or a senior individual first.

NORMS

Chileans stand physically closer to others than most North Americans or Europeans, and it is considered rude to back away.

It is also considered rude to click your fingers or beckon with an index finger.

Certain subjects are considered unacceptable for light conversation, such as politics, human rights, and comparing your own country to Chile. It is polite to talk about and show interest in family members, especially children.

 

Are you equipped and ready?

Luggage and Logistics

As space is limited for the flight to Patagonia and subsequent road trip via van, please consider carrying only what’s necessary and storing any remaining non-essential items at the hostel of the trip’s starting point (either Santiago or Coyhaique) as free secured storage is provided through the reception.

Physical Activity Level

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The physical activity level of our Patagonia trip is moderate, as we will embark on adventurous activities:

  • Day hikes: 5-12 miles per day with moderate (500-2,000 ft) elevation gain; use a light day-pack with only essentials (water and snacks, rain coat, hat, sunscreen)

  • 3-day trek: same as above, but with a medium backpack load: 10-25 lbs, including your personal tent, sleeping bag & pad, clothes, headlamp, toiletries, water and snacks.

  • Boat tour: 1 hour motorized boat tour of caves on calm lake water; no physical level required; use motion sickness remedies suggested if you are sensitive

  • Rafting: Beginners welcome; easy rafting along the Baker River. Optional activity.

Packing List

To view our suggested packing list, please click here.