Fast riding on wide open grasslands without a road or house in sight just cattle, deer, guanocos and the occasional rhea on the skyline. So far after 30 rides, this is maybe my favourite one. Patagonia is a vast area partly in Argentina and partly in Chile bounded by the Andes on the west and a desert on the east. Settlement started in the early 1900’s with Europeans buying vast estancias of thousands of acres and there is still a self sufficient frontier like feel.
After two days at Huechahue, you ride to two other estancias staying two nights at each and then one night in the town of Junin. The two estancias are quite special and both have the feel of private homes. The first Estancia Cerro de los Pinos a 20 kilometre ride from Huechahue has been recently redone and it is very elegant. It felt like an 8 star hotel. Rooms are enormous – more like suites – and the managers create a house party atmosphere. Meals are elegant and the cuisine is sophisticated European style starting with tea when you arrive, through cocktails and appetizers to dinner. Lunch is often a picnic.
On our first trip there, my husband Ben and I were the only two riding one day and we rode into a grassy clearing ringed with apple trees in bloom to find a small wooden table set with china and crystal and a chef waiting to cook our steaks. It felt a little odd to have four people waiting to serve the two of us but we decided just to go with the flow and enjoy the luxury. The second estancia is Estancia Collon Co which is a refurbished estancia home and was equally luxurious and the food was wonderful. For these two places, the effort to make people truly feel like a guest in their home works amazingly well.
The horses are strong and sensible, selected for performance rather than appearance, and they have amazing endurance. Many are locally bred Criollo or part Criollo. One day you ride the horses from Cerro de los Pinos to give the Huechahue horses a day off. The saddles are either English at Cerro de los Pinos or Huechahue uses a McLellan style army tree with sheepskin on top. These are a bit like a western saddle without the horn. The double layers of sheepskin make a very comfortable but quite high seat. It makes a 14 HH horse feel like 16HH when you are swinging your leg over the saddle. Huechahue tack is rough rawhide not the polished leather you might be used to at home but it works. The style of riding is western neck reining. Tacking and untacking is done for you. Continue reading Ride Across Patagonia