Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from MT of Zurich on 19/01/2020
The itinerary for this horse riding holiday is not set in stone. The riding programmes on the estancia very much depend on the guests; how much riding experience they have, how long they wish to ride each day and the time of year they visit. The condors are best in September, October, November, March and April; lunches on the river with swimming are best in January and February. Each day is very much tailored to your wishes. Beginners and advanced riders can be split into different groups to ride at their own pace and in any direction.
Below is a sample itinerary for a week at Estanica Huechahue. You can stay the length of time which suits you although it is not worth the trip for less than a 2 or 3 night stay. As long as you arrive before 18.00 you can be sure that you will get be out riding that evening before dinner.
Day 1: On arrival there will be a late lunch followed by an afternoon ride. A chance to familiarise 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. Riding up over the top, a chance to see guanaco, deer, wild boar and “peludos” - the baby armadillo. Lunch on the river, a great place to swim. Returning to Huechahue riding down the river with lots of birdlife.
Day 7: A day’s ride over the ridge and into town for a look at the shops. We race along the top of the ridge with huge views on either side. Lunch is a picnic on the neighbour’s land, watched over by the Lanin Volcano before crossing the River Chimehuin and on into Junín de los Andes.
Day 8: Up early for a farewell ride on Huechahue before transferring to the airport.
|Huechahue Transfers 01/09/2018 - 30/04/2019|
|Up to 4 pax||5-8 pax|
|Bariloche - Huechahue 7 lagos||$260||$610|
|Bariloche - Huechahue por La Rinconada||$230||$520|
Llao LLao - Huechahue por 7 Lagos
|Llao LLao - Huechahue por La Rinconada||$230||$580|
|Pehuma Hue - Huechahue por 7 Lagos||$300||$680|
|Pehuma Hue - Huechahue por La Rinconada||$240||$590|
|Villa la Angostura - Huechahue por 7 Lagos||$230||$610|
|San Martin de los Andes||$70|
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.
Gauchos and the Vanishing Frontier –Richard W Slatta
The Drunken Forest and The Whispering Land - Gerald Durrell
Saddled with Darwin: A Journey Through South America on Horseback - Toby Green
In Patagonia– Bruce Chatwin
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
Huechahue is home to about 50 horses and with 15,000 acres, they live as ‘wild’ horses as much as possible. Their prize-winning Criollo stallion, a beautiful ‘lobuno’ colour, can be seen taking care of his mares and foals. The riding horses are criollo crosses, part anglo-norman, of about 15.2 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! There is an eclectic selection of horses allowing to cater to all riding abilities and confidence levels. They are neck-reined and the riding is similar to Western style.
The saddles used are “montura de monte” which are similar to old English army saddles with a sheepskin on top. Following traditional gaucho methods, you will find only the stirrups have buckles on the saddles. The saddles are cinched using rawhide, a custom not forgotten from the days when gauchos, like the American cowboy, would ride into the wilderness unable to replace a broken buckle. The gauchos continue to practice this and you will see them fully equipped with their lassos, gaucho knives and boleadoras.
All levels of rider can ride on the estancia and a suitable horse, guide and pace of ride will be allocated. You may choose to ride out every day from the Estancia or to co-ordinate your stay with one of the planned pack-trip departures into the fantastic Lanin National Park or to combine both in your stay.
Riding out from the Estancia, you can ride through barren rolling hills and along the narrow rocky gorges of the Andean streams. You can ride to the tops of the hills where the mighty Andes rise up behind you and the vastness of Patagonia stretches out before you. Watch condors and eagles as they float high above you. Gallop across water meadows or visit the Indian burial caves where Indian drawings can still be seen on the walls. Perhaps try your hand at working cattle with the gauchos. The amount and type of work with the cattle will depend on the season -in November and December there are the spring round ups and you may help the gauchos move the cattle to their summer grazing and again in April, help bring them home for the winter. Working cattle on horseback is challenging and fun and brings out the gaucho spirit lurking in all of us! Huechahue is not a dude ranch – it is the real thing! When working cattle you will start early in the morning and days can be long, every animal must be found, every canyon and hilltop scouted, behind bushes or down creeks – but there is tremendous satisfaction when the job is done. The time of year determines what needs to be done but it can include round-ups, vaccinating, separating, branding, moving cattle and horses to new pastures. Herding horses at speed is magic! There are opportunities for lassoing enthusiasts and everyone is welcome to get involved with gaucho life.
The Estancia is so large it is easy to separate groups to accommodate different levels of rider and different requirements, the riding programmes are tailored to the needs and abilities of those participating.
Whilst the estancia can cater for novices who are fit and enjoy a challenge, there is plenty of scope for fast and challenging riding. The minimum age for this holiday is 12 years.
The weight limit for this ride is 210 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The Estancia has 10 very comfortable double or twin-bedded guest rooms, all with en-suite bathrooms. 4 bedrooms are on the first floor of the lodge and the others are in 2 chalets a short stroll across the lawn. Each chalet includes a communal sitting room area. All of the rooms have Wi-Fi.
Whilst staying at Huechahue, meals are usually served in the dining room of the main house and guests gather for cocktails in front of the fire in the living room or watching the sunset on the terrace. Alternatively they make use of the ‘quincho’, the BBQ room, with an open fire pit perfect for ‘asados’ and celebrations! Huechahue prides itself on the home produced food. A combination of classic Argentine country cooking and gourmet recipes experimenting with the best of the moment from the vegetable garden.
The estancia is virtually self-sufficient. Ham and bacon from the pigs are cured in the smoke-house, eggs come from the chicken run; milk and homemade yogurt and cheeses from the dairy cow and goats and of course they have their own beef, lamb, venison and wild boar.
With the large orchards, fruit is in abundance and all the preserves, bottle fruit and even the apple juice is home produced! There is a large vegetable garden and bread is freshly baked on a daily basis.
Argentine wines have finally achieved international recognition and wines from the province are served. The beers and spirits are good too! Different dietary requirements can be catered for – please give prior notice.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
At the time of going to print visas are not required for UK passport holders staying under 90 days, but please check before you depart.
In Argentina the high commissioner is Dr Luis Agote, 2412/52, 1425 Buenos Aires. Tel: +54 11 4576 2222, and is usually open 12.45 –17.00, hours extended during the Summer months (Jan –March).
In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on 020 7008 0232/0233 or see www.fco.gov.uk
The estancia is open seasonally due to the harsh winters. In our summer time it is winter in Argentina and vice versa. It is open September through to May including over Christmas and New Year. The climate is typically a high altitude continental climate with low rainfall, hot summer days, maybe 35 0C, but the temperatures plummet overnight and you could even experience frost.
There are no specific health requirements although do remember sun block.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org.
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz as in the UK so electrical appliances can be plugged in with appropriate adaptors. These are widely available for purchase, including at departure airports throughout the UK.
There is limited electricity available on the Estancia to recharge camera and video equipment. It is advisable to bring all the film you need and enough spare batteries.
In the summer months the weather is generally hot and dry during the day with a maximum temperature between 22 and 35 deg. C. as the estancia is situated at 700m, and on treks considerably higher, it always cools down at night, generally to between 5 and 10 deg. C., on treks it can be colder. It rarely rains - however it is necessary to be prepared with adequate raingear.
The best way to dress is in layers - a T-shirt, shirt, pullover (or fleece which is light and dries quickly), and a jacket to give protection against wind and rain.
Trousers should be comfortable for riding - jodhpurs, jeans etc
Footwear that is SAFE for riding, your hosts can provide half-chaps.
Protection against the sun, which is very strong. Sun block, lip balm and if you do not intend wearing a hard hat, a hat with a wide brim (also good if it happens to rain).
Dress is always casual.
Laundry will be done for you on request (chargeable at approx $20 per large bag).
Estancia stays of any length can be taken in season from September to the end of April, including over Christmas and New Year.
Season runs from 1 September 2019 to 30 April 2020, any day arrival and departure
‘Gauchos and the Vanishing Frontier’ –Richard W Slatta, ‘The Drunken Forest’ and ‘The Whispering Land’ – Gerald Durrell, ‘Saddled With Darwin’- Toby Green, and ‘In Patagonia’ – Bruce Chatwin. For an excellent selection of equestrian travel and adventure books visit www.horsetravelbooks.com (part of the Long Rider’s Guild).
Whilst at the Estancia there is also excellent trout fishing, a tennis court and the chance to walk, bird watch, swim and raft on the rivers.
Half day rafting expeditions on the Chimehuin river can be organised. This is gentle, fun rafting with spectacular views of the Lanin Volcano.
There is plenty of opportunity for walking and trekking on Huechahue. There are many short walks to the tops of the hills close to the lodge for great views of Lanin volcano and Chapelco – the ski resort at San Martin. You can walk to the top (or the bottom!) of the Condor cliff where the condors roost and to the “Chenques”. These caves are formed from lava tunnels where the Tehuelche indians laid out their dead. The caves have petroglyphs on the walls. You can either follow our marked trails or we can provide a guide. There are guanaco, red deer, wild boar, armadillos and sometimes rhea to be seen and many birds including eagles and condors, burrowing parrots, black necked swans, and the Patagonian Kingfisher.
At Huechahue there is an open air solar heated jacuzzi and a wood burning sauna for relaxing after a day full of activity. There is also a cold plunge pool and massages can be organised.
The estancia lies on the River Alumine which contains good populations of wild brown and rainbow trout. No supplemental stocking of hatchery fish is done. One to three pound trout are common and there are reasonable numbers of three to five pounders.
There is mostly wet, but some dry fly fishing. The fishing is on a catch and release basis. The season runs from mid-November to mid-April.
Day rides on the Estancia enable you to visit Indian Burial caves on an Indian Reserve accompanied by an Indian guide. This gives you amazing insights into the culture and there is usually bit of bargaining to be done when buying leather items such as tack and baggage!
For those who love golf there is a spectacular and challenging 18 hole (72 par) Jack Nichlaus course some 45 minutes drive away.
Shopping trips to Junin de los Andes and to the nearby Mapuche reserves can be arranged. See rawhide tack being made and wool being woven on the simplest of looms.
Trips to the National Park to see the lakes, volcano and Monkey puzzle trees can also be organised.
Red deer and wild boar can be hunted - both of European origin. The rut is usually mid-March to end of April.
Guanaco, rhea, red deer, wild boar, armadillos, black necked swans, ibis, plover, eagles, vultures and
Andean condors are all regularly sighted.
Thick bamboo forests, monkey puzzle trees, pampas with spectacular views from the backdrop of the Andes.
Huechahue remains almost entirely self-sufficient – as it has always had to be. Each generation has introduced new sustainable technologies, not only because of their love of the land but also because they had no choice! The water (both for irrigation and in the house) is gravity fed from natural springs and they generate their own electricity with a water driven turbine. The supply is limited so they are very conscious of the amount of power and water they are using.
Over the years large numbers of trees have been planted. This on-going programme now provides the estancia with enough firewood for all the heating and hot water and also makes them carbon neutral regarding their use of fossil fuels.
The estancia breeds Hereford cattle and it is all extensive farming with natural grazing. No fertilizers or pesticides are used. Most of the food is produced on the estancia and all of the meat is home reared! There is a dairy cow for milk, chickens for eggs and a large organic vegetable garden which is fertilized with horse manure from the corrals. There are extensive fruit and nut orchards and all surplus fruit is either dried in the sun, bottled or made into jam. There are also pigs that eat all the organic waste and in the winter sausages, hams, and bacon are made from these fattened pigs.
The estancia is very aware of the fragile environment in which we live and the prevention of erosion is paramount. They take care to only walk and ride along routes chosen for their soil stability and they are currently in the process of reinforcing tracks which had begun to show evidence of deterioration. Bird watching is done in a non-intrusive manner and fishing is entirely on a catch and release basis.
Argentina is the second largest country in Latin America after Brazil (almost all the countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia could fit inside Argentina's land mass). The country is diverse and includes rain forest in the north, vast areas of fertile farming land in the centre, the Andean mountain range to the west and the desolate plains of Patagonia in the south, leading down to glaciers at the southern tip. Argentina has the world's southernmost city (Ushaia).
Despite Argentina's recent economic woes, its pleasures - stunning natural wonders, an elegant capital and a passionate culture - are still as tempting as ever. Argentina has a distinctly European feel, Argentinians are much more European in temperament that their South American neighbours but their Latin spirit is still evident such as in their love of football and in the tempestuous dance of the Tango.
Argentina is three hours behind GMT. Remember in the summer the UK is one hour ahead of GMT and daylight savings is not in use in Argentina. They use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.
The international dialling code is +54.