Southern Patagonia has wild and savage landscapes, blue skies, blue and green lakes, clear rivers, wide spaces; a paradise for condors, guanacos and pumas and for those with a bent for exploration on horseback into little visited and well hidden Patagonian valleys. The Austral Expedition is a spectacular riding trip that takes you through the remotest valleys in the far South of Patagonia. The riding horses are steady criollos of fairly short stature, but willing, agile and sure footed which will endear them to any rider. The tack is Chilean, which means that the saddles are amongst the most comfortable ever designed and are ideal for riding all day.
The riding starts in a spectacular canyon in Argentina - passing through several distinct zones having very different terrain, vegetation, and climate - everything from wide valleys suitable for fast canters to sheer canyons and cliffs that require steady nerves and complete faith in your horse. In between you cross through forest, bush and open steppe. Wildlife on the Chilean side of the border is abundant, particularly the guanaco, a type of llama which can be seen in herds numbering in the hundreds. Bird-life includes geese, ducks, flamingoes, black-necked swans and ibis, condor, eagles and a variety of smaller birds.
These remote areas still remain practically unvisited, yet represent some of the most dramatic landscapes anywhere.
The local guides are long-time residents familiar with every inch of the terrain, while their crew ensure that you have vehicle support and supplies available for our overnight camps.
After several days riding you drive to the Chilean border at a remote frontier post. Here you change to our Chilean outfitter and his horses for the ride to our comfortable starting base at a frontier estancia. We ride into the sheer Canyon called La Leona (the female puma) under the guidance of an expert horseman born and raised in this land, our final destination the settlement of Chile Chico several days riding away to the North. Our camp and equipment must be moved on pack horses, that are loaded and led by experienced gauchos. Due to the abrupt topography this is a slow ride, but full of adventure and the thrill of discovering new and spectacular places that are practically never visited by anyone else. As we need to travel light this is a true cowboy ride, meaning that there is quite a lot of rough camping involved, and you need to have the right clothing and sleeping gear along to stay comfortable in what can be very cold nights at altitude.
Expedition ItineraryDay 1
Meet our Argentine host at Perito Moreno town and drive approximately 3 hours Southwards across the desolate Patagonian steppe to our overnight accommodation at a remotely located old estancia house. Meet our horses and crew. We camp in the grounds and enjoy dinner around the campfire.Day 2
Breakfast. Tack up and try out our new horses. We ride for a few hours to the canyon of hell which is our location for a picnic lunch, followed by an exploratory walk up the impressive canyon on foot. We ride for another 4 hours to our camp at chapalala in the valley of the Pinturas river. Asado dinner. Night in basic camp.Day 3
A full day ride up and out of the Pinturas valley across the surrounding steppe, then down into the canyon of the cave of the condors. Stop for picnic lunch. Later, ride on to the gaucho puesto (cowboy shack) at Las Buitreras where we camp round the campfire in a paddock for the night. Dinner in the puesto.Day 4
Today you ride to the famous cave site at Cueva de las Manos, for a brief guided tour of the remarkable rock paintings. Ride for another hour to a picnic lunch on the river bank. In the afternoon we ride to another gaucho puesto. Overnight in camp. Dinner in the puesto.Day 5
We now ride across the steppe to a camp near an extinct volcano further South. Camp.Day 6
Ride to the excellent facilities at a tourist estancia. Approximately 8 hours of riding. Overnight in the guest accommodation.Day 7
Transfer to the Chilean border. Complete immigration facilities, then jump on our new horses and ride to a nearby frontier estancia. Overnight in the estancia accommodation.Day 8
We start riding after breakfast heading up very steep ravines and through the canyon of the Leona river towards a high mountain pass. Camp for the night at a gaucho puesto (cowboy shack).Day 9
We continue riding up through the canyon, repeatedly crossing the river to reach a high-altitude lake on the shores of which we stop for an extended picnic. In the afternoon we then continue riding for 2.5hrs more to a second lake where we camp for the night.Day 10
After breakfast at 8am we break camp. Then ride through the valley of lake Jeinemeni, which rises and falls steeply and provides impressive views to the surrounding Patagonian lands below us. By evening we reach the shores of emerald coloured Lago Verde to make camp.Day 11 -14
We ride out to the foot of a glacier entering the Hermoso (beautiful) valley. Over the next 2 days we ride towards Chile Chico following the Jeinimeni river valley. Camping along the way. In the evening of the 14th day out we reach our destination at Chile Chico where we stay in a local hosteria. Hot showers are finally available! We enjoy a typical Patagonian dinner with our hosts, then spend the night in the hosteria.Day 15
Transfer to Perito Moreno in Argentina. End of itinerary.
More info about this trip
* We reserve to change the itinerary according to circumstances.
* This ride is also available in a shortened 8 day Argentina only version, titled: Grand Canyon Expedition.
* 15 days in total
* 13 days riding or with riding part of the day
* Meeting point: Perito Moreno town, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina.
* Tack: Chilean cangalla sheepskin covered stock saddle & local reins and stirrups
* English, French and Spanish speaking guides
* Pace: Slow with some trots and canters across open areas
* Level: B
* Weight Limit: 95kg.
* Full board, trained horses and guiding included
* Includes alcoholic drinks in reasonable quantities
* Includes all accommodation
* Includes all road transfers
* Meals are based on a meat diet with heavy emphasis on patagonian lamb (flavoured naturally here from the pasture herbs)
* WEATHER: Extremely variable. It can be windy out riding and freezing at night. On the other hand it can get to 30C under sunny conditions during the day.
* Day-length: at this latitude 40S the day dawn is at approximately 4:00am and the sun sets at about 10:30pm. So you get twice the trip for the same money!
* Bear in mind that most airlines flying from Europe limit your baggage to 20kg.
* If you use any special medication be sure to bring along enough to last the holiday.
* INSURANCE is not included, but is strongly recommended in respect of riding injuries and medical cover. Participation is at your own risk.
* No visa entry fees into Chile or Argentina are in force for European residents. US citizens are required to pay a reciprocal visa fee of $100 on entry to Chile.
Packing & clothing
* Preferably you should travel light using a single duffel type bag or rucksack for all your kit if at all possible, since you will often have to carry all your bags yourself in bus stations, airports and into and out of taxis.
* Please take note that there is no possibility of shopping during the actual rides which take place in remote locations, but that there are good opportunities to do so in the various capitals before or after the riding. We sometimes get people asking if they can recharge their digital camera or telephone batteries, out on the ride this is generally not possible so you need to bring enough batteries, memory and film for the duration. Naturally you can charge your appliances before and after the ride at hotels.
* You must provide your own sleeping bag for the riding expedition. A down or feather bag with a polar rating is recommended. Another item that you might want is a camping mat for ground insulation.
Very basic igloo style twin tents are available. You can also sleep under stars on your saddle blankets and sheepskin. In Argentina there are mattresses in the tents - but, not so in Chile! This is cowboy camping - not luxury at all.
More about the weather
Temperatures vary dramatically depending on the weather and wind chill needs to be considered when choosing clothing - you must bring windproof and waterproof clothing (including a head covering)!
This is in case the weather decides to turn nasty. Night time temperatures range in any case between 0 and 5C - note for camping. As soon as the sun sets it can get really cold, below 0C - conversely during the middle of the day it may be absolutely roasting! It can get very, very windy too (more than 100km per hour in exposed locations). Head protection is essential due to the high chill factor should the wind pick up, a wind proof head covering usually comes included with a wind jacket, otherwise you will need a balaclava or woollen cap that covers your ears. Also a neck scarf will be valuable in this s situation. An ideal way to dress is using the layer principle - bring clothing 4 layers deep.
You will want something comfortable to change into at the end of a long day's riding. Jeans and a cotton T-shirt will be fine for hot afternoons, but evenings may be chilly and you are advised to bring a sweater and a wind and waterproof jacket. Be aware that you may not have the chance to wash anything out on the trip. But don't burden yourself with too many changes of clothing (!). For footwear a pair of light hiking boots are an excellent choice in addition to your riding shoes/boots. A wide-brimmed hat my also be a good item to bring for those sunny days under the ozone hole! - be sure it has a chin strap. Bring along a good pair of sunglasses, which should also have a strap. A pair of riding gloves is a good investment, both to avoid blisters while riding and as protection against the sun.
A small torch with extra batteries
A wide-brim hat and neck scarf for sun protection
Camera extra batteries and memory chips
Camping mat/ground insulation if you are uncomfortable sleeping on the ground
Comfortable change of clothes for camp
Cotton long-sleeved shirts
Rain-proof and windproof jacket (i.e. oilskin)
Riding jeans or local bombachas
Riding shoes/short boots and camp footwear
Sleeping bag - heavy duty/polar rating - as warm as you can lay your hands on!
Soap and shampoo
Sunscreen lotion factor 50
Swimsuit for the intrepid
Travel dictionary for Spanish comprehension
IN ADDITION: TO STAY WARM AT ALL TIMES
Wind proof head protection
Zip up heavy duty wind and water proof jacket
Water proof trousers
Waterproof riding shoes/boots
4 layers of internal clothing recommended
A good supply of heavy socks
In Chile the guides speak Spanish and French. In Argentina the operator speaks English at a pinch, the crew speak Spanish only.
|Riding expedition||Chile - Argentina||15 Days||Jan - Apr||Level A||5-9|
Group price guide per person from 8-2 riders
|8 riders||7 riders||6 riders||5 riders||4 riders||3 riders||2 riders|
Fast riding pace
For more trip dates go to the list of proposed riding dates
, please feel free to request a closed group booking of this ride.