Touch down into beautiful Buenos Aires at dawn and be whisked to a quiet residential area as it is just waking up… the aroma of fresh coffee lingers as you enter the lobby of the Algodon Mansion. A statuesque property, minimally styled with an air of Italian sophistication – black & white and mahogany interiors, located centrally in the affluent neighbourhood of Recoleta.
After freshening up and enjoying a delicate breakfast you are driven out of the city to San Antonio de Areco. A peaceful and pretty town, best known for its prevailing Gaucho traditions and for the famed goldsmiths & silversmiths of the Draghi family. Trained in Italy and full of charismatic charm, Juan Jose Draghi will talk you through the inspirations for his art and design you a bespoke piece of intricate silverwork.
A further short drive leads you to Estancia La Bamba de Areco. Set in the heart of the pampas, this is one of the oldest estancias in Argentina and a working ranch for world-class polo horses, revamped as a boutique hotel. Arrive just in time for lunch; a huge ‘asado’ offering a variety of delicious meats, rustic bread and tasty char-grilled vegetables plucked straight from the kitchen garden, followed by indulgent dulce de leche served with fresh crepes and whipped cream from the local dairy.
Retire to the lawns to relax and digest your hearty fare, while watching the mesmerising ‘horse whisperer’ – a magnificent show, demonstrating the fine-tuned communication between an expert gaucho and his majestic horse.
The following morning transfer back into Buenos Aires for a walk in the warm early summer sun through Palermo’s elegant rose garden. Absorb the magic of this distinctly European city, then enjoy lunch in one of its trendy downtown eateries before enjoying an intensely vivacious Tango show. Drifting off into sultry and sensual dreams inspired by this seductive dance… rest up before transferring to begin your mini expedition…
A short flight west finds you in the opposite side of the country. Land into San Martin de los Andes and take in the spectacular scenery along the bumpy dirt road that leads to the estancia of Caballadas.
A base for your horseback exploration of this privately-owned land, the ranch of Caballadas has been held and run by the family for five generations. Their land covers 20,000 hectares of private wilderness in the Patagonia Lake District, skimming the edge of the Andes and the Chilean border, and is further surrounded by 63,000 hectares of the Villarrica National Park to the West and 413,000 hectares of the Lanín National Park to the East – here you are truly embraced by nature.
The 8 bed La Casa Grande is perched on a mountainside with a spectacular view over the vast, rolling landscape. Upon arrival you are greeted warmly by the charismatic Santiago – ex polo champion and your expedition leader – while his gaucho companions assist, pairing you with your horse.
Watch the burnt orange sun slip behind the mountains from your panoramic viewpoint and sink into cosy leather armchairs, relaxing and chatting with your hosts over a home cooked ranch style meal, local cheeseboard and a glowing fire.
The following morning you will be up and out for a fresh spring morning drive down to the stables; this is still a working ranch and you feel a part of the team as you head out for the first day of your expedition to experience the life of the gaucho, alongside them and with them, embraced in camaraderie.
Once reacquainted with your calm and experienced horses, begin the trek through the truly spectacular scenery. Leave the estate and trundle across the open grassy plains and marshland. Embrace the feelings of exhilaration, liberation, and challenge as you quickly leave behind the familiar and enter into the unknown…
Wade through gushing rivers, weave through pine woodland, and carefully teeter over a rickety wooden bridge. And then you are off the grid in uncharted territory. The land is so vast that there are parts of the wilderness even the family have not yet visited…
As you pick quietly through woodland, the silence dawns on you… no roads, no telegraph wires, no hum of modernity at all. You are immersed in nature’s embrace. There’s no mobile phone signal here… so no point checking. Just switch off and tune in.
After a hard morning’s hack on your trusty steed, stop for a heavenly lunch in a stunning location: a glistening lake, flanked by snow-capped mountains, and a volcano, wearing a white cone hat, gazing back at you from the end of the vista. A fire is made, and the gauchos prepare food from the outdoors that is meant to be eaten outdoors. A hearty stew of beef and rice, served modestly in a tin bowl, yet the addition of delicious local cheeses, fresh salads and cured meats gives the meal an altogether refined feel.
A strong empowering coffee, made with melted glacial water boiled from the lake, and back on the horses… There are many miles to cover before dusk falls and you reach your camp for the night…
During the afternoon ride to your camp, cut through the monkey-puzzle trees and arrive at a plateau offering sublime views over the land’s cobalt blue lake. The water stretches far into the distance and on all sides is surrounded by majestic mountains – a classic image of wild Patagonia. In the far edge of the horizon is Volcano Lanín, the symbol of the Neuquén province.
Santiago’s pride for the land is infectious. He recounts tales of his adventures throughout the years and points out the areas yet to be explored. You begin feel as though you’re the first to arrive. The first to watch over the uncharted wilderness. That this is your land.
You ride onwards and as darkness begins to fall you find your well-stocked camp for the night. The gauchos set about making a fire and the evening meal, before you all retire to the sound of the lake’s lapping waves and calls of distant owls.
Spend the next few days exploring the canyons and valleys and fly-fishing in the lakes and rivers. Embrace the outdoors and charter new routes and areas. Enjoy the most delicious picnics in the most awe-inspiring landscapes. Wake just before the sunrise and set off down to the water’s edge for a dawn skip across the lake in a speedboat. As the sun peers over the mountain tops, find yourself surrounded by shores of dense forest and the towering Lanín volcano ahead.
Wake up each morning to a thoughtfully prepared breakfast using the best local ingredients, and spend your evenings swapping tales by the fire in the extremely cosy lodge.
You will leave the family home enriched by nature and mesmerised by your expedition experience. Caballadas leaves you feeling rejuvenated. It’s a peaceful reminder that the world will be fine no matter what. You have carved new lives here, become souls of nature and at one with the horses. Indeed, you were gauchos!
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