Huaso Trail

At a GlanceItineraryDetail

Huaso Trail

7 days; 6 nights, 7 days riding

This is as much a trail ride into Patagonian Huaso country as it is a trail into the heart of Huaso culture. This network of trails was pioneers by the early explorers and farmers and survives today because the horse remains such a versatile means of getting around in rural Patagonia. Stay overnight in huaso homes and see at first hand a disappearing way of life.

What’s a “Huaso”?
This is a uniquely Chilean name for a horseman who may or may not work with cattle. If he worked exclusively with cattle he’d be known as a Vaquero. A female huaso is a huasa.

What’s in a name?
Country       A cowboy is called:-

Chile             Vaquero or Huaso
Colombia     Llanero
Argentina    Gaucho
Venezuela    Llanero
USA              Cowboy

The essential Huaso clothing is: the hat, which always has a round brim and is ironing-board flat. It’s traditionally black but you’ll find light coloured ones too; knee-high leather boots with spurs; a wide sash around the waist with the loose ends worn on the left (usually black); a jacket which ends above the sash, covered by a Poncho. The Poncho is unique to each Huaso and is akin to their “colours”.

 

Crossing the Puelo River

Huasos at work

 

 

Day 1: Puerto Varas to las Rosas
The airport is at Puerto Montt airport and a short distance away is the lakeside town of Puerto Varas (30 mins) where the ride begins. We can arrange flights and transfers if you wish. We depart from Puerto Varas at 09:00 hrs and ‘handrail’ the shore of Lake Llanquihue, with views of the Calbuco and Osorno volcanos to the east. Cross the Rio Puelo (which we’ll be crossing again on horseback later on) and reach Lake Tagua Tagua (so beautiful they named it twice!) Cross by ferry and this is the point where mobile phone coverage peters out. Drive on to Puerto Urrutia, the place of local crossings, where we rendez-vous with the huaso team and criollo horses. This is a deep, broad river so the horses swim across and we follow in a motorboat. Once mounted on the other side, ride passed small beaches along the Puelo River then across meadows, but always close to the river. Our goal this evening is a modest hacienda (farmhouse) owned by Tito (one of our guides) and Olivia, his wife.

Overnight: hacienda. Full board.
Riding time: 4 hrs driving; 45 mins ferry; and 2 hrs riding

The ferry at the end of hte road: Lake Tagua Tagua

The ferry at the end of hte road: Lake Tagua Tagua

Day 2: full day riding Las Rosas to Ventisqueros
Follow the Río Ventisqueros valley upstream through ancient woods, across broad open spaces and fording rivers that flow directly from glaciers. The modest farms we pass are self-sufficient and unbelievably remote. Take a picnic lunch on one of the Ventisqueros beaches and then keep going to the end of the valley and the foot of a glacier. Here, we will be hosted for two nights by Bernardita who lives in one of the most remote areas in the region.

Overnight: hacienda. Full board.
Riding time: 7 hrs

Horses swimming the river, Patagonia

Crossng ther river

Day 3: full day riding Ventisqueros to El Toro return to Ventisqueros
Today’s ride is circular: explore the neighbouring valley and ride up to a viewpoint of the hanging glacier. The route requires riders’ full attention as it gains height. The narrow valley and the dense vegetation lead through an “Alerce” (larch) forest, one of the world’s most ancient forests, where trees top 140 feet. This is a remote area with few inhabitants, in the middle of a pristine nature. We will have lunch next to El Toro River, before descending mid-afternoon to return to Bernardita’s home. There will be time in the afternoon to hike, swim in the river or take it easy.

Overnight: hacienda. Full board.
Riding time: 2 + 2 hrs

Day 4: full day riding Ventisqueros to Las Bandurrias Island
Ride through alerce forests, cross huge rivers and skirt beneath snow-capped mountains to reach the Rio Puelo. In the afternoon, we’ll cross the Puelo via a small suspension bridge at a place with a spectacular waterfall and rapids beneath. Contour the mountain to reach the lake Las Rocas. Corral the horses on the shore and take a motorboat (15 mins) out to a private island. At the end of the longest day of this expedition a well-deserved rest awaits at Las Bandurrias Island. A remote place surrounded by the cordillera (‘mountain chain’) which is one of the loveliest places you’ll ever visit, “A piece of haven in the Andes heart”

Overnight: Private Island. Full board.
Riding time: 6 hrs

Private Island, Patagonia

Banduras Private Island in the middle of Lake Las Rocas

Day 5: Las Bandurrias Island to Azul Lake and return
Return by boat to the lakeshore. Mount up; and on to the farm La Colina, and a close look at a Chilean working farm. The ride continues to the Azul (blue) Lake through the cordillera with stunning views along the way. Stop for a picnic lunch on a beach and return via a different trail to Rocas Lake passing through an ancient Valdivian forest with unbelievably tall trees! Return to the opposite end of the lake and corral the horses; short boat trip back to Las Bandurrias Island.

Overnight: hacienda. Full board.
Riding time: 6 hrs

Day 6: Las Bandurrias Island to Las Rosas
This morning we’ll reach the source of the Puelo River which is the point where it flows out of Lake Puelo. The river here is deep and wide so a boatman will help us cross. This requires the horses to swim, guided by the motorboat. The pathway goes on through the woods towards a hamlet, Segundo Corral. We will have a break for lunch at Las Mellizas lagoons (meaning “the twins”) surrounded by mountains. In the afternoon, cross the river on horseback and reach our lodging, a farmhouse in the most peaceful environment.

Overnight: hacienda. Full board.
Riding time: 7 or 8 hrs

Evening rest: the end of the day in Patagonia

Evening rest: the end of the day in Patagonia

Day 7: Las Rosas to Llanada Grande and return to Puerto Varas
Ride back across pastureland along the Puelo River to Puerto Urrutia, the place of local crossings. Horses will swim one last time across the river before returning to their mountain home. Arrival in Llanada Grande marks the end of our ride; a last lunch in a modest restaurant in a tiny hamlet before the minibus returns us to the Tagua-Tagua Lake ferry (45 minute) and so back to Puerto Varas where the ride ends in mid-afternoon.

Overnight: private arrangements (we can assist with hotels and airport transfers as required.)
Riding time: 4 hrs. 45 mins ferry. 4 hrs driving.

 

Details
Min 2 and max 10 riders.

Included in the price
All land transport as described
Ferry crossing, return
Motorboat where required
All meals from lunch on day 1 to lunch on day 7. Half a bottle of weine per rider, with dinner during the ride
Bilingual; guide (English and Spanish)
Services of the huasos
VHF radio for emergencies
Saddle horse, pack horses and additional horses, as required

Not included
International flights; airport transfers and additional accommodation; travel insurance

Accommodation notes
Private haciendas x 4 nights
Private Island x 2 nights

Private haciendas: sharing the owner’s farmhouse is a lovely opportunity to see how life in rural Patagonia ticks along. They are cosy, rustic and genuinely welcoming. Shared bathroom. Log-burner for drying clothes and heating. The rooms may be twin, triple of quads. Food is local and organic; meals are prepared over a wood-fired oven. There will be a couple of asados (bbq).

Private Island: there is a main house, occupied by our ride guide and a timber-frame cabaña with broad veranda and stunning view! Inside this warmly decorated cabaña there’s a dining room, living room and bathroom. Upstairs, you’ll find charming bedrooms that have several single beds and a shared bathroom. The decoration is a subtle combination of French and Chilean cultures, a charming mélange!

Battery charging: somewhat restricted through the ride. There are occasional opportunities, but better to assume that mobile comm’s are more off than on. There is no mobile phone coverage.

Rider proficiency
This ride is “expeditionary” in nature. The pace of the ride is not fast (walk and sitting trot mainly) because the trails find their way through forest, rocky stretches and across huge rivers that require your attention. The distances are not huge, but the days are long. River crossings are considered as milestones in this journey: they offer riders a completely new experience on horseback because the water laps the horse’s belly for maybe 300 or 400 metres. You are riding in the footsteps of huasos who know these trails intimately.

Guides
The guides are experienced and passionate about Patagonia, and showing it to you. They hold the Wilderness First Responder qualification, carry a first aid kit and carry a VHF radio for emergency use. They were born in Patagonia and live in the valley. They are responsible for packing the packhorses and safety during the ride.

Visas
Brits don’t require a visa for either Argentina or Chile. Australian and Canadian citizens are required to buy a “reciprocity fee”: http://www.migraciones.gov.ar/pdf_varios/reciprocidad/Online_payment_instructions.pdf

Luggage
At the briefing on day 1 you’ll be issued with a waterproof stuff-sack, such as used on board yachts. You will need two sets of clothes, riding clothes and evening clothes. The max that can be carried on the ride is 10Kg per person any more will burden the packhorses. Your main bag will be driven by 4×4 direct to the private island where it’ll await your arrival on day 5. This bag ought to be soft-sided and have no wheels.