If you are looking for an adventure holiday that includes miles of mountain trails, nights under the southern hemisphere stars, and even more extraordinary landscape, consider one of our combination lodge stays and horse treks. Combination stays provide the opportunity to take part in the unique and beautiful world of our off-grid ecolodge, as well as experience the inevitable bond between horse and rider that results from days spent moving together through the mountains of Patagonia.
January 9-18, 2020
Meet Ranquilco's driver in the town of Neuquen, or Zapala, for the drive to our ranch outpost - the end of the road for most vehicles. Enjoy a mid-afternoon picnic lunch, then meet your horse and mount up for the two and a half hour ride into the heart of the Estancia where the lodge is located.
Settle into your cottage or room then join us on the Casa Grande terrace for wine, a welcoming dinner, and good company.
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 down time or participate in a walking tour of the property, highlighting Ranquilco’s off-grid homestead systems. Return to the patio for evening drinks, followed by dinner.
Enjoy breakfast while the guides pack the mules. Then, mules loaded and riders in the saddle, head out the gate to begin your epic 5 night, 6 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.
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.
The trail leads up out of the valley, across a mountain pass, and then another 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.
Days 6 and 7:
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 neighboring gauchos.
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
A day of rest and relaxation. Guests can enjoy a swim in the river, a short ride, or a sauna by the river, with glorious meals throughout. In the evening we'll have a farewell party - a feast featuring a goat asado attended by local gauchos and the Ranquilco community. Traditional gaucho dance late into the night.
Breakfast, followed by your morning departure. Ride back to the outpost and savor your last moments as a group while eating a picnic lunch. Bid farewell to the guides and the ranch, and load up into the vehicles for the drive back to the town of Zapala or the Neuquen Airport.
Rate: $3250 all inclusive