Given the long and miserable nature of an Irish winter, I always try and have a trip to somewhere in the southern hemisphere to look forward to! When Zara suggested Argentina, I knew that was the place for me- summer time, steak, red wine, scenery- what’s not to love?
It is easy to get to Buenos Aires (a 14 hour direct flight from London) and I chose to get a 20 hour / 1500km (very comfortable actually!) bus from there to San Martin de los Andes, just for the craic- though flights are also available…
After being collected from the bus by Santiago from Caballadas, and a scenic pickup truck transfer to the Lodge, we headed out on a fast ride in the land around the estancia to see the stallion, mares and foals. I had a great criollo horse who hadn’t been used for guests before but was very comfortable and good fun.
After the ride we returned to the lodge to our comfortable, chalet-style rooms for a good shower, followed by drinks and canapes and a delicious home cooked 3 course dinner. A lovely touch was a turndown service with a bottle of water and some chocolates in the room after dinner.
The other two riding days were pretty relaxed- we weren’t getting on the horses until 10.30, so breakfast at 9 – again, great fresh food and good coffee and juice. We rode 2 – 3 hours in the morning and stopped for a long lunch (More great food! More wine!) then another maybe 2 hours after lunch to return to the lodge. I rode a different horse on my second day, a true schoolmaster who knew his job inside out. He was still forward enough but exceptionally safe and reliable. For the third day I swopped back to my little mare of day one as she was just so much fun. Every evening we gathered in front of the fire for drinks and nibbles, and ate around a shared table with good conversation and plentiful local food and wine.
The riding country is excellent – open grass meadowland, forest tracks, and mountain paths. The scenery is genuinely breathtaking – with views of volcanoes, verdant green forests and lakes of the bluest water.
I was exceptionally well looked after, from as soon as Santi picked me up from the bus station until he left me off to start the next part of my trip. Both he and Isabelle take such pride in running the lodge, and can’t do enough to ensure that everyone is happy, well fed and enjoying themselves. It may be a bit of a journey to this wonderful place, but the remoteness and wildness of the landscape is part of the reason why it is so special.
An arrangement was made via Whatsapp to hand me over to my next host at the Police station in Junin de los Andes – and there I was met by Jane from Huechahue. A shorter transfer this time took us through some very different landscape- much drier and rockier than at Caballadas, though the volcano was still visible. Met by an irish wolfhound and a couple of jack russells, I had already decided it was my sort of place. Another lovely room, and a great lunch of home grown (the estancia is almost self sufficient) and freshly cooked food set the tone for the next few days.
The riding was very different – with sandy tracks for long canters and rocky hills which the horses managed easily. We saw indian cave paintings, condors coming in to roost at sunset, and more beautiful views! We also got to take part in a cattle drive which was such a great experience.
Jane is an excellent host and an admirable woman, she had a way of working out which horses would suit each guest and what they would enjoy the most. I got extra riding with the gauchos, bringing horses for other guests who preferred a shorter day. All the horses seemed to be well schooled and well looked after, and were accustomed to guests with different levels of riding ability.
One of the highlights of Huechahue was the food and drinks- it was truly delicious throughout- we had excellent picnic lunches, traditional barbeque dinners, fresh apple juice and lovely local wine.
A short 2 hour flight (rather than a 20 hour bus!) took me back to Buenos Aires for another couple of nights. It truly is a fabulous city, with lots to see and do, and I would definitely recommend a few days there for anyone passing through. It was easy to arrange activities and transfers in advance and I felt pretty comfortable and managed well enough even with fairly terrible spanish 🙂
Thank you to Claire Palmer for writing this blog of her trip for Zara’s Planet
To book your riding adventure to Argentina or Patagonia please email Zara or Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can check out more info here:
Caballadas: Caballadas Patagonian Private Lodge – Argentina
Huechahue: Estancia Huechahue – Argentina