11/14/10

Home, Sweet Dome

EcoCamp Suite Dome

 "We don't want you to cause a fire", so went Rafa with his warning. Rafael, his real name, is one of EcoCamp's guides and he personally escorted me to my suite dome after arrival to let me know about certain house rules. After all, this was to be my home for the next five days at the Torres del Paine National Park. In 2005, a Czech backpacker camping in a non-designated area accidentally knocked over his stove which ignited a fire that spread to almost 15,000 hectares of beech forest. The fire crept dangerously close to EcoCamp that they evacuated guests.


Rafa wants to make sure that I know how keep the fire burning in my tent's wood stove. Cut woods ready for stoking were neatly piled nearby. But when he saw my blank face, Rafa once again showed how I should move a lever to allow air to come in or how to vent it without my tent getting all the smoke. It wasn't really rocket science but my mind couldn't focus properly - this suite dome thing just awed me the moment I entered it. I was chest thumping deep inside, if you know what I mean.


Camping is something close to my heart even if it can get rough and dirty but this one at Ecocamp truly tops it. Ever heard of glamping? In other words, glamorous camping as the girls declared on our dinner table later on. Glamping is something I have never experienced before but I'm not one to complain now about pampering in the wilderness. Talk about regular comforts at home or in any major urban hotel  and  EcoCamp has its own version. Even the likes of Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie - should they decide to try hiking for a change  from bar-hopping - might even consider staying here.

partial view of the Torres from my bed

The tents, shaped like a dome, is based on the traditional geodesic designs used by the Kawesqar, an indigenous people who used to live (long before the Europeans came) in the fjords and channels of South America's most southern tip. While this ancient nomadic tribe have animal skins covering their dwellings, the current reincarnation at EcoCamp is all about minimal impact on the environment. Energy is supplied by both micro-hydroelectric power and solar panels. All non-biodegradable wastes are brought outside the park for processing. Even  the toilet inside my tent has its own composting chamber that will process my  poop into fertilizer (I just don't want to think of it contributing into my salad!). While the  notorious Patagonia winds can exceed 180 kms/hours, I'm glad the tents are built sturdy enough not to blow me away to Antarctica.

Suite Domes
Core Domes

Once settled in my tent, Rafa invited me to join the others for dinner at the Core Domes, 3 large domes interconnected to each other, one of which is where we eat our meals. There's a very social atmosphere going on as I got myself a seat amongst complete strangers already seated. I immediately struck a conversation with the people within ear shot from me, a group from Brazil and Canada who had just finished a big day of hiking. This is their last night but I've realized that in the backpacking world, people weave in and out of each other's adventures. Who knows who I'll meet next?

Pisco sour

Dinner is usually preceded with pisco sour, a Chilean cocktail drink, on the bar area in the adjacent dome tent. For dinner, we start off with asparagus soup, really creamy and warm enough on this cold and windy evening. It was followed by the main entree: vegetable crepes that were delightfully filling. A dessert of chocolate mousse capped this wonderful meal. And of course, since we're in Chile, dinner would never have been complete without imbibing on excellent Chilean red and white wines.


Meanwhile, Rafa reappeared to tell me about the activity the next day. Usually, it's a choice of two but they only have one which disappointed me since the one I wanted wasn't offered. Anyway, I'll just go with the flow - we're doing the trip to Grey Glacier the next day. He also asked if I wanted someone to go to my tent early next morning and set the fire in my wood stove (another person does that while I'm having dinner!). Following the advice of other guests, I said yes of course - the idea of waking up to a crackling fire when it's cold outside is very appealing. To warm me further before breakfast, a thermos will also be delivered along with a selection of teas and coffee.


After dinner, we all went to the bar area for some more wine. Rafa introduced me to my trip companions the next day: Katie & Neil, a couple from the UK, and Canadians Michelle & Cynthia. Using a wall map of the park, Rafa pointed the areas we will be visiting. Except for the unavailable activity, I was very pleased at this point how EcoCamp prepares us for their excursions and allow for the social mood among its guests to prevail. Even a solo traveler like me felt never alone in the company of like-minded people.

After bidding goodnight to my new friends, I went back to my dome tent and was pleasantly welcomed by a crackling fire in my wood stove. The whole tent was warm and cozy that I just plopped down myself on  the comfy bed, lulled to sleep by the effects of Chilean wine, the sounds of a crackling fire and  the gusty winds outside. There's even a window up in the ceiling for some star gazing but I was already adrift in dreamland. Ahhh, so this is what glamping really is all about.

18 comments:

  1. My goodness, this is camping? This is not camping at all. This is indeed glamping at its finest!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! first time seeing the glamorous camping! I would like to try~~ How much is the cost?

    ReplyDelete
  3. HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLY camoteh! this is so cool!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Parang set ng sci fi movie. Cool. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. nice experience...sama ko parekoy...ganda ng lugar at sarap magcamp...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Some camping! I'm envious. What was the outside temperature?

    ReplyDelete
  7. omg...this is damn so nice... i wanna have such camping tent too!! also food and wine =p

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've always wanted to stay in a yurt. I never realized they can be so "luxurious". This is definitely my kind of camping :)

    My current fave is a Chilean red wine. Can you bring home a bottle?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Linguist-in-Waiting,
    now that I've tried it, I'd still want to do the get-rough-and-dirty camping.

    micki,
    my trip was cheaper because I won it in an auction but please check the prices at http://www.cascada.travel

    RV Escat,
    really very cool. first time I got pampered while camping.

    Rizalenio,
    oo nga ano, pero ito kasi talaga ang original shape ng mga naunang nanirahan dito.

    Moks™,
    di ko ka na yata ma-afford ito pag full price. mahal eh.

    bertN,
    daytime was fine, around 60-65 degrees but we wore layers depending on the activity we were doing. during nights, it dipped to low 40s.

    fufu,
    i'm thinking you've already considered a trip to Patagonia when you visit Chile next year.

    Photo Cache,
    oh yes, Chilean wines can be brought back home but that depends on customs allowance and applicable state laws.

    ReplyDelete
  10. oh my, dennis i am green again with envy!
    this is such a spectacular camping site!
    camping talaga ha? with all those wonderful amenities, i wouldn't mind staying there beyond 5 days, haha *parang may budget*

    those chilean bottles are winking at me.. hehe
    no, im not alcholic. i only drink occasionally but my palate knows somehow tasteful wines from those that are not.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It's really glamping adventure! hehehe how come you were just yourself? mas masarap pag may kayakap hehehe....how I wish we could try this kind of adventure parang ang sarap matulog na lang sa suite dome hehehe

    ReplyDelete
  12. got me on open mouth for a minute! my type of place. now im in envy and might stop visiting your blog. hahaha...

    great choice as always! great nomadic escapes.

    ReplyDelete
  13. harhar:0 that is one cool camping place. pait ng wine mo no? harhar.

    man, inggit to the highest level.

    ReplyDelete
  14. docgelo,
    dito yata ako naka-appreciate ng wine kasi gabi-gabi kami pinapainom. so worth it!

    Missy,
    one friend wanted to join me pero namahalan sa presyo. usually, mag-isa lang din akong bumibyahe.

    dong ho,
    EcoCamp is one of the best places to stay at Torres del Paine!

    Z Joya,
    eto na yata yung trip na halos malasing na ako sa kaiinom ng wine.

    ReplyDelete
  15. this is actually the first i've heard of glamping... when i read the prev post of your long journey there din expect you'd come across something like that set up in the national park... the rooms look pretty cosy and the dining served - thumbs up!

    ReplyDelete
  16. wow grabe ang ganda!!! unbelievable. galing ng idea. hehe
    tent style pero super comfort, convenient, and stylish. aylavet! =)

    ReplyDelete
  17. lechua,
    Ecocamp has been around for 10 years but they've managed to be so environmentally responsible. They've also been chosen by National Geographic Adventure as one of the best adventure travel companies!

    Chyng,
    in the past, akala ko, sa mga African safaris lang merong ganito na mala-luxury camping. di ko nga lang ma-afford ito, buti at nanalo ako sa auction.

    ReplyDelete
  18. panalo ang glamping! sana someday ma-experience ko. hay.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...