Latin America Adventure – GEAR we used and why

As mention in my previous post on Latin America, Mr K and I went on a long vacation to South America earlier this spring. Turns out a few friends have been asking us what gear to bring with us since it is indeed a very different climate from tropical Singapore and it’s a long trip so travelling with a compact and smart wardrobe is required.  We covered an area from the end of Chile, Patagonia to Havanna, Cuba so all in all the temperatures ranged around 30 degress. Mostly we were focussed on being waterproof and windproof – yet being light, durable and …. haha… to look stylish too!

Mr K and I both have snowboarding gear so we have our snow pants and jackets. But they are very bulky…. we decided against bringing that because it’s not something that are thinnish layers we can take off an pack away easily.

I researched on gear quite extensively in SG because well… in short, there ain’t much of the outdoor stores we see back home like Blacks, Ellis Brigham, Millets, Snow & Rock, Patagonia and a multitude of other special boutiques for snow, mountaineering, camping etc.  In Singapore… the concentration of such shops appears to be in Novena Square – around 5 shops.  There you’ll find ‘Saloman, Outdoor Life, X boundaries  and a few others…  … Sadly most of them are twice the price of that in the UK. Sizes are limited too since… frankly we’re of very average asian sizing so they tend to run out of S and XSs. Pffff……

So off to the internet it was for me… research, buy and send it to my family in the UK (since we had to stop in London anyways)….. we figured it’s cheaper and better that way or for really important stuff, send it to Singapore so we can try it and return if it we had any problems.  I discovered a WONDERFUL BRAND called Norrona by recommendation from staff at an outdoor store based near Preston, UK.  I’ve never heard of them before and wasn’t too keen to take the risk with a brand I’ve not heard of especially since it was not cheap.  However….. I can’t express how impressed we were of this brand not just because the quality was really good (we wore our jackets every day we were there!). But their design and forward thinking company philosophy tells you … these guys KnOW nature and they LOVE being right in it!  Their gear design, function, quality, level of detail is frankly…. another level.  They would have thought of little things that would make the world a bit better for you when you are walking against the wind at 60mph…. with rain coming at you at right angels… you will find their little head adjustment strapper to hold your hood up…. a real godsend….  ** two thumbs up **

I managed to find a stockist of Norrona with Tamarack – a family business run up north in the UK. The chap was really helpful and he had pretty much all the sizes and designs we needed. What they didn’t have in stock, they ordered from Norrona HQ and restock within a week.  A bonus was that we bought the things from him UK VAT free 🙂 hehe… always good when VAT is 20% but it did incur a shipping cost…

When you are thinking about what gear you’d need, my advice would be prioritise them so you list out the ‘key, must have’ gear vs. nice to haves. It’s easy to get carried away and buy a lot of stuff when in reality, it’s going to be 3 weeks of your life trekking one of the most beautiful places on Earth then you’ll back back to reality… work etc. So unless you feel you’ll get due mileage from the gear, be mindful of what’s to splurge on vs. what to borrow and get by.  For us, waterproof jacket, trousers (your outer shell) and boots were THE priority. Hence we spent more to get the better stuff.  But honestly… we wore them every day and just changed the inner layers. For boots  – you must really be able to try them on before you buy so we went with whatever we could find in Singapore.  We were pleased to find ‘Garmont’ which is an Italian brand that specialises in Alpine gear actually.

So.. our gear line up is as follows:

His

  • Norrona Bitihorn – waterproof trousers with 3/4 zip off
  • Norrona Falkentind – waterproof and windproof jacket
  • Garmont Vetta Boots – extremely comfortable, no broken toe nails at all 🙂 We bought these are a store in Singapore.. inside Novena. It’s called X Boundaries – the staff were really nice and helpful. We recommend them if you are in SG.
  • Thermals – get the ones made from merino wool as they breath better. Several will be required.
  • Get nice thick socks – trust me… they make a difference when it’s -10 degrees at the top of the Torres Del Paine.

Hers

  • Norrona Trollvegens – warm thermal tights, super comfy… I wore these as inner layers with waterproofs on the outside
  • Norrona Falkentind – waterproof and windproof jacket
  • Norrona Navrik warm 3 fleece. This was really useful indeed. I even wore it whilst in London as it was really cold back in April 2012.
  • Garmont Tower Boots– extremely comfortable especially as I have a weak left ankle… these are good ankle supports for all the uphill and unevent rocky surfaces you’ll encounter on the treks and good also for horse riding. We bought these in Singapore 🙂 X Boundaries – They are the only distributors in Asia….. none in Malaysia….. I wanted to get my friend Z to buy them as he was going to the Antarctic for a shoot but alas, he had no time to come over to try them on.

Let me end with this little picture of our boots at the top Winya Wayna, part of the Machu Picchu Trail.

winya wayna

Our reliable boots – stood the test of machu picchu trail @ winya wayna

Hope this helped whomevers doing research for similar travels! 🙂  Enjoy planning for your trip!

Ciao,

PT.

Latin America Adventure – first stop, Patagonia.

It’s been a good few months since my last update because…… I’ve been super busy exploring, eating, shooting, cooking. Finally,  I am back to home base and will share some of my experiences.

This March, we travelled to Patagonia, Lake Titicaca and Havana in Latin America – it’s super far from Singapore hence, previously we’ve always waited till we go back to London to make this trip but alas, it seems we’ll be in SG for a few more years yet. Thus, our epic journey begins.

Our journey highlights is as follows:

  1. London -à Patagonia-à Cusco and Macchu Picchu, Peru-à Havana, Cuba -à London.

Perhaps this may be useful for people who may be planning similar trips:

Flight/Transit path:

  1. Fly from SG to London
  2. London to Madrid, Santiago and then to Punta Arenas
  3. Explora pick us up at PA airport to transfer to the Torres Del Paine National Park. Explora is the only lodge that operates within the park so it’s a real treat.
  4. Road transfer from Torres Del Paine to Puerto Natales – stay in The Singular.
  5. The Singular, transfer to Punta  Arenas, fly to Lima via Santiago.
  6. Stay overnight in Lima in the art and culture district in Second Home by Lillian Delphin – daughter of the Peruvian famous art sculpture.
  7. Lima to Juliaca airport for a land transfer to Lake Titicaca, stay at The Titilaka
  8. Oriental Express train from Puno to Cusco
  9. Stay in The Garden Hotel in Cusco, visit Sacred Valley, Pisac and Cusco city.
  10. Hike Machu Picchu with Llama Path
  11. Fly from Lima to Havana, stay at Casa Diana
  12. Fly from Havana back to London.

The first of the series of write ups will be of our experience with Explora in Patagonia.  After about 30hours of flights, transits etc since leaving London, we arrived at the Explora lodge, Salto Chico.

Salto Chico - Explora Lodge

Salto Chico – Explora Lodge

The Explora lodge is a pioneering tourist concept based on sustainable, luxury travel experiences.  I first heard of this from a friend, S and A who had stayed with them 10 years ago for their honeymoon! I was pleased they were still around, in fact, flourishing!

We had elected to stay here for 4 days and 3 nights with daily excursions arranged for us based on a selection offered. The lodge operates like a well oiled machine, young good looking guides who speak often fluent English will discuss your plans and arrange with you the night before.

The meals were really quite delicious and international. The matre de is a wonderful lady named Rosario whom it turns out was a little star struck when she found out who Ken Duncan was (famous Australian landscape photographer who has landed early one morning unannounced and caught Rosario off guard. She wanted to shoo him out as he was not a guest at the lodge!). When we told her who he was and showed her his works…. she turned  bright red and all of a sudden, schoolgirl shyness came about…. was just wonderful to witness! A genuine group of guests that caused a real stir of excitment especially amoung the young guides were the  Louis Vuitton  PR team of stylist, make up artist, models and directors as they were filming for a new menswear ad from Salto Chico. Alas… it was menswear so only male models…. much to the disappointment of the guides!

Here are just a couple of pictures of what we saw during our wonderful stay at the Explora……our highlight has to be trekking part of the W circuit, heading 10KM uphill to the Torres Del Paine base camp (last photo). And shoot and trek session around the national park grounds with Oso where we saw beautiful fauna, guanachos,  several Condors, various angles of Cuernos del Paine (Horns), Torres Del Paine (Towers), Sarmiento Lake and Lake Sofia. We even spotted a few flamingos but alas, too far for us to capture….  My advice? Go and see it for yourself with your own eyes. Pictures really can’t do it justice.

Explora near Pingo

Full Rainbow capture – Explora

Waterfall in Rio Del Paine in Torres Del Paine

Waterfall in Rio Del Paine in Torres Del Paine

The Base Towers – part of the W trek