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Argentina - Trans Andes ride

Argentina, South America
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    From Argentina to Chile through the Andes of Patagonia – ride summary

    This riding adventure begins in Argentina and crosses the Chilean border using the remote Vuriloche pass. The landscape we pass through on our way to the Pacific Ocean is one of shimmering blue lakes, glacial rivers, ancient forests, piping hot springs, and remote farmsteads several day’s ride from civilisation, with the snow capped Mt Tronador and her 7 hanging glaciers forming a dramatic backdrop to our adventures.

    The route incorporates the best components of our previous expeditions through the Andes, and promises to be an unforgettable journey through a unique landscape, unblemished by the passage of time.

    The vast wilderness of Patagonia has held a magical allure for travellers ever since this Magellan recounted tales of his epic voyage of the fourteenth century. The landscape remains wild, desolate and stunningly beautiful, and to ride amongst its mountains, steppes and lakes is an exhilarating experience. Following  several research visits to Patagonia, we offer two unique mobile rides that start in Argentina, and cross the Andes mountains into Chile using remote passes far from civilization.

    The only other people that guests are likely to encounter during these rides are a few subsistence livestock farmers that eek a living from the rugged terrain, completely cut off from the outside world. These rides traverse some of the most spectacular scenery in South America, an area of lakes, mountains, and seldom visited hidden valleys that lie between the alpine settlement of Bariloche and the Pacific Ocean in Chile.

    The cost of these itineraries depends upon the size of your group – these are unique adventures, and there are no set departure dates other than the annual ride through the Andes organised by Wild and Exotic in February each year. Please contact us to arrange your personalised ride through the Patagonian Andes, which can include a combination of both itineraries described in detail below. Wild and Exotic also offer mobile rides through the Patagonian steppes, and exciting estancia based riding adventures at Estancia Huechahue.

    From Argentina to Chile through the Andes of Patagonia – sample itinerary

    This riding adventure begins in Argentina and crosses the Chilean border using the remote Vuriloche pass. The landscape we pass through on our way to the Pacific Ocean is one of shimmering blue lakes, glacial rivers, ancient forests, piping hot springs, and remote farmsteads several day’s ride from civilisation, with the snow-capped Mt Tronador and her 7 hanging glaciers forming a dramatic backdrop to our adventures. The route incorporates the best components of our previous expeditions through the Andes, and promises to be an unforgettable journey through a unique landscape, unblemished by the passage of time.

    Day 1: You will reach London Heathrow (LHR) under your own arrangements in time to check in to your night flight to Buenos Aires.

    Day 2: On arrival into Buenos Aires in the morning you will be met and transferred to the Loi Suites hotel, located in the fashionable and exclusive Recoleta area of Buenos Aires. Remainder of day at leisure to explore the fascinating and beautiful city of Buenos Aires. Overnight Loi Suites. Dinner this evening according to your own arrangements.

    Day 3: After breakfast you will be transferred to the domestic airport for the flight to Bariloche. On arrival you will meet your guide, and transfer to Los Baquearnos on the shores of Lago Gutierrez where you will receive your saddlebags, ponchos and other equipment. You will set off on our Argentine horses towards Lake Mascardi, where you will break for a picnic lunch. After a further three hours riding you will reach the vista point overlooking Lake Mascardi, with views to Pampa Linda and the distant snow-capped Mt Tronador. You will ride down steep paths through bamboo-like coligue cane to camp on the north shores of Lake Mascardi.

    Day 4: After breakfast you will continue the ride, first riding along the edge of the lake, and then following the Rio Manso upstream. This river emerges from the huge glaciers that characterise the Eastern face of Mt Tronador, and you will ford its creamy white waters many times during the three-hour ride to the Pampa Linda Inn. The ride also passes through secluded glades and across sweeping alluvial plains rich with beautiful native flowers such as the orange Chilean lily, blue lupins and clumps of wild fuchsia. This path is part of the old Indian road leading to the Vuriloche pass into Chile, first discovered in the 15th century by Spaniards hunting for Indians for the slave trade. After being closed to foreigners for 200 years the Jesuit missionaries attempted to re-open it, however local inhabitants ensured that the pass remained secret by murdering those who discovered its whereabouts. By the time of colonization in the 17th century, the Jesuits realised that the Indians were using an easy passage across the Andes, because every year before winter they appeared with guanaco skins from the Patagonian windy steppes. You will spend tonight at Pampa Linda Inn, with magnificent views of Mount Tronador.

    Day 5: Today fresh horses are ridden up the steep winding path that leads to the rocky slopes of Mt Tronador. As the altitude increases the huge trees become shorter, until they give way to stunted shrubs and eventually no vegetation at all. After a picnic lunch overlooking a glacier and the waterfalls that plunge dramatically off its face, you may leave your horse in the care of a gaucho and walk up beyond the snow line to the tiny Otto Mailing mountain hut that climbers use as a base to tackle Tronador’s 3478 metre peak. Pause here to savour a well-deserved cold beer before heading out across the snow for a closer look at the magnificent glacier. After returning to Pampa Linda there may still be time to visit a black glacier, and for the energetic a brisk twenty-minute walk to where the main waterfall crashes violently against ice and rock after a fall of several hundred feet. Overnight Pampa Linda Inn. 

    Day 6: Today all traces of civilization are left behind during the long ride into Chile through the Vuriloche pass. The trail first crosses the Manso River, and then heads south through local coihue forest and thick canes before picking up the course of the tiny Cauquenes River, whose source lies within the swamps of the Mallin Chileno – the boggy meadow. The path twists steeply further and further uphill, beneath trees festooned with eerie beards of lime green lichen, before crossing the watershed into Chile at an altitude of 1454 metres. Shortly after emerging from the lenga trees riders are faced with a wide expanse of soft ground that comprises the boggy meadow – beyond lies a small wooden hut and customs control. After a picnic lunch, and clearing immigration the ride continues around the shoulder of the mountain into a remote and beautiful valley beneath Glacier Blanco. Tents are pitched amongst the wild strawberries close by Huenchupan’s hut, named after an Indian who once farmed this forgotten land.  Dinner is prepared over a campfire as the setting sun illuminates Mt Tronador’s white pinnacle – Tronador means thunder in Spanish, and the noisy rumble of distant avalanches is a feature of this campsite. The horses are driven back to Pampa Linda by our Argentine gaucho and his pack of dogs. At some stage in the evening the Chilean gauchos emerge from the valley below, leading the smaller Chilean horses to be used for the remainder of the journey. Overnight in tents.

    Day 6: After breakfast of piping hot porridge the ride heads down the Rio Blanco valley, and a steep and twisty descent to ford the fast flowing Rio Traidor below. Lunch is taken at an enchanting wooden farmhouse, two-day journey on horseback from civilisation. Enjoy delicious homemade bread, fresh pasta and local wine, and afterwards relax beneath the shade of the apple trees. Within an hour of leaving this farm, riders must dismount in order to negotiate “La piedra del Buitre”, a treacherous rocky slope, which the clever ponies scramble over like mountain goats. You continue to the junction of Rio Esperanza and Rio Blanco, before arrival at La Junta farmhouse in time to enjoy an asado style barbeque prepared by the farmer and his family. The highlight of a stay here is a visit to the natural thermal baths, where piping hot waters pour out of the cliff face into deep pools besides the Rio Esperanza. Immerse yourself in nature’s hot baths then plunge into the glacial cold waters that flow only feet away. You can choose between spending the night in tents, or in a specially converted barn.

    Day 7: Today is a non-moving day given over to relaxation and leisure. Depending on weather conditions you may choose between relaxing amidst the glorious scenery of La Junta, enjoying the hot spring baths or alternatively an exploratory ride of La Esperanza valley. You may ride in a southeasterly direction to search for the forgotten pass into the Cochamo valley, through a landscape of magnificent Alerces forests, and break for a picnic lunch in wild and remote surroundings. After returning to base, you can choose between spending the night in your tent, or the specially converted barn.

    Day 8: Today we begin with a traditional Chilean breakfast inside the family farmhouse before setting off for Cayuthue Lake. You will either ford the Esperanza River and ride down the north bank of Rio Blanco valley, in which case you will have to re-cross a deep gorge further downstream using a narrow bridge that straddles a steep and rocky canyon, or alternatively follow the sunlit route down the south bank. Later you descend to the Rio Bandurrias and enter a landscape of wild Valdivian cold rain forest, characterised by gigantic ferns and dense green foliage. Lunch at Bandurrias, home to senor Velasquez and his family. The ride passes through deep cuttings as it meanders down a precipitous trail hundreds of years old towards the Rio Blanco, but before reaching this river we turn eastwards up a side valley. The trail here provides challenging riding – both horses and their riders will have to proceed carefully and slowly to negotiate the various obstacles in their path. Afterwards you arrive at the Cayuthue valley and set up campsite besides the beautiful Cayuthhue Lake.

    Day 9: After breakfast you set off for the last leg of our riding adventure, riding down the valley towards Lake Cayuthue, which lies in the crater of an extinct volcano and is reached by climbing a steep pass through dense cold rainforest. You will enjoy a picnic on the shores of the lake before riding northwards for a further hour to the Todos los Santos Lake where you will celebrate the end of our epic journey through the mountains, and bid goodbye to the horses that have carried you so well. We then travel by boat down the Cayuthue fjord, which affords stunning views of the Osorno Volcano, before arriving at Hotel Petrohue, which lies at the foot of this volcano and besides the Petrohue River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean at the northern end of the Reloncavi Fjord. Overnight Petrohue hotel.

    Day 10: Transfer to Bariloche airport in time to check in for afternoon flight to Buenos Aires. On arrival you will be met and transferred to the Loi Suites hotel in Recoleta for an overnight stay.

    Day 11: Under your own arrangements you will transfer to the international airport (EZE) in time to check in to British Airways afternoon flight home.

    Day 12: The British Airways flight arrives at London Heathrow early in the morning. End of Wild and Exotic services.

    Notes: The price of this itinerary is based on a minimum of 6 participants. The price is inclusive of all activities described, together with full board and lodging, based on two people sharing, except at the Loi Suites Hotel in Buenos Aires where the rate is bed and breakfast only. The price does not include items of a personal nature, gratuities, and visa fees.

    A single supplement applies for guests requiring their own accommodation. Tented accommodation is based on two guests per tent. Guest’s tents will be numbered and you will have the same tent throughout the ride. A camp assistant will be on hand to put up tents and wash up cutlery etc. after meals. Guests will be provided with sleeping bags, ponchos and waterproof trousers at the start of the ride.

    As ATOL license holders (#6445) we can book seats on most major airlines at competitive prices. We are able to make the booking (and fix the best price, less taxes and fuel charges) up to a year in advance with payment not normally due until 8 weeks before departure – this means that we can release your seats at anytime up until payment is due without penalty.

    Please note that visitors to Argentina from the UK do not currently require a visa.

    Neither Wild and Exotic nor the operators or suppliers can accept any responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or unforeseen circumstances such as changes, disruptions or delays to airline flights for whatever reason. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which on the general info tab.


    Wild & Exotic fact sheet for the Trans Andes ride through Patagonia 

    Accommodation: Both itineraries feature hotel and inn accommodation at the start and finish of each ride, but the remote and inaccessible wilderness of the Andes Mountains necessitates some nights in tents (dome mountain-type 2 or 3 man tents with fly windows to accommodate two guests per tent), which are transported by packhorses that accompany the ride. Some nights are also spent in rustic shelters or remote farmhouses along the way, and guests are sometimes entertained to dinner and breakfast by the owners.

    Children: We may accept children on mobile rides at our discretion, however they must be competent riders. There are no discounts for children.

    Clothing List: A separate clothing list will be sent on request, and with all booking forms. As a general guideline you should include thermal underwear, and a polar fleece pullover or jacket. Trousers should be comfortable for walking and riding, and gaiters or half-chaps are recommended. Footwear should be comfortable for walking and riding, and leather soled jodhpurs are not really suitable – muckers or similar are ideal. A wide brimmed hat that offers protection from both sun and rain is especially useful.

    Equipment: All necessary camping gear is provided for mobile rides in Patagonia, including tents, sleeping bags and mats, cutlery, and waterproof saddle bags, ponchos and leggings. As everything required for the journey is carried by packhorses, there is limited packing space. Guests carry personal possessions required for the duration of the ride in waterproof saddlebags, approximately 12″ x 9″ x 4″in size. There is enough room for a change of clothing, toilet articles, a small towel, spare shoes, water bottle,  torch, camera and book etc. Jackets and raincoats can also be tied to the back of the saddle.

    Getting there: All international flights to Argentina arrive at Ezeiza (EZE) airport, in Buenos Aires. Connecting domestic flights to Bariloche in Patagonia depart up to three times daily from the Jorge Newbery airport in Buenos Aires. At least two and a half hours should be allowed for transfers between domestic and international airports in Buenos Aires, which are normally arranged on guest’s behalf by Wild and Exotic.

    Health: There are no poisonous snakes or disease carrying insects in the area. No inoculations are required for a trip to Patagonia. Wasps can represent an occasional hazard, and guests are encouraged to pack anti histamine cream.

    Insurance: Adequate travel insurance for all our riding adventures in Patagonia is compulsory.

    Language: Spanish is the national language of Argentina. Many people speak English, but not fluently. The head guide on Patagonian mobile riding holidays always speaks English.

    Location: Patagonia is the name given to the southern region of Argentina and Chile and extends from the Rio Negro province in the northern Argentina, down to the barren lands of Tierro del Fuego in the South. This vast wilderness spans the snow-capped Andes Mountains between the rugged Pacific coastline in the west, and the South Atlantic in the East. Our mobile rides through the Andes mountains take place in the stunning lake and mountain scenery to the west of Bariloche, an alpine town in the province of Rio Negro. This region features immense mountain forests, powerful rivers, and sparkling lakes – a spectacularly remote and wild landscape that is completely untouched by the hand of man.

    Meals: The inns and hotels featured provide three course dinners in the evening, using local produce with an emphasis on beef, for which Argentina is justly famous. Breakfasts are usually continental and consist of coffee or tea, orange juice, pastries (local croissants), cereal and yoghurt. Food at campsite is prepared over an open fire, typically a delicious stew in the evening, or an asado barbeques – the gaucho’s traditional way of cooking succulent lamb. Breakfast at camp includes piping hot porridge and cream. Lunches are picnics with cheese, ham, fruit, confectionaries etc. We carry copious quantities of red and white wine on all rides, as well as local whiskey and vodka. In most mountain areas the stream and lake water is clean, pure, and safe to drink, however guests should first check with their guide. Buenos Aires is a gourmet paradise, with numerous excellent restaurants offering diverse and interesting menus.

    Medical and safety: There is a malaria risk from October to May in a tiny strip of Argentina territory bordering Bolivia, but no risk whatsoever in Patagonia. Immunizations are not required for entry into Argentina and Chile, or for re-entry back into North American and European countries.

    Money: The currency is the Peso. At present the exchange rate is oscillating wildly. US Dollars are accepted nearly everywhere and are easily exchanged. Exchange rates for other currencies can be very bad. We suggest changing US$200 on arrival and also asking for US$50 worth of pesos in small change.

    Non-Riders: We are happy to arrange walking and trekking alternatives along the same remote routes that we use during the riding journeys.

    Riding Ability: You should be fit enough to ride between 4 and 6 hours a day, with a maximum of 8 hours in some programmes. At times it may be necessary to ride up and down very steep slopes. Some walking on foot may be necessary over very rough or steep terrain.

    Season: We offer rides from November until the end of March. As this is the southern hemisphere, these months represent summer. The very best time to ride across this part of the Andes is from the beginning of February to the middle of March.

    Single Supplement: Is only charged for those who are not prepared to share accommodation in the hotels and inns. Because we must travel as light as possible, guests are encouraged to share tents, on the basis of two guests per tent.

    Size of the Rides: Maximum of 12 guests, plus English speaking guide, camp assistant, and local gaucho staff to attend to the horses.

    Tack:  the saddles are normally the “montura de Monte” style, which is similar to old English army saddles with a sheepskin on top. They are wide and comfortable for long journeys.

    Terrain: The terrain on the Andes rides is sometimes steep and rugged, however the horses are incredibly sure footed and reliable. We frequently ford mountain streams and rivers, and in some areas may have to negotiate swamps and wet ground.

    Type of Horses: “Criollo” horses, part anglo-normando, of about 15.2hh. They are responsive, tough and fit, capable of fording swollen rivers and negotiating the steepest mountain terrain. They are responsive to being neck-reined, and the riding is similar to the western style.

    Visas: UK citizens do not require visas in Argentina or Chile.

    Weather:  Weather in the Patagonian Andes during the summer (November to April) tends to be sunny and dry. During daytime the temperature ranges from 16°C to 30°C. At higher altitudes it always cools down at night, sometimes dropping to below freezing, even in mid summer. As rides penetrate deep into the mountains the weather becomes less predictable. In October and April weather is more changeable.

    Argentina general information and map

    Capital: Buenos Aires

    Getting there: There are regular flights from most major European cities direct to Buenos Aires. British Airways flies from London Heathrow with a touch down in Sao Paulo (Brazil) en route. Flying time from London is approximately 15 hours.

    Time: GMT minus 4 hours.

    Try not to miss: Buenos Aires! In all probability you will arrive in Argentina via this most glamorous and cosmopolitan of all south American cities, often described as the Paris of South America. We recommend at least at a two days and nights based either in the hip Palermo part of the city, or the elegant and refined barrio of Recoleta. We use hotels in both districts and can organise anything from private tours of the city to theatre tickets and tango lessons.

    From Buenos Aires fly down to Patagonia, land of legendary beauty and inaccessibility that is home to vast estancias and some of the best riding and fishing opportunities in the world. Begin in the north by staying at one of our hand picked estancias scattered about the Patagonian steppe surrounding Lanin National Park, before heading south to explore the Argentine Lake District and the alpine town of Bariloche. Move further south still to Calafate, where the Perito Moreno glacier – one of only 3 in the world that is actually advancing each year – awaits in Los Glaciares National Park, as does the extraordinary estancia Christina at the western end of Lago Argentina. Across the border in Chile lies the rugged and beautiful Torres del Paine National Park, instantly recognisable from the iconic peaks of her famous towers.

    Visit the beautiful provinces of Salta, JuJuy and Catamarca in the North West for spectacular high Andes scenery, rich colonial architecture and the southern end of the Inca trail. Explore the fascinating settlements of Cachi and Purmamarca, stay in luxury at estancia Colomé, the oldest bodega (vineyard) in Argentina, visit the dazzling white salt flats of the Salinas Grandes, and be driven along a dried up river bed to experience the charms of isolated Iruya in JuJuy province. Ask us about our high altitude trek with llamas from the eastern jungles across the Andes Mountains to Tilcara. Mendoza lies halfway between the northwest and Buenos Aires, a province celebrated for her vineyards and stylish bodegas, and perhaps a hike to the base of mighty Aconcagua mountain. For something completely different visit the magnificent Iguazu Falls close to the border with Brazil and Paraguay, which are surrounded by tropical rainforest alive with colourful birdlife.

    You could also visit Dos Lunas, a boutique farm house that boasts a unique style, located in the heart of the Ongamira valley in the province of Córdoba. Surrounded by an extraordinary 2,300 hectare (5,689 acre) natural environment, Dos Lunas offers an amazing mix of nature and comfort that makes guests feel like home from the moment they arrive. The tours around the valley, coordinated by expert guides and providing the best equipment, are the highlight of Dos Lunas and make it a premium destination. You can explore the valley from horseback together with our expert staff through a variety of paths featuring different levels of difficulty and length. Trekking on foot is also an option to visit the area and actively enjoy its beauty through specially selected paths. Dos Lunas is an excellent destination to combine a riding and shooting holiday.

    Visas: No visa is required for visits of up to 90 days for UK citizens.

    Why Argentina: Because we cannot think of another country anywhere in the world that boasts such a diverse range of landscapes, from glaciers in the south to steamy jungle in the north east and arid desert in the north west, with a huge variety in between, ensuring there is never a bad month to visit some part of this remarkable country. Come also to experience Argentina’s indefinable spirit and style, her fine wines and celebrated cuts of tender meat – all three fuse together at a weekend asado or barbeque.


    ” What an excellent time we all had–nothing but laughter all those many days.I can’t wait to come back. Sebastian and Cepi were the best–so different and so complementary, and they anticipated all of our needs and shortcomings.”
    Ann Wolff, Trans Andes ride, Argentina January 2011


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