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Some of the best riding experiences I have had with the criollos and half breeds in Chile were in Ritoque Expediciones, (see also in Facebook and a customer review) a horse tourism farm in Concon, near Viña del Mar. I was brave and phoned to the given number, preparing to put all my until then acquired Spanish skills to use, but to my surprise the lady answering the phone had no difficulties speaking English with me. We exchanged contact information and agreed on a three hour ride a few days ahead. However, on the eve of the big day, she sent me an sms asking if I would agree to join another group on a longer trek including an asado-picnic for the same price. I politely answered “yes, of course, no problem”, but to myself I said YESS!
The group in question was a French Airways cabin crew, a really nice bunch, who had been brought to ConCon from Santiago in a minibus to spend their day off together. We rode on the dunes, galloped on the beach, had a grilled lunch with red wine and pisco sour under a protective canopy formed by the branches of old pine trees, then, returning home, turned the caps back to front again, so that the wind would not catch them, and took off to our last gallop on the beach. The amazing thing was that the next time I booked the three hour ride from Ritoque, all this happened again, albeit with a different cabin crew!
While in Chile I also booked a ride from Cabalgatas Inti (also in Facebook) in Cajon del Maipo, a popular recreational area south-east of Santiago, and ventured to travel there with metro and taxi colectivo to ride towards the Andes together with an arriero called Ivan, just the two of us…
In November 2012 we travelled to Chile to take part in a conference. We had planned to go horse-trekking after the conference, and after some Internet searches found a stable a few hours drive south from Santiago. Having learned by now that it was not very likely to have someone who knew English in the other end, I send my enquiry in Spanish to the address given in the contact information. The answer came relatively fast – next day – all in Spanish with details and prices, and soon I was also speking on the phone with Alejandra, booking us on a five-day horseback trek in the Andes. Based Rari, near Linares, Cabalgatas Contreras (see also Facebook) is another small family business, run by the father, Danilo Contreras. We travelled by bus to Linares where Alejandra and her future daughter-in-law, Nora – who happened to be German and knew English – were waiting for us at the terminal. After greeting eachother and loading our luggage on the 4-wheel drive pickup van we went shopping for food for the ride with Alejandra. Then we left for their home in Rari, where we were offered a meal before spending the night in one of the guest rooms by the stables.
On the following day, soon after the breakfast, we packed Danilo’s van with food, a tent, two sleeping bags, mattresses and our clothes. Then we took off on an over two-hour bumpy drive towards Valle Melado in the Andes, from where the horse trek was to start. On arrival to our base camp we had a simple lunch in the house of Margarita, packed all the luggage on the (poor!) mule, mounted our horses – I had Pepiño and my husband had Minegra – and started the trek.
What ensued was an unforgettably beautiful five days on horseback, experiencing some of the Chilean highlands close to the Andes, with eagles soaring over the mountains and chrystal clear, cold rivers streaming down from them. For the nights we stopped in goat shepherds’ camps, making supper, eating and drinking mate together with them, washing ourselves in cold streams and sleeping in the tent under the majestic starry night sky.
(The photos in the Cabalgatas Contreras chapter ©Philip Dean)
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