6:45 AM - When the Clouds Part
Woken up to a beautiful day. The towers are glazed in pink, snow melting like golden icing down its sides. The birds make their early morning songs from their perches upon spindly-looking trees, while every now and then there is a rustle of something moving through the fallen leaves and thickly wrapped tree roots on the ground.
7 AM - Sun Salutations and Yoga
A cluster of sleepy-eyed guests enter the Yoga Dome, spectacularly illuminated by the rising sun behind it, and then take up their positions on the floor. Yoga integral it is called, a type of yoga designed to revitalize the soul and soothe the mind, and this morning’s poses move between standing and mat poses.
8 AM - Breakfast of Champions
Most of the guests are up for breakfast, dashing quickly through the arches of the Community Dome entrance to the food. The spread is a buffet selection of pastries, cereals, fruit, eggs, vegetables, and sausages - they load up their plate quickly then take their place at their designated table. They sit according to the excursion of the day - the Fauna Trail folks chattering excitedly about the Southern Crested Caracara just witnessed beside their Dome, the Cerro Paine (Paine Hill) trekkers amping each other up about the challenging day ahead.
9:30 AM - Boxed Lunch Galore
The guests have departed, armed with their reusable lunch bags packed full of the goodies they’d chosen after breakfast (we use eco-friendly stone paper now!). There is a moment of quiet here ... and then activity continues as normal. Domes are cleaned, the shared bathrooms are returned to their gleaming glory, the compost is monitored, and the green technology checked over.
10 AM - Local School Visit
The children have arrived from Paul Harris School in Punta Arenas, along with AMA Patagonia.
They are excited to be here, beneath the endless skies of Torres del Paine, and their enthusiasm is infectious. We learn about the ecology of the Park and how fragile and co-dependent it really is, before rolling up our sleeves and begin planting the lenga trees. Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) is a mountain tree related to the birches of New Zealand and Australia that harken back to the time of the Gondwana Subcontinent. While now in September they appear like bare clusters of bark fighting the wind (known as Krumholz, German for ‘twisted wood’), come autumn they blaze across the landscape in fiery stretches of red and gold.
Originally, most of Torres del Paine was covered in lenga forest (as well as other species) but suffered after the arrival of farmers looking to make the land suitable for sheep farms, as well as the three devastating fires caused by tourists since 1985.
4 PM - Snack and Chat
The Fauna Trail folks are back and many of them have taken to their Domes in search of a good shower. All of our hot water is thanks to the pioneering green technology developed by our owners that is reliant upon solar panels and a micro-turbine (occasionally helped by propane gas). The soap, shampoo, and conditioner inside the bathroom are all made by PomPatagonia, the brand created by our very own Arancha (see below) who creates biodegradable products using local ingredients such as Calafate berry and lupine. Inside the Bar Dome, they are setting out plates of olives and local goat cheese as well as gooey, freshly-baked brownies besides the tea and coffee. Apparently, four pumas were sighted today so the group are all in very high spirits.
5 PM - The EcoTour
The transfer from Punta Arenas has arrived with a fresh load of guests eager to check in. Many of them are gushing about the view of the Domes right beneath the granite towers themselves After a quick settle into their Dome, many of them join our Chief of Social Responsibility, Arancha, for the ‘EcoTour’ around EcoCamp. Arancha is the heart and soul behind our hotel, taking care of all the aspects behind sustainability and community work (like the tree planting this morning!). The guests are interested to have a behind-the-scenes look, particularly when they learn how the toilets work and the effort we put into having such healthy compost. They are blown away to know that the entire EcoCamp uses the same amount of electricity as the average Santiago household - that is why we are innovators!
7 PM - Briefing Time
While the kitchen staff are busy putting their final touches on dinner, the Bar Dome comes to life as guests converge on the quirky, upcycled furniture. Pisco sours and platters of finger foods are distributed among everyone as each turn their attention to their guides, who at this moment are pulling out a detailed map of Torres del Paine - it’s briefing time! The guides, Felipe and Henry, explain about the next day’s weather forecast and the three excursion options - ranked by easy, medium, and hard.
"This is my favorite trip in the whole Park, with Cerro Paine," Felipe is explaining, "if you like off-the-beaten-path places, this is for you." He is referring of course to the Lazo Weber hike, and I say ‘of course’ because Felipe is a geomorphologist who gets excited over rocks. It seems there are others at the briefing who are interested also, as they ask him to elaborate on the star of the show: thrombolites.
"Very few things can live inside Sarmiento Lake because it is so salty and alkaline, with a PH of 9. But something does live there and there are only a few places in the world where you can see them. Thrombolites are literally living fossils and the first form of life on this planet. Basically, around 3.5 billion years ago groups of cyanobacteria got together to form these structures - the thrombolites - that photosynthesized to produce the first oxygen on our planet. The ones you see at Sarmiento are around 10,000 years old."
7:30 PM - Making Friends
Half an hour later and everyone is seated at the table beside the people they’d met while exploring the Park earlier that day. The meals had been chosen that morning from a choice of starters, mains, and dessert, and of course, the complimentary wine is flowing! Today my attention has been caught by the cochayuyo pebre with sopaipilla, a modernized rendition of the classic tomato salsa with fried pumpkin pastry and seaweed, and the grouper fish with mote (wheat berries). Many people have chosen the trio of chocolate for dessert, and sighs of contentment echo all around.
9 PM - Local Drinks and Ponchos
Dinner may be over but the Community Domes are still packed! The Bar is working overtime serving unique cocktails and pisco sours made with Patagonian ingredients.
Tim, our resident photographer, and video maker has set up a corner for his guitar and is singing a mix of English, Spanish, and French tunes - guests are joining in with tambourines, too!
One guest, from Canada, enters the Dome draped in a red poncho.
"I had to buy something from Patagonia!" She gushes, "I went to the Welcome Dome - I’ve had a few so I didn’t even look at the prices - and got some gifts. I love that it’s all local from the area!"
She is referring to our newest initiative, Man-Kai, which is a coalition between small-businesses from Patagonia exclusive to EcoCamp. Javiera, our Head of Experience, has just restocked the Dome with wool, magnets, hats, gloves, slippers, etc. - all bearing a label which explains the story of the person who made the product. The poncho worn by this guest contains a wooden medallion sourced from Chile’s very last Kaweskar people, who currently live to the north of Torres del Paine in Puerto Edèn.
11:30 PM - Lights Out
The guests have all made their way along the wooden platforms to their Domes, all of them tucked up cozily inside their beds. The moon is obscured by clouds, but the beauty of Patagonia’s wind is that it pushes them out of the way constantly so that its light can shine over the tops of EcoCamp’s camouflaged Domes and across to the sharp granite towers that appear to glow blue - this is Torres del Paine.
"This story has been told from the perspective of EcoCamp itself, but the reality is that all guests have a magical experience here - that is what we now want for you! To take a look at our Wildlife Safari program or the famous W or Circuit treks - all of which can include nights at EcoCamp - follow the links or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org."
-Chloe, Direct Sales Manager