Holiday ExtensionsAtacama Desert
This adventurous mountain ride starts in Mendoza in the west of Argentina. Mendoza province is Argentina's capital of the wine industry, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the entire country’s wine production. Mendoza is located in the eastern foothills of the Andes, in the shadow of Mount Aconcagua; its vineyards are planted at some of the highest altitudes in the world. Wines produced are Malbec, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
The ride starts from the historic village Manzano which boasts a historic monument which locates the precise spot where General San Martin slept under apple trees before he led his troops to liberate Chile. You will follow the route travelled by General San Martin in 1818 and later by Charles Darwin several times between 1832-1835.
This is a unique opportunity to ride through the magnificent snow-capped Andes mountain range from Argentina to the frontier with Chile, where cattle and Criollo horses roam free in majestic valleys and mountain passes. Please note that the itinerary may change depending on local weather conditions and the riding ability of your group, but always with your best interests in mind.
Morning flight from Buenos Aires or Santiago to Mendoza where you will be welcomed and driven (30 minutes) to your hotel in Mendoza city at 800m above sea level. You can refresh and relax from your journey before exploring the vibrant cosmopolitan city of Mendoza with its tree lined squares & park. Lunch is to your own account and there are plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants within close vicinity to your hotel. Late afternoon you meet with your guides at the hotel where you will be provided with a mule bag which will be used to store all your clothing and equipment for the duration of the expedition. Other belongings can be stored securely at the hotel until your return. Dine together in a local restaurant and overnight in the hotel in Mendoza city.
An early breakfast at your hotel and then meet the guides in reception. You leave the hustle and bustle of the city and journey (approx. 1 hour) to the famous wine region Valle De Uco to visit the world renowned Bodega Salentein in the foothills of the Andes (c. 2 hours.).
From the vineyard you are transferred to Puesto Videla at 2000m above sea level (a journey of approximately 40 mins). After a late lunch there is short afternoon ride to familiarise yourself with the Criollo horses, their tack and the different riding style as well as to acclimatise to the altitude. In the evening join your host for a traditional ‘Asado’ (BBQ) with local wine under the canopy of stars in the southern hemisphere. Overnight camping at Puesto Videla.
After breakfast you are driven along remote mountain tracks to ‘Portinari’ border control (approx. 40 mins) where you go through Argentine passport control and the pack mules are loaded. You have lunch here before leaving modern life behind and heading into no man’s land! You ride for approx. 4 hrs into the mountainous landscapes riding across steep rocky terrain and rivers. The riding can be slow at times due to the terrain but you have a Condor’s view of Valle de Uco far below. You camp overnight at Scaravelli Refugio (3200m above sea level). Upon arrival afternoon tea is waiting for you and the horses and mules are corralled and fed. The tents are pitched next to the river and then as sun sets dinner is served at the Refugio.
An early breakfast in preparation for an epic and unforgettable 8 hour ride from Scaravelli, crossing the impressive Portillo Argentina (4200m above sea level). The ride to the Portillo ascends gradually as Condors circle above you in the thermals. You will pass ancient rock corrals used by gauchos to hold cattle being driven over the Andes from Argentina to Chile. The Portillo is a highlight of your expedition - Charles Darwin rode this route many times between 1832-1835 and it is documented in his journals. Lunch and refreshments are provided en route. The final destination is Real de La Cruz (2800m above sea level) a remote mountain hut where hot showers and facilities await. Refreshments are available on arrival whilst mules are unloaded and the campsite is set up. The evening dinner is served inside the Refugio. Overnight camping at the Refugio.
A relaxed morning as the horses require a half day rest after the high altitude of the Portillo crossing and are turned out loose in the valley to graze. If you wish you can explore the beautiful valley on foot or just relax. Lunch will be served on the veranda overlooking the Tunuyan River in the valley.
After lunch the horses are rounded up and cross the river to a corral before being tacked up for an optional 3 hour ride down the valley to see ‘Laguna de los Patos’. You may see the wild Guanacos in the mountains here. Afternoon refreshments are provided and later the evening dinner is served inside the Refugio. A second night camping at Real de La Cruz.
Breakfast and a full day’s ride to the Chilean Frontier (3800m above sea level) starting with the crossing of the glacial Tunuyan River. There may be opportunities for some faster riding through the valley. This 7 hr ride to the Chilean Frontier is challenging due to the altitude and steep ascents and descents but by now you are confident and comfortable riding at altitude in the mountains.
You ride through ‘Paso Hondo’, which literally means ‘deep pass’ and is an achievement in itself. Climbing to the Frontier at the summit of a snow capped mountain you can marvel at the stunning panorama and the route you have ridden over the Andes to the Chilean border. You will hopefully see the Volcano Tunpungato and its glacier as you start to make your return journey to a new base camp near ‘Paso Hondo’. Refreshments will be available on arrival at camp. There are some unique rock formations in this area as well as a natural spa. The horses are turned loose around the camp. This is true wilderness camping and dinner will be served around a campfire.
Enjoy breakfast around the campfire before setting off on another 7 hour ride, returning to Real de la Cruz by a different route with, weather permitting, views of Tunpungato Volcano and glacier. There should be opportunities for faster riding depending on the terrain. You cross Tunuyan River for a second time as you approach Real de la Cruz where you spend the night and have dinner.
A full days ride (7 hours) for the return journey from Real de la Cruz to the Portillo (4200m) and onto the final destination of ‘Yaretas’. The route in reverse rides completely differently as you approach the Portillo not only from a different direction but also from a different panorama & perspective. You will fully appreciate what you and your horse have achieved on this memorable epic expedition. From the top of the Portillo you can see Valle de Uco and the vineyards. Lunch is taken en route.
At ‘Yaretas’ you are met by a 4x4/minibus which transfers you from the wilderness to civilisation and your hotel in Mendoza (approx. 1hr 30min). You arrive late afternoon /early evening. There will be a farewell dinner at a restaurant with your host to recall the Andean expedition and adventure of a lifetime over a glass of wine.
Check out of your hotel and transfer from Mendoza city to the airport (approx. 30min.) for a morning flight to Buenos Aires/Santiago de Chile.
The first and last night are in a hotel in Mendoza.
For the majority of the riding trip you are camping and sleeping in two-person tents. These will be put up around a central area used for cooking and eating plus of course a campfire. The chef/guide prepares food and drinks for you. The local wine is included and available for you to enjoy in beautiful and relaxing surroundings.
Wilderness camps only have basic facilities - washing can be done in a nearby river or stream and the toilet will be a hole in the ground. At some of the refugios there are hot showers and running water.
SPECIAL PRICE FOR 17 - 25 MARCH 2013 - $2,593
RIDE PRICE (8 nights) Jan - Mar 2013
2 people in group: $4,830
3-5 people in group: $4,225
6-8 people in group: $3,441
9-15 people in group: $2,750
INCLUDES Accommodation; camping equipment; all meals whilst on the ride; tea/coffee/water; riding; guides; transfers from Mendoza.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT Single accommodation is not possible and so you should be prepared to share.
PAYABLE LOCALLY Lunch on first day; drinks on first and last night; purchases at the Bodega; sleeping bag and mat.
NEAREST AIRPORT Mendoza.
TRANSFERS Included from Mendoza.
NOT INCLUDED International flights to Mendoza. Flights from London via Santiago, Buenos Aires, or Sao Paulo are in the region of £1,000.
In The Saddle Gallery
Mendoza is Argentina's main wine growing region and lies about one and a half hours flight due west from the capital, Buenos Aires.
The Andes are a mountainous climate and the weather can be changeable – you could experience sun, rain or even snow. It can be very cold and windy so you need to be prepared. The UV levels are high so you will need good sun protection.
If the weather is good then the daytime temperatures could be 20°C during the day dropping to minus 2°C at night. If the weather is bad then temperatures could be as low as 0 – 5°C during the day, dropping to minus 5 – minus 10°C at night.
In Mendoza city it will be 20 – 40°C during the day and the temperatures may only drop 10 degrees at night.
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