Patagonian Cordillera Riding Adventure

About the Experience

Venture by horseback into the rugged heart of the Andes into the Cordillera chain of mountain ranges, by way of your strong and surefooted Argentine Criollos. 

Sturdy, dependable, and familiar with the passages of the longest mountain range in the world, you will be paired with a horse companion that is suited to your ridership level. Deep into this region, you will go, with your trusted guides and fellow Wild Women there to experience it all with you.

Travel up river valleys to the site of their headwaters, over mountain passes with 360-degree views of Patagonia’s expanse, and along the shores of a deep alpine lake.  Encounter friendly Argentine gauchos who spend their summers tending herds of livestock in the backcountry.

In the evenings, as the horses graze nearby, enjoy all that comes with true backcountry camping, including stream dipping, campfire storytelling, and delicious backcountry meals composed with the Estancia’s homegrown meat and vegetables. Then crawl into your sleeping bag for gorgeous views of the Patagonian night sky as you drift into a well-deserved sleep.

Experience the true Patagonia the Wild Women way!

 

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Patagonian Cordillera Riding Adventure

About the Experience

Venture by horseback into the rugged heart of the Andes into the Cordillera chain of mountain ranges, by way of your strong and surefooted Argentine Criollos. 

Sturdy, dependable, and familiar with the passages of the longest mountain range in the world, you will be paired with a horse companion that is suited to your ridership level. Deep into this region, you will go, with your trusted guides and fellow Wild Women there to experience it all with you.

Travel up river valleys to the site of their headwaters, over mountain passes with 360-degree views of Patagonia’s expanse, and along the shores of a deep alpine lake.  Encounter friendly Argentine gauchos who spend their summers tending herds of livestock in the backcountry.

In the evenings, as the horses graze nearby, enjoy all that comes with true backcountry camping, including stream dipping, campfire storytelling, and delicious backcountry meals composed with the Estancia’s homegrown meat and vegetables. Then crawl into your sleeping bag for gorgeous views of the Patagonian night sky as you drift into a well-deserved sleep.

Experience the true Patagonia the Wild Women way!

 

DAY ONE: WELCOME TO THE RANCH

Meet your Wild Women group and Argentine driver(s) at 10 am in the arrivals hall of the Neuquen Airport (NQN) or 10:30 am in the lobby of the Hotel Land Express. Load up into 4×4 pickups and relax on the 6-hour drive to the remote ranch outpost, Buta Mallin – the end of the road for the vehicles. Note: that the drivers speak Spanish, so having a phrasebook on hand is useful for communicating during the drive.

A picnic lunch will be ready for you upon arrival. Your Wild Women guides will introduce you to your horses and offer some basic riding instruction before the 3-hour ride into the heart of Estancia Ranquilco, where the off-grid lodge is located. Settle into your rooms, then join the group for wine and appetizers on the patio, followed by a welcoming dinner and full trip orientation at the main lodge, Casa Grande.

  • Riding Time: ~ 3 hours
  • Driving Time: ~ 6 hours

 

DAY TWO: RANQUILCO LODGE

After a delicious and hearty breakfast, your guides will introduce the group to the tack and provide saddling instruction. Ranquilco guides strive to teach guests how to saddle with the local Argentine gear so that everyone is self-sufficient in saddling their own horse by the midway point of the pack trip. After the lesson, you’ll head out for a local morning ride to learn about trail safety and get better acquainted with your horse and tack. Return to the lodge for lunch, followed by a discussion about mountain trip preparation, itinerary, safety and gear.  

In the afternoon, enjoy downtime or participate in a walking tour of the property, highlighting Ranquilco’s off-grid homestead systems. Regroup for an opening circle, during which participants and guides will have an opportunity to share a little about what inspired them to embark on this unique expedition. Then return to the patio for evening drinks, followed by dinner.

  • Riding Time: ~ 2 hours

 

DAY THREE: INTO THE ANDES

Enjoy breakfast while the guides pack the mules. Then, mules loaded and women in the saddle, ride out the gate to begin your epic 6 night, 7-day adventure into Patagonia’s backcountry.

The pack trip begins by traveling up the Trocoman River and ascending into high steppe land towards the confluence of the Trocoman and Picunleo rivers. You’ll cross the Picunleo and head upriver, climbing out of the river valley onto a high plateau with amazing views towards the high country ahead. In the afternoon, the trail drops back down by way of a steep, rocky hillside, eventually leading to a lovely riverside camp spot.

Reminder: This is a backcountry expedition – wild, remote, and beautiful. The campsites are completely undeveloped and feature zero amenities. There is nothing there, only what you bring, and when you leave it looks like you were never there. At each new campsite, you will find a flat spot for your tent, use saddle pads/blankets for seats, and nearby streams for washing up.

  • Riding Time: 6-7 hours

 

DAY FOUR: RIDE THE PICUNLEO RIVER VALLEY

Most mornings on the pack trip begin with a fairly early rise, breakfast and hot beverages at the fire, and a couple of solid hours of packing up the gear, saddling the horses and loading the mules. Feel free to jump in and help out if you like, or sit back and relax with a book in hand. The riding starts with several river crossings as the Picunleo River valley narrows and steepens.
After a few hours, the valley opens up, offering spectacular views of massive rock cliffs towering over open grasslands bordered by the shrub-like trees that grow at these elevations. You’ll follow a stream into a glacially carved bowl tucked up against the border of Chile and make camp at the upper end of the valley – the headwaters of the Picunleo River.

  • Riding Time: 5-6 hours

 

DAY FIVE: CHILEAN BORDER

A relatively short and spectacular ride. Ranquilco guides love teaching the art of mule packing and this is a perfect morning for it should anyone desire. The ride begins with a steep climb out of the De La Piedra Valley. You’ll get above treeline, ride over bands of rock, and summit the high pass that delineates the Picunleo watershed to the South and the Reñileuvu watershed to the North. Revel in the spectacular views up and down the spine of the Andes and off toward Chile. The continental divide, which is also the border of Chile, is just a few hundred yards to the west. Once properly satiated of the view, ride down a path along a steep shale mountainside to the lush, green, Desecho Valley, where you’ll set up camp near one of the ubiquitous gushing springs.

  • Riding Time: 2-3 hours

 

DAY SIX: LAGUNA NEGRA

The trail leads up out of Desecho, across a high ridge and the steep upper bowl of a side valley, and tops out at the highest point on the trip (~7750 feet). From here you can see massive vistas of active Argentine and Chilean volcanoes. Ride down from the summit along a steep and switchbacking trail into the Cerro Negro Valley, home of the beautiful alpine lake, Laguna Negra. Stop at the lake for a dip, then continue another half hour to the “Laguna Puesto” – Ranquilco’s summer cattle outpost. The puesto has a few simple huts (where the gauchos live) and other basic, but welcomed, luxuries, such as benches, a sink, and an outhouse. It makes for a wonderful home base. Here you have a chance to spend time with the local gauchos that tend the herds of cattle, sheep, and goats in these beautiful summer grazing lands.

  • Riding Time: 4-5 hours

 

DAY SEVEN TO EIGHT: RELAXING AT LAGUNA NEGRA

You’ll have two relaxing layover days at this high country camp. Explore the valley by horse or on foot; fish, swim, and lounge at the lake; indulge in some reading and/or writing. In the evenings, hang out around the fire at the puesto and share stories with the neighbouring gauchos.

  • Riding Time: Optional 1-3 hours/day

 

DAY NINE: RETURN TO RANQUILCO

The last day of the pack trip is a full day’s ride back to the lodge, with vast views of the Cordillera Del Viento in the north. Upon returning you’ll be reunited with the wonderful luxuries and hospitality at the lodge – hot showers, cold beers, and comfortable beds. Finish off the long day with an excellent meal, and make your way happily to bed.

  • Riding Time: 6-7 hours

 

DAY TEN: LOUNGING AT THE LODGE

A day of rest and relaxation. Sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast, and head to the river for swimming and soaking-in your final day at Estancia Ranquilco. In the afternoon, following a fine patio lunch, gather together for a closing circle. This is a time to reflect upon some highlights of individual and shared experiences during the expedition. In the evening you’ll have a farewell party – a feast featuring a goat asado – attended by local gauchos and Ranquilco’s community of staff and family. There will be a traditional gaucho dance late into the night.

 

DAY ELEVEN: FAREWELL

Breakfast, followed by your morning departure. Ride back to Buta Mallin and savor your last moments as a whole group while you eat a picnic lunch. Say farewell to the guides and the ranch, and load up into the vehicles for the drive back to the Neuquen Airport (NQN). Airport arrival will be about 5 pm so you can make a 6:30 pm flight back to Buenos Aires if you wish.

  • Riding Time: 3 hours
  • Driving Time: 6 hours

Horse Info:

Ranquilco horses are primarily Argentine Criollos. Over the years we’ve had quarter horse, Arabian, and Criollo stallions whose bloodlines are in the mix. Our horses are born and raised in these mountains and are very much at home in the rugged terrain. They are strong, calm, level-headed and sure-footed, and fun, easy-to-ride adventure partners.

Ranquilco has a horse to complement every riding level – from first-time to advanced riders, we will match you with a horse to suit your experience. Guests have the opportunity to care for their own horse if they please, from catching it in the corral or nearby pasture to grooming and saddling.

Our saddles are similar to endurance saddles, with the addition of a comfortable sheepskin seat. We use safety stirrups brought from the U.S. that can accommodate a variety of boot types without danger of getting stuck. There are plenty of long leather ties for jackets, and canvas saddle bags for trail gear. The riding style is western, with a loose rein. We use rope halters, and western style bridles with leather reins. All of our horses neck rein and follow the standard cues for the walk, trot, canter, and stop.


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