The 15,000-acre cattle ranch Estancia Huechahue nestles amongst the foothills of the Andes, east of San Martín. Here you can enjoy the best of Argentine hospitality and experience life on a working farm in Northern Patagonia; excellent horse riding and opportunities for fishing, rafting, bird watching and exploring the history of the Mapuche Indians. Ride out daily from the Estancia, coordinate with one of the planned pack-trip departures into Lanin National Park, or combine the two.
There are three guest lodges just a stroll across the lawn from the main farmhouse where you will find 10 rooms (4 are on the first floor of the lodge, the other 6 are in 2 chalets across the lawn), all with bathroom en-suite and there are communal sitting room areas in each cabin.
Whilst staying at Huechahue, meals are usually served in the dining room of the main house and guests gather for drinks in front of the fire in the living room. Alternatively they make use of the ‘quincho’, an open fire pit perfect for ‘asados’ and dancing if the occasion arises!
Huechahue is home to about 80 horses and with 15,000 acres, as much as is possible they live as ‘wild’ horses. The riding horses are criollo crosses, part anglo-normando, of about 15.5 hh. They are bred and trained on the Estancia and are sure- footed and generally well behaved. As much as possible they like to have them out enjoying the freedom of the water meadows which makes for an exciting ride rounding them up!
They ask arriving guests to provide them with an insight into their riding experience and history so they can try and get a feel for the type of horse which would be a good match. They have an eclectic selection of horses allowing them to cater to all riding abilities and confidence levels.
Whilst their programs depend very much on their guests, below is a sample of a weeks’ riding at Huechahue:
Day 1: On arrival there will be a late lunch followed by an afternoon ride. A chance to familiarize yourself with the horses and tack and the way we ride.
Day 2: A full days ride on Estancia Huechahue with an “asado” lunch. Follow the Huechahue stream through its basalt canyons, riding as fast as you want across the water-meadows sending the plovers and ibis screeching, before returning over the top of Chenque Hill, where the Andes rise up behind you and the vastness of Patagonia stretches out before you.
Day 3: A day spent working cattle with the gauchos. Lunch with the gauchos is strips of beef ribs threaded onto a stick and cooked over the open fire. A siesta in the shade and a chance to separate the cows on horseback or try your hand with a lasso.
Day 4: A full days ride on Estancia Huechahue to visit the Indian burial caves. The caves were formed when the glaciers carved the valley opening an entrance to the lava flow tunnels formed during previous eras of volcanic activity. The Tehuelche Indians laid out their dead, surrounded by their weapons and always somewhere where they could see their enemies coming. They decorated the walls with designs. The remains have disappeared, but the petroglyphs and the view are still there.
Day 5: A morning’s ride to see our stallion with the mares and new foals, and a chance to herd horses. After a late lunch there will be an evening ride to the cliffs where the condors and eagles roost. While we have a cocktail and the sun goes down, the condors return, they soar above and below us before settling for the night.
Day 6: A days ride through the neighbouring Indian reservation. Our saddle rugs and saddle bags are woven by some of the Indian women and the skins from the cows we butcher are worked into rawhide and then bridles and halters by the men. We will pass by to see what progress is being made and to share a “mate” on our way through.
Day 7: A full days ride to a different part of the Estancia. There are 15,000 acres in all so there is still plenty left to explore. Lunch will be on the river. On the way home a chance to see guanaco, deer, wild boar and “peludos” – the baby armadillo.
Day 8: A farewell ride on Huechahue before transferring to the airport
Manor Cottage, Papermill Lane, South Moreton, Oxfordshire, OX11 9AH