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Horse Riding Discovery across the Andes

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Horse Riding Holiday

Chile & Argentina Travel Experience

Argentina & Chile, Americas
8 days
€ 1,500 combadi price

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Holiday Type
Fixed date/Solo friendly
Running Period
2013 Start Date: 23/11/2013, 03/12/2013, 19/12/2013, 26/12/2013, 2014 Start Date: 18/01/2014, 21/02/2014, 04/03/2014

The Combadi Insight:

This holiday has been tailored by a group of people who want to showcase their beautiful countriews in a way you ll never forget. A travel experience put together with our wildest dreams in mind. Ride through the Patagonian Wilderness & discover untouched Chilean & Argentine nature.

Holiday Code: Y1

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Through a stunningly beautiful, remote area of northern Patagonia along old smugglers routes criss-crossing rivers, skirting around brilliant blue lakes, riding through ancient forests. Stopping off to fish or swim in crystal clear waters…

Ride across the Andes via the pioneer trail in the rural Puelo Valley – a route once used by smugglers. An exclusive journey into hidden valleys through this rural gaucho culture, from the Chilean lake district to an Argentine national park. Enjoy the adventure long after the road has ended and the relaxation of life in pristine Patagonian wilderness.

This is a stunning ride. The pace has to be steady -there are very few places for cantering along these windy tracks and the terrain can be steep. The accommodation is shared bathrooms and quite ‘communal’, with few options for a single room.

Galapagos Islands, Peru & Amazon rain forest, Patagonia, Iguazu Falls & many other additional trips on offer. Many options to complement your riding tour including bird watching, walking, climbing & polo playing options as well as riding instruction.

Day 1

The trip will start at your hotel (in Puerto Varas, close to Puerto Montt airport – we can arrange airport transfers and hotels in Puerto Varas) where you will meet your tour leader and driver, load the minibus and drive for three hours, crossing the Valdivian forest along the Reloncavi estuary. Arriving at Lake Tagua - Tagua there is time for a picnic lunch before crossing the lake, a ferry crossing will take us to the other side where will drive for another half an hour. At this point, we will meet the horses and ‘huasos’ (local horsemen) and ride to the Puelo River. Cross to the other side of the river in a small motor boat (the horses will swim alongside) to reach our first lodgings. Once installed, guests can enjoy a delicious tea.

Timing: 4 hrs by car and approximately 2 hrs horseback.

Day 2

After breakfast and organizing the pack horses, we will start our day riding out along the Puelo River. Through unspoilt, primary ancient Forests on winding trails, a ‘wild’ trail to experience how the first pioneers were travelling in the area. Picnic lunch on our way and in the afternoon, arriving at a pioneer’s house where we spend the night, another very friendly local host will tell us about the beginning of their life in this remote area.

Timing: 5hrs horseback riding

Day 3

Today a longer day riding, sometimes along difficult terrain but the horses are sure footed and ideally suited to the area. This was the only way into this isolated and unique corner of Patagonia – on horseback or hiking. We see hardly any farms and very few people as we traverse this dramatic landscape. In the afternoon we will arrive at the shores of the Puelo River, the water is a beautiful blue colour. A motor boat will come and take us up river to a cosy cottage where we will lodge that day. The views from the balcony out over the river are spectacular.

Timing: 7hrs horseback riding.

Day 4

Today we will take just a short boat trip in order to start our full day horse riding expedition. Some fresh horses will be with us in this part of our trip. Enjoy this fantastic landscape and cross the river just as the locals do: on a public boat while the horses swim alongside. Ride into the Ventisqueros valley where we will stop on the way for lunch. In the afternoon, we arrive at a little wooden house where we spend two nights with a wonderful host family. The farmhouse is one of the very few houses in this isolated valley with the Ventisqueros glacier high above us.

Timing: 6 to 7hrs horseback riding.

Day 5

After breakfast we embark on a gentle ride, crossing the river once more to join another valley then approach the glacier. This little Valley becomes wilder and more remote, with incredible flora and no houses at all. We will arrive close to the ‘Alerces’ forest and enjoy riding alongside the river. Kingfishers are often sighted darting along above the water. Picnic lunch and ride back to our farmhouse accommodation. Later there is a chance to go for a walk around the area or simply relax with a glass of wine. Another unforgettable day.

Timing: 4 hrs horseback riding.

Day 6

Breakfast and then set off on a full-days ride towards "la Pasarela del Rio Puelo" -an important suspension bridge crucial for the communication between the local inhabitants and the outside world that we are going to cross. This area is particularly spectacular due to its high waterfalls and rapids on the fast running river. After a picnic lunch near the bridge – and a chance to swim we ride on crossing more ancient forest with huge trees before reaching the shores of Lago Las Rocas where we leave the horses and meet the motorboat for a 10 minute boat trip to a private island for a two night stay. A unique experience on this enchanting island.

Timing: 6 to 7hrs horseback riding.

Day 7

Breakfast and depart by boat to rejoin the horses. This morning we’ll enjoy 2 hrs ride visiting the Blue Lake "Lago Azul" with its crystal clear waters and great fishing opportunities. The majestic peaks and stunning landscapes will not escape your attention! Picnic and relax on the shore of the lake. After lunch our ride follows deep and narrow paths into the forest along the mountains will take us to join the south part of this lake. We ride through the fascinating typical “cold jungle”, Valdivian-type rainforest with its ancient Alerces trees (Fitzroy Cupresoide) as well as other local "giants" such as the "Coihue" and "Arrayanes" (the cold tree). After leaving the horses we will return by boat to our own island to enjoy the rest of the afternoon there strolling, relaxing on the decks or swimming.

Timing: 6hrs horseback riding.

Day 8

In the morning after breakfast we will take the boat back to where the “Huasos” and the horses will be waiting. Today we will ride until lunchtime. With passports at hand we will reach the Chilean Mountain Police Station, "Retén de Carabineros" on horseback. This leads to the border crossing, close to the edge of the Puelo River, from where there are great views of the Inferior Lake. We go through Chilean customs and immigration by horse and, once the paperwork is completed, ride between the two borders – ‘no man’s land’! We will arrive at the Argentinean post and we will leave horses and take our last boat trip into the Argentine territory. We cross Lago Puelo by boat into the National park after going though the Argentine border formalities and arriving at the pier, a vehicle will be waiting to take us to El Bolsón. Lunch at a great local restaurant and time to buy some souvenirs or explore the town. We then travel to San Carlos de Bariloche and say goodbye. (we can arrange flights, hotels and estancia stays with further riding for guests).

Timing: 4hrs horseback riding. Motorboat, 30 minutes. A private vehicle transfer to the town of El Bolsón, 20 minutes, and two more hours to the town of San Carlos de Bariloche.

Everything you have just read in the itinerary.

Do I need to be an experienced rider to join one of your tours?

Rides are divided into those for experienced riders and those for the less experienced (a large number of which are suitable for beginners.) Guests participating on the rides for experienced riders are expected to be able to canter comfortably and control a horse in open terrain at all paces; intermediate level and above. The rides for less experienced riders are adapted to allow for a slower pace and less time in the saddle per day. No riding experience is necessary.

Enjoyment from the rides can be greatly increased if you are physically fit and your riding muscles are toned. Guests are welcome to arrive before the start of a set date departure tour in order to do an extra ride with the guide.

If NON-RIDERS wish to accompany the tour, alternative activities can be organised for them and on most days everyone can meet up for mid-day meals. Please ask for further details.

Can I design my own riding tour with your help?

Private tours can be tailor-made to suit guests' needs (more days in the saddle, shorter daily rides, days out of the saddle added to the itinerary for bird watching, hiking, visiting local markets or craft villages.) For tailor-made tours, departures can be any day of the week.

What can you tell me about the horses you use and the type of ride I can expect?

The horses are mainly warm/hot blood lines (English, Arab, Pasos) crossed with Criollo (descendants of the Spanish Conquistadors' stock) - ideal for the terrain. They are specially selected, well trained and good natured. Great attention is paid to matching horse and rider and on most rides 14.2-15.2hh horses are available.

Western tack is used, South American style (US cavalry saddles with sheepskin seats provided). English saddles are normally available upon request for shorter rides but not advisable on longer rides due to the length of time in the saddle and type of terrain.

Riders normally change to fresh horses every 3 to 5 days, depending on the ride. The pace is very varied due to the great variety of landscapes. Each day there are opportunities for fast pace riding. On the last few days of the tours, much of the ride can be fast-paced, depending on guests' wishes.

All rides of more than 2 hours include regular breaks and all-day rides normally include a lunch break of approximately one hour. On the 8-day tours we ride an average of 5-6 hours per day.

Set date group departures feature no more than 10 guests per group. Private groups feature 1-14 guests. By special request, larger groups can be catered for.

Will I be accompanied by a guide?

Guests are always accompanied by a guide (bilingual: English/Spanish) who has many years experience of riding. In addition, at least one groom is present. Both guides and grooms have excellent local knowledge of the highlands of Ecuador and are expert riders. There is also additional ground staff. Professional guides speaking other languages are available on prior request.

What can you tell me about the terrain & climate I'll experience on the ride?

Most of the riding takes place above 2500 metres (on some rides we go up to 4100m on a high pass but then descend for the night) and guests sometimes feel slightly affected by the high altitude - possible breathlessness, mild headaches etc. The rides are planned so that guests can acclimatise accordingly. While the horses will be doing most of the work, guests should check with their doctor beforehand as high altitude may be inadvisable for certain medical conditions.

During the day, the temperatures can rise to 28C although most days start with a crisp 6-10C and the night-time temperature can drop to 2C. At night around the crater lakes, the temperature can drop to freezing. This temperature change is most marked from June to November. From December to May the days remain cooler (25C) and the nights not quite as cold. In the rainy season (October to May in most areas) the rain does not fall daily and is hardly every prolonged. Afternoon showers occur but by then the day's ride is over. The strong possibility of heavy afternoon rains make camping inadvisable in the months of May and October so alternative itineraries are offered. Rain ponchos are available for each guest.

N.B Due to the altitude and terrain, there is a weight restriction for riders. We are unable to accept riders of over 85KG and will apply this rule. On a few rides the weight limit is lower. Please consult the details regarding each ride.

What kind of food can I expect on the tour?

Whether staying in a hacienda, hostal or country ranch, food is hearty, filling and not over-spiced. Dishes are international with the options of choosing a traditional local dish. Delicious tropical fruit such as papaya, mango and custard apple are often available. At dinner, the starter is often a hearty highland soup made with prime local ingredients including beans, pulses and vegetables.

Picnic lunches are freshly cooked and never consist of just a sandwich. Guests are offered a mixture of traditional Western food alongside local dishes (such as empanadas - tasty savoury turnovers stuffed with meat or chicken.)

What do I need to bring with me? Do I need any special equipment?

We provide the following: riding helmets upon request (but we do recommend that you bring your own), ponchos, saddlebags, chaps (available on prior request.)

A vehicle brings on guests' belongings to the Hacienda/campsite (on some tours, pack animals are used.)

All bed linen and towels will be provided on the tours except when camping. On the 'adventurous' tours, guest must provide a small towel for camp and their own 4-season, mountaineering sleeping bags as overnights are spent at high altitude and temperatures are normally just above freezing (given prior notice we are able to rent sleeping bags and inner cotton liners for guests.)

Following a confirmed booking, Ride Andes will supply a full kit list and can provide further information regarding what you might want to bring with you on your visit.

What additional costs are involved in the price of the tour?

There are very few expenses not included in the overall price of the trip. Guests will need to bring money for:

  • Soft drinks & alcohol (juices and water are provided while riding.) Apart from at the haciendas, where the prices tend only to be slightly below European/North American prices, the cost of drink is generally speaking cheaper than at home.
  • sundry expenses such as telephone calls and laundry bills.
  • discretionary tips
  • souvenirs (Panama hats, wool jumpers, rugs and many other crafts.)
  • N.B. credit cards are only accepted in large stores and finer restaurants and can attract a surcharge.

Before departure, it is essential that guests check with the relevant embassy/consulate in their home country concerning visas and up-to-date entry requirements. Ride Andes is not responsible for ensuring guests fulfil entry requirements.

Guests are responsible for having an adequate, valid insurance policy including cover for all the sporting activities that they are likely to participate in. Appropriate medical insurance is obligatory.

It is understood by Ride Andes that guests are in a suitable condition to partake in a riding tour, are not riding against any medical advice and that guests know of no reason why they should not be participating in such a tour. Guests will be required to sign a waiver of liability at the start of the tour.

It is essential to consult your doctor or an appropriate vaccination/health centre for up-to-date information. No vaccines are currently required to enter Ecuador except if you have visited a country which has yellow fever, in which case a vaccination and vaccination certificate are required. Guests travelling to certain parts of the jungle or the coast will need, for example, malaria pills.

Appropriate medical insurance is mandatory and the responsibility of each guest/booking agent. It is the responsibility of the individual guest/booking agent to ensure that participants have the necessary riding skills to take part in the tour chosen. Guests are strongly advised to wear their riding helmets while riding. Guests will be required to sign a responsibility release before starting a tour.

Surely , if at the end of a holiday you feel you could do it all over again without a second though or break, it's because it was just perfect. Riding through the Puela Valley in the South of Chile and into Argentina was just that, perfection. Everyday brought new adventures and spectacular scenery in this magic and remote area. Our horses, ‘baqueanos’ ( cowboys) and organizers were there to guide us up and down mountains and across rivers, lakes and valleys, I don't think I can exceed the wonders of this ride, but I'm going to try and match with another adventure with Ride Andes. Our week in Ecuador exceeded expectations in every way. The horses were a perfect fit, the terrain was varied, and the sights along the way were striking…’ Robert

Even by Ride Andes standards this trek was remote. We rode into another world – where the water in the turquoise rivers tasted (almost!) better than the Chilean wine clinking on the pack ponies, where the road had ended three days ride ago and the condors had no competition from planes in the spotless sky. As always, Sally had found us diverse and unexpected places to stay, from a pioneer’s wooden house overhanging the moonlit river to a deluxe cabin complete with French cuisine on an island in the lake. The courtesy and charm of the people we met in this pioneering land was only surpassed by the perfect manners of our glossy Criollo horses! We were heartbroken on the last day, as we climbed aboard the boat that would take us into Argentina, to see our wonderful horses and vaqueros cantering homewards across No Man’s Land and into the cloud forest. Karen

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