Heike did two rides with us in 2009. Heike is native German but lives in New Zealand where she rides her own horse on the beach.
The trick is to be in the right place at the right time - and I couldn't have timed my visit to Pucon in Chile any better. From a friend in Germany I knew that Antilco had to offer some pretty good riding, but they exceeded all my expectations. 2009 was the first year with a 12 day ride and a crossing of the Andes from Chile into Argentina on offer. There was only one week between rides and I decided to do them both. I have been asked, which one was the better ride. And the answer is simply that they were both amazing in their own right and can't be compared easily. I loved them both for different reasons and would do them all over again given a chance. Anybody who wants to experience all the highlights Antilco has to offer should try and do both.
I always wanted to do a ride like this. It took Antilco almost three years of planning and organising to make it happen - and it was just what one could hope for. We started at my favourite campsite - the laguna Goepinger where Aldo treated us to some more music around the camp fire. From here we had one day's riding that I already knew from the 12 day ride - a steep track up into dense forest with some challenging climbs for the horses. But like the first time they took it in their stride. The next day saw a dramatic change in scenery. We arived early at our campsite and had the opportunity to ride without luggage to a small lake where we could have a swim. It was a beautiful ride through Araucaria forest (also known as monkey puzzles, the Araucarias are the national tree of Chile). On the way back we met some locals who showed us an alternative route and shared some (Araucaria) pine nuts with us. Another day through a mix of forest and open countryside ended at a comfortable little campsite in the forest. The next day proved to be slightly challenging due to the sickness of one of our co-riders. To make it worse my horse lost a shoe, but Aldo fixed this problem in no time at all. We arrived late at a beautiful lake where we had a BBQ of goat - a real treat. This evening also treated us to an amazing sight - we saw a very bright shooting star or UFO (?) (I have since learnt in Argentina that we might have seen the crash of two satellites) which lit up the whole sky in a bright glaring light. The whole spectacle lasted for about 5 - 10 seconds and left us in awe. After that I watched different cloud formations forming a Southern Cross like constellation in different sizes with different stars - spellbinding! We had a 5.30 start the next morning. A lively galop along the lake ensured that we were all wide awake and arrived in good time at the border. Here the horses waited patiently while our passports got stamped. Then we followed a local guide up into the 'no man's land' between Chile and Argentina. Up and up we climbed until we reached a wide open plateau. In the distance we could see our new Argentinian horses who were already waiting for us. The time had come for a tearful farewell from Aldo and our Chilean horses, which we didn't want to let go. But in no time at all our new Argentinian guide Hernan and his Argentinian horses made up for the loss. The Argentinan horses were bigger and slightly more placid, perfect for our new surroundings. Up here the Patagonian wind was howling. After a quick lunch we loaded our gear onto the horses and went up the side of a very steep volcano. The horses had to bend into the wind to make the steep climb. My horse was amazing - he lost his packs without me realising it - fortunately the riders behind us yelled out and we could recover the bags in no time. Given the weather, we ended up spending the night at the local gendarmerie post, where the guys took pity on us and let us use their hot shower. The next two days the weather cleared and we enjoyed some very relaxed riding in the amazing Patagonian landscape - wide open spaces, mountains, plateaus and views to die for. After two days riding we arrived at the Argentinain border control - our next adventure. The young officer was ever so slightly puzzled by this influx of women who had passports from one country but happened to live in other countries? and where the hell was England - it was definitely not in his computer - in the end we found it under 'United Kingdom'. and just as we thought we had passed all the hurdles we had to present our car documents - a moment of confusion - we did not have such a document. Why not? Everybody had to have one - yes, but we had actually entered on horseback and the evidence was waiting patiently outside in the carpark. After a thorough bag check we were allowed to proceed. The day ended at hernan's place where we enjoyed a wonderful BBQ, live music and lots of laughter. We all slept well in our comfortable cabana. The ride ended with a drive back to Pucon. The nice officer on the Argentinian side recognised us immediately and this time it was no problem to find England in the computer and we had car documents too....
© 2000 - Antilco - Horseback riding in Chile and Argentina