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Santiago Bardotti

Country:  Argentina

Trips Run:  AR - Patagonia Explorer

What is your travel experience/background?

I'm a great traveller myself; I very much like getting in touch with places, people and new languages. I get in touch with myself in the mountains and under the open sky in the Pampas. I've taken my bicycle and travelled almost 20,000 kilometres here in South America (Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay), crossing the Andes on several occasions. Similarly in Europe I've crossed the Alps from Germany to Italy and back through the La Route des Grandes Alpes in France. I've also been to South Africa.

How long have you been leading trips?

Since 2000 I have been working in different places, always with small groups and living new exciting experiences, such as taking climbers to the camp base in Aconcagua, in a small boat in Ushuaia or in a ranch in the Ibera Wetlands leading small groups of birdwatchers. For the last five years I have spent most of the seasons in the mountains of Patagonia.

What are your favourite aspects of the trips you lead?

All the outdoor activities of course; trekking in the Tower of Payne and Fitz Roy is something I always look forward to. Nevertheless it is hard to say. Being in Patagonia is already an experience in itself and makes me happy.

What is the best thing about your job? 

Everything is new and different every time. The colours, the sights, the birds we find and of course the people. I very much like hearing their stories and the very different ways of seeing life according to their backgrounds and everything, like whether they come from a big city or from a small place, the things they have done, the places they have visited. It's another way for me to travel. I have studied psychology and philosophy so I feel at home making new friends every time and always under the best circumstances. 

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened on a tour?

We are laughing all the time. The best thing about working with British people is their sense of humour. This last November we were on the shore of Grey Lake walking in a wind of more than 60mph. We were heading for the viewpoint of the Grey Glacier: the place is amazing, full of icebergs reaching the stone beach. Suddenly Alan's hat blew off and he began to chase it, running as if he was an Olympic athlete. The wind was so hard and the hat was moving so fast that he looked like a character in a Chaplin movie. I wished I could have it on tape. It was a sprint of more than 100m. He didn't make it though. That night we were remembering and laughing about the incident and his wife Sarah said, "A hat is faster than my husband!"

What is the best place to visit in your country?

This is a really difficult question as there are highlights for all tastes. From the Iguazu Falls to the Perito Moreno Glacier, or the amazing wildlife of the Ibera Wetlands. All of these are a must. The Patagonia Explorer trip is a wonder every day. You can spend your whole life visiting all the national parks of the country as in every one there is a wonder to discover.

What is the most interesting custom in your country?

El asado: the Argentinean barbeque (the translation is not really accurate, it's better to say it in Spanish) and el mate, our national tea so to speak. The particularity of the mate is that you share it with others - it is always a social custom. You drink it in a cup made of a small pumpkin (although there are many other cups as well) and with a drinking straw.

What is the most important phrase to know?

"No me invita un mate?" Meaning "Would you invite me for a mate please?"

When do you think is the best time to visit?

Late November or early December. The colours of the late spring are great, the weather is mild and there are less people. October can be great as well but you risk the weather being colder. January and February and normally warmer and the weather is more stable. Nevertheless Patagonia is never crowded by European standards and it is known for it's unpreditable weather.

What are the most important items to pack for your tour?

Good outdoor clothing. The temperature can change quickly, up or down so having lots of layers is best. Don't forget of course the sunblock!

What is an interesting fact about the region?

The Perito Moreno Glacier has a surface as big as the city of Buenos Aires (which is populated by 4 million people!) and you have it just in front of you. It take a while to understand that the walls are as high as a 20 story building!

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