Day 107: Tuesday 14th October - Arriving at Estancia Huechahue too sore too ride!
Arrive at Estancia Huechahue shortly before midday, after a short hop (3 hours, but that is short in Patagonia) north from Bariloche on the bus. The bus driver has no clue where Huechahue is evidently when I ask him, although I confirmed yesterday when I bought the ticket that the bus passes the Estancia (ranch). Fortunately I spot the miniscule sign to the Estancia from the road and get dropped off just 200 metres past the entrance, otherwise I would have arrived at the next town 25km away! Met by Carrie when I arrive, who although Argentinian speaks exceptional English. She helps me out by booking my 2 flights with LADE for later in Patagonia, I´m lucky as the reservations had expired. Her friend turns up shortly after me, and I find out that she has been on an exchange to Prudhoe High School 15 years ago.....how odd!!!
Huechahue is my first splurge of the trip...I'm not counting the Galapagos Islands & Easter Isand as they are expensive to get to and I did them cheaply comparatively. Estancia Huechahue is certainly a splurge though....its $340US
per day to stay here (so represents half of my entire budget for Argentina for just 4 days!!). It does however come highly recommended, the book 1000 places to visit in the world lists it and one guidebook describes it as the best riding in the Argentinian lake district. I've read about the place through an article I read in the Sunday Telegraph and was the reason I took up learning to ride earlier this year.....it just sounded so amazing in the article.
Meet Jane, who runs & owns the estancia along with Craig and Lauren an English couple who are on there honeymoon when they return from their morning's ride. Have lunch with Craig & Lauren before deciding to opt out of the afternoon's riding as I'm too sore after my fall off the bike on Sunday. Its my hip that I'm most concerned about as its pretty much critical when riding, and I'm concerned about the jolts it will take. At the moment I'm just hoping I will improve quickly as I've paid so much money to enjoy this experience. Craig also sits out the afternoon, so the two of us spend it over a few beers,
chilling in the garden and enjoying the sun, being entertained by Jack, a Jack Russell.
Have dinner at 9pm....the food is excellent throughout my stay, the staff attentive and the portions are huge. The bread, freshly baked on the estancia and bacon are amongst the best I've ever had. Its also great to have my own room, after spending so long in dorms....and its simple things like having a wardrobe and a bath - both for the first time in 4 months that are nice.
Day 108: Wednesday 15th October - Amazing views of condors and Lanin Volcano
Craig & Lauren leave this morning, so there's only me staying on the estancia now. They were the second guests of the season, which only started in October. After a massive breakfast (the best of the trip to date by a mile) go out for a half day ride with Juan (a Gaucho working on the ranch) and Emily (an incredibly posh girl - or is it that I'm just very common!! - from UK who's working there for 6 months after spending time here as a guest last year). We only walk on the ride down to the
river due to my soreness. The dogs on the ranch accompany us (as they seem to on every ride), entertaining as they chase a hare up a hill. The scenery you ride through is stunning, so peaceful and you can see for miles around.
After lunch I go out for another half day ride at 4pm. This time Juan, Emily and myself ride up to a ridge above the house and then get off the horses and climb up to watch the condors circling above. Having seen condors in Peru, I wasn't that excited about this, even though Craig was waxing lyrical about it. Nevertheless, it is far better than Colca Canyon.....there must be a dozen Condors at the peak, flying just above your head and with the snowcapped Volcan Lanin in the background, its beautiful in the early evening sunshine. Again on the ride, we just walk but my hip is feeling slightly better so should be able to canter tomorrow. Try it out with a short trot (which jolts you more than a canter) and its uncomfortable but not too bad. Soak in my first bath for 4 months (fab) and then enjoy a feast of venison
- the food is great.
Day 109: Thursday 16th October - Two more half day rides
After enjoying the early morning sun reading a book in the garden, accompany Jane on a half day ride from 10.30am to around 1pm. We ride down by the river, and I manage 5 canters.....its not too bad on my hip. After lunch and chilling out in the garden for a few hours after go out with Jane again, this time behind the house up near by the ridge and back around. Manage another 5 canters but I'm glad to rest my weary body in the bath. The 3 course dinner is great again - beef this time. Get to know Jane a bit better today, the estancia has been in her family for 4 generations.
Day 110: Friday 17th October - A full day ride
A girl from the UK is arriving today at 11am, so wait until she arrives before going out with Juan, Emily and Gail for a full day's ride. Gail is also an accountant who is taking a career break.....how many of us are there in South America doing the same thing....I've lost count!! We
ride up behind the house, on to a plateau where we can once again see the stunning Andes and Volcan Lanin before reaching a Mapuche Indian burial cave after 3 hours riding. After a further hour riding down towards the river we stop for lunch. We've now ridden off the estancia (which is 15000 acres - about 6km by 6km), and our arrival at our lunch stop is met by an Indian brandishing a gun wanting to know why we're there! We assure him we're only having lunch and he rides off, warning us not to light any fires. We have lunch and a siesta for an hour, giving the horses a rest. After the break my horse Tony has suddenly woken up and seems much more willing to go in a forward direction at a decent pace (maybe he knows we're heading home?). We ride along the river, crossing through the water at a narrow section, doing several canters on the flatter ground. Nearer to the horse we start rounding up the horses and guiding them back - I feel like a proper Gaucho now!! The dogs entertain us on the days riding my chasing wild boar and a
After arriving back at 7pm, get a quick beer and shower as we have to leave in an hour to go to Junin. We are meeting a group who have been doing an estancia to estancia ride for the past week at a restaurant in Junin, which is 25km from the ranch. Have trout (make that one and a half!) for dinner in what is one of the biggest portions I've ever seen. It is the local speciality though so guess it has to be done. Only really get to speak to Nicholas, a retired barrister out of the group of four we meet. He's eccentric to say the least, and about the only shame of my time on the estancia is that although everyone has been nice, I haven't connected with any of them particularly.
I'll have to leave early tomorrow morning so this is the end of my splurge being a Gaucho for a few days. Has it been worth it? Absolutely.....you've got to treat yourself now and again and its been great not having to make any decisions for a few days and relax while being waited on. The riding has been in
some stunning and peaceful Steppe (semi desert) in the Andean foothills. I think that Tupiza in Bolivia edges it for the riding (just), but thats not to say that Huechahue hasn't been very special. The weather has been fantastic, sunny and in the mid 20's every day. Tomorrow it will be back to the reality of being a backpacker on a budget.
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