Green Progress: The Erratic Rock Hostel

Torres Cartoon by Brendan van Son

Green Progress: The Erratic Rock Hostel

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About six months ago I wrote an article called “Traveling Green in ‘Brown’ Countries.”  The article was basically the culmination of a couple environmentally related frustrations I had been having in South America.  My frustrations sat not only with the local society which had yet to realize the importance of the environment, but also with the travelers who seemed to just sit back and watch it all unfold, and often participate.  It seemed only natural to me that the local tourism industry in each destination would work towards a “cleaner” local environment.  There is an obvious correlation between a local environment and the tourism industry.  A clean environment should result in a stronger local tourism industry, and more business.  So why is it that in the past 18 months it has taken me to arrive at the tiny Erratic Rock Hostel in Puerto Natales, Chile before I have found a local tourism agency that is not only pushing for environmental change, but willing to lead the cause?

Puerto Natales is the gateway to the famous Torres del Paine National Park.  The park’s natural beauty goes without saying, and the amount of people who wander through the park each day are rarely let down by the scenery laying before their eyes.  Each and every day hundreds of people enter the park, many of whom spend multiple nights trekking and camping (or staying in refuges) within the boundaries.  Of the hikers, there are few that do not know about the people at the Erratic Rock hostel (http://www.erraticrock.com/) .  Each and every day the hostel hosts an info session for those hoping to hike the park, meet other hikers, or simply rent equipment.  However, what few know walking into the 3 o’clock talk, is that this hostel is leading the “green” effort in Chilean Patagonia.

Leave no trace behind, the Erratic Rock hostel, puerto natales, chile

Leave no trace behind

Each day hundreds of people pack their way into the park carrying everything from tins of tuna to gas cannisters which boil their water and cook their meals.  It’s hard to quantify exactly how many tins of gas are consumed within the park each year, but I would guess that the number could be upwards of 50,000 to 100,000, if not more.  Instead of letting these tins gather rust in local landfills, they are now being recycled, thanks in large part to the people at the Erratic Rock hostel.

Within the hostel itself, cardboard, paper, and bottles are all recycled, among other things.  And to take things a step further the hostel has even turned old tents into shopping bags so no plastic needs to be wasted during a quick trip to the nearby supermarket.

the Erratic Rock hostel, puerto natales, chile

Erratic Rock

For the guys who run the Erratic Rock hostel, Bill and Rusty, acting within the frameworks of the hostel alone was not enough.  Recently, the hostel has received government grants which they have used to purchase shipping crates to send recycling up to Central Chile where it can be processed properly.  They have also gone as far as to go through the community offering their recycling services to other restaurants and even competing hostels.

The process of changing a region’s mentality towards simple recycling and environmentalism is not something that happens overnight.  However, the guys at the Erratic Rock are beginning to break some of the unfortunate trends.  It is a breath of fresh air, quite literally, to see after spending months in frustration as a result of the lack of progress.  And it is a welcome change to find that these members of the tourism industry in South America have decided not to use the simple excuse of “the facilities simply aren’t available” and, instead, work to put the frameworks into place themselves.

Visit the Erratic Rock

If you’re spending a night in Puerto Natales, make sure you do it at the Erratic Rock.  Beyond the environmental record when staying there you will be a part of a welcoming family that always remembers your name, and who can beat fresh homemade omeletes for breakfast each day?  When you stop in, tell them I said hi.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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13 Comments

  1. Really enjoyed reading THIS article, Brendan…If I ever get to “The Erratic Rock” Hostal, I will certainly make it a priority staying there….
    You did a great job on this piece of info…
    Keep up the good work and have fun backpackin’ and trekkin’….
    Patti thecrazychef Somewhere in Mexico

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  2. A very well written post you have got right here. You managed to really high light the important components that really matter. I really enjoy reading your site, the quality of the data is excellent along with your writing style genuinely makes it simple to digest and comprehend. Fantastic! Keep up the great work.

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  3. Thank you for the extremely informative article. I know where I will choose to stay when I travel to Puerto. I checked out their website hoping to leave them some positive feedback but couldn’t see where you could just leave a message.
    Hope you are having a wonderful time in the far south.

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  4. I understand your frustration. When I was traveling in Asia a few years ago I saw hardly any evidence of recycling or environmental protection. Glad to see there is a place in South America taking the initiative.

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  5. Sounds fantastic! Awesome pics as always. Hope you’re enjoying the South Pole for me!!!

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  6. great to see a hostel actually taking it on board to be active in preserving the environment. i have seen too many establishmetns using the whole “eco-friendly” thing as a marketing tool without actually doing anything. kudos to erratic rock, i hope their business dominates and i hope other hostels use them as a role model to follow.

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  7. Great to see a fantastic example of how local operators can really make a difference to green travel. Very jealous to hear that you are off penguin hunting at the South Pole. I will look forward to seeing the pictures!

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  8. I’ve heard that this place is AMAAAZING, def planning on heading out there

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  9. Seems the Erratic Rock Hostels rock… Why don’t tell them to present themselves for free on Traveldudes.org? They would save the 10% commission (they call it deposit) which they pay on other booking sites. If you are still there, it would be great if you could tell them. I’m sure they will appreciate it!

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  10. hola brendan….
    saludos from patagonia!! thanks a bunch for the kind words…
    a little up date is that we now receive a grant from patagonia 1% for the planet
    we´ve been able to buy 2 containers that we try to send 3 times a season to the closest
    recycle center located in puerto montt…we are also working with the local municipalidad in efforts to include more locals and education in schools and with the NAVIMAG ferry which makes the round trip puerto montt to natales once a week…
    we have a long way to go but thought you´d like hearing it´s grown since you visited!
    thanks again
    erratic rock

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    • Hey guys,
      Good to hear from you, and also glad to see that you’ve progressed things even further!!! I’m hoping to be back around next year sometime so I’ll be sure to stop in and say hi!

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