Favorites of Patagonia: Pangal Andrade

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By Sofía Anich
Pangal Andrade, above all things, is a traveler. Since he was a child, his family instilled in him the value of knowing his country and Chilean Patagonia was one of their top destinations. Since then, he has explored all over the region, often going to places that are remote or off the beaten track.
In 2011, Pangal became famous in Chile after participating in the television reality show "Año 0" and in 2013 and 2014 he was a co-star of the Chilean television program "La Odisea (The Odyssey)” in which they went on extreme adventures in Patagonia, as well as the Amazon, testing their survival skills and practicing extreme sports. 
As an outdoor athlete, Pangal has competed in four world rafting championships. He is also firmly an environmentalist, and has built a completely sustainable home for himself in Cajon del Maipo made from recycled materials. 
Here are Pangal Andrade’s favorites in Chilean Patagonia. 
What was your first trip to Patagonia like? 
Our parents always taught us about our country. When I was 14 we went to the Aysén region. That was the first trip when I discovered the beauty of Chilean Patagonia.  I saw Villa O’Higgins, Caleta Tortel. I remember my impression of how beautiful, and how welcoming the landscape was, the amount of freshwater, the different animals, it was really beautiful.

And when I turned 16 I went to work as a porter in Torres del Paine. My uncle has a hotel called Ecocamp, which is set in charming domes. I recall doing the O circuit with 42 kilos on my back. We had to bring the tourists down the mountain with their backpacks and set up the camp. I also guided the W circuit a few times. 
Pangal Andrade in Torres del Paine National Park. Pangal Andrade in Torres del Paine National Park.

"We suddenly saw footprints and among the trees there were some wild cows, covered in hair, and they had made a track for us and so we managed to reach the river."

What do you also have with you in your backpack? 
I can’t live without my leatherman. It’s a multi-tool, it has pliers, a pen-knife, a screwdriver, absolutely everything on it. One always has to plan for the worst, and if something happens to us? The leatherman might save your life, you just need to be imaginative. 

Your favorite encounter with an animal?
It was in Yendegaia, in Tierra del Fuego. When the cows go into the mountains, they become wild and don’t come back. They get hairy, really hairy. It was snowing and we’d been walking for days with very little food. It was just my cousin and I, and in four hours we’d only advanced 300 meters. It was hopeless, until we suddenly saw footprints and among the trees there were some wild cows, covered in hair, and they had made a track for us and so we managed to reach the river. Instead of advancing another 300 meters, we rapidly traveled 10 kilometers. It was thanks to these wild animals that we were able to get out of a rough patch. 
Pangal at Tierra del Fuego. Photo: Jaime Kunstmann Pangal at Tierra del Fuego. Photo: Jaime Kunstmann

"And I asked him there: Don Heraldo, why do you live so remotely? He looked me in the eyes and said: He who doesn’t travel doesn’t expand the homeland.”

The lodging where you have felt most at home?
If I had to choose a place where I felt very comfortable and relaxed, aside from hotels, it was in Cochrane. I once made a television program called “La Odisea” and we went to all these extreme places searching for the oldest colonists. Every time I met a colonist, I would ask them: Why do you live so remotely?” I was never satisfied with the response. And one day in Cochrane we went to see the most remote settlers, we were walking for three days. We arrived at a little house in the middle of nowhere and saw this lone gaucho, Don Heraldo Real. He was killing cows and he asked us to help him, it was crazy. 

We went in the house and despite having so little he gave us a mate (a local tea). When we sat down to talk to him, I felt a sense of tranquility, a quietness. And I asked him there: Don Heraldo, why do you live so remotely? He looked me in the eyes and said: “He who doesn’t travel doesn’t expand the homeland.” And I finally felt the satisfaction of the response I had been searching for. 

A non-popular tourist destination that everyone should know?
Madre de Dios. If one day there was a boat that ran tourist trips there, it would be incredible. First of all, because there are various travel weeks. Madre de Dios is honestly like another planet. You don’t feel connected to Earth, there are these gigantic mounds of limestone carved into the landscape, which are islands, which you explore by boat and look up at them and see staircases engraved into them. We got off and walked up literal stairs formed by water erosion. It was a landscape that you don’t see anywhere else in the world. 

Your most memorable trek in Patagonia?
It has to be the crossing from Lake Tagua Tagua to Cochamö. It takes three days of walking to arrive and you see these gigantic thousand-year old alerce trees. They are so big that you couldn’t wrap five people around them. I have an image of that trek that I’m never going to forget in a place called El Arco, anyone can visit it. It’s located on the way up the mountain from Cochamó. There’s a perfect stone arch there and a cascading waterfall, and in the middle of the arch there is an amazing alerce tree. It’s one of the most beautiful treks that I’ve ever done. 

The best cold plunge?
I think the best cold plunge was in a glacier. I threw off my boots and climbed into the ice, and immediately felt 20 years younger. I can’t recall exactly where it was, but it was inside Queulat National Park. Swimming in ancient water recharges your energy. 
Pangal recommends camping near lakes and rivers. Pangal recommends camping near lakes and rivers.

Your favorite dish in Patagonia?
I’m a sucker for spit-roasted lamb. Whichever place in Patagonia that cooks you lamb is exquisite. Accompanied with freshly made bread or fried pastries, with chimichurri. Patagonian lamb has no competition. 

Lamb is exquisite in Cochrane, incredible in Torres del Paine, and in Tierra del Fuego, it’s at another level. But it has to be roasted on an open fire, not in an oven. Where you can take a piece with your fork, and have a quick bite, then take the bottle of chimichurri, chuck some on and eat it, that’s the best lamb. 

The best place to camp?
That’s a difficult question, because there are so many beautiful places to camp. For me the best places in Patagonia are those which are close to a lake or a river. In Cochrane, there are beautiful CONAF camping sites, and in Tierra del Fuego there are also incredible places. 

I can’t pick a campsite because I am in love with all these places, but for me it has to be near water because in the morning you can come out of your tent and dive straight into the lake, which is the most incredible experience.