Posted on Wednesday, December 20th, 2006
The Equitours Patagonia Ride is set on a 15,000 acre working cattle estancia, 20 minutes from the quaint town of Junin. I was met by welcoming staff, shiny strong horses, colorful gardens, clean modern accommodations and the token slew of dogs that any ranch or estancia seems to adopt.
My fellow guests and I settled in with a ride (followed by quite a hike) to see the condors. Wine and nibbles up high on an edge cliff eying the three condors on show was a great way to spend our first dusk. A hearty meal, plenty of wine and a good nights rest was a great prelude to the rest of the week.
During my stay we were asked to get up quite early one morning to help the gauchos move some cattle to a new pasture. I found time in Argentina, is definitely not of the essence. It takes a little while to get used to, but the laid back way of life becomes a treat. After a few days of late mornings, extended siestas and late afternoon rides it was a shock to the system having to set the alarm and prepare for an early morning of pushing cows.
The most interesting and comical obstacle we had to overcome was that our horses clearly were in snooze mode at this time of the morning! My beautiful mare was obviously annoyed by this interruption to her sleep time. Just like clockwork at around 10am (when we would usually be mounting) all the horses perked up and started being the spirited lively steeds we knew. I’m not complaining- it gave me a chance to wake up as well!
The majority of Patagonians live off the land and the estancia that Equitours sells is no different. The fact that they can be practically self sufficient while also providing wonderful meals for guests using their own turbine for electricity, is a great achievement.
There are orchards of plums, peaches, nectarines, apples, hazelnuts and large greenhouses for the vegetables. While at this estancia I was able to experience venison (deer), wild boar, homegrown beef and the most delectable ranch reared lamb on a spit, all washed down with plenty of wine. The vegetables were crisp and tasted exactly as they should- fresh. The cooking was simple yet the food held its own. Between the hospitality, the horses, and the cuisine it was difficult to leave Patagonia.
While in Patagonia I had the opportunity to do a 3 day pack trip. Here we would skirt the boundaries of the Lanin National Park and ride adjacent to the River Alumine.
Decked out in our customary ponchos we set off on the dusty dry trail for some adventure. We were spoiled with three days of great food, fantastic lunch spots, snow capped mountains hovering over us and peaceful evening spots to rest our heads.
The catering for the camping is outsourced to a family who run a fishing and hunting outfitting business at other times of the year. They are professional, friendly and great at what they do. Both camp spots were set up before we arrived and we were greeted with drinks and hors d’oeuvres right off our horses. Fresh olives, cheeses, chips, chicken stir fry, kebabs, barbeque beef, mashed potatoes, caramel crepes and fresh fruit are just a sampling of the delicious food we were offered.
I am not much of a “camper” and prefer the 4 or 5 star camping experience to the real nitty gritty get down and dirty style. These 3 days were just that. I was glad to get back to a hot shower and full size mattress but the experience of riding through the monkey puzzle trees and along side Lanin Volcano was worth the dirty face!