Crossing Chile on Horseback
those looking for a wilderness experience which
includes the many challenges and rewards that
come from immersing yourself not only in the out-
of -doors but also in the culture of a land, this
is it! My husband and I are wilderness seekers
and have had our share of working with outfitters
who promise a wilderness experience but have left
us desiring more culture and more wilderness.
Not so with this trip!
trip began with the delight of having our guide
arrive at the hosteria looking like anything but
a guide! He was a true working "rancher"
and what a pleasure it was to sit back and watch
this man work in his element.
many words exchanged between us, as we spoke little
Spanish and he no English, we had one of the most
educational and culturally rich trips we have
first day entailed saddling up on some of the
most sure-footed horses I have ever ridden. I
have owned horses for 25 years and ridden many
places and never felt as in awe of what these
animals were capable of and how comfortable the
ride. Sitting atop 3 - 4 sheep skins with our
guide in his beret, wool poncho and sheep skin
chaps we were off!
through old growth forests, thick bamboo stands
filled with blooming fuchsia bushes we crossed
beautiful glacier fed streams to arrive at a stream
crossing where we met up with a group of native
Chilean's loading a packhorse with wood flooring.
This was an amazing work of art and engineering
to watch this loaded horse cross a roaring river
loaded with wood which was going to this rancher's
home 20 miles away! The last we were to see of
people for many days!
first night the rain started and our guide found
a small barn for us for camp. The rain came but
sitting under a roof with a backdrop of waterfalls,
glaciers and a beautiful stream our spirits would
not be affected by rain! To sit quietly and watch
our guide at work was like watching a National
begins by pulling a knife from his pocket and
removing a shoe from a horse, filing the hoof
down on a stone found in the barn and wetting
the sharpening stone in the rain. He then sterilizes
the knife in the campfire and begins another work
of art in preparing a piece of meat for smoking.
By cutting along veins and arteries "just
so" and then salting the meat it is ready
for smoking over the fire for several days.
days end he unrolls his bedroll which again consists
of the ever-present sheepskins. The next morning
before daylight he is out rounding up horses that
have been free range grazing all night. The morning
fire was warm and welcoming. The rain continued
but we were well dressed and the scenery, challenges
and adventure were waiting!
next several days consist of more varied terrain
that you could possibly ever dream of. We had
glacier-topped mountains, waterfalls to climb
and cross on horse back, open fields with a small
farm here and there. As we were riding through
a beautiful open pasture that had been cleared
by the "slash & burn" method we
observed a horse & rider coming our way. This
scene was South America's version of The Sound
of Music. A young native Chilean girl came galloping
over the hillside with her toddler brother sitting
in front of her riding atop the layers of sheep
skins! No words were exchanged but the sparkle
in the children's eyes told you they were happy
just to see us! Our guide exchanged some greetings
and we sent off the waves and smiles of these
two lovely children.
riding became ever challenging with steep climbs,
narrow trails and river crossings. Our guides'
silence was an opportunity which allowed us to
become immersed in this land. From the roar of
rivers to the silence of the forests it became
an important and appreciated part of the journey.
We had all of this to ourselves! There were no
roads and very few and far between "farms".
several nights out in the true beauty and isolation
of this route we cross over a pass in the mountains
to be met by a rare but beautiful falling snow
in a mountain meadow.
this meadow down through the mountains into a
small settlement and down to Lake Espolon. We
are not greeted with cabins and motorboats but
yet another remote wonderland.
ride for a day along the steep sides of the lake
always in view of the lake or the glaciers that
surround it. We arrive at our guide's ranch in
awe and wonder. Sitting on the side of the lake,
here is a place of meticulous workmanship. Without
the benefit of nails, hinges, posts and all the
modern day conveniences he has built himself a
home, barn, fences and corral for his horses over
looking an isolated lake with glaciers as its
backdrop! His words to us as we arrive at his
home are " Mi casa , tu casa”. No electricity,
no plumbing, no TV's, no Internet or hot shower
and yet he is inviting us to make ourselves at
home! He is so willing to share what we might
consider the bare necessities. Never did we feel
more welcome and comfortable!
trip ends with a ride the following day into the
pueblo of Futaleufu riding our horses right down
"main street" to the Expediciones Chile
|We are welcomed into town by Chris Spelius and stay at his wonderful hosteria.
food, warm beds, and hot showers. Something that
feels so good, yet we leave behind an experience
we will never soon forget. Having dinner the following
evening with Chris and our guide allowed us communicate
on the more traditional level with our guide through
beauty of communicating silently throughout the
trip allowed us a unique experience. Then being
able to share all of this together over wonderful
food and wonderful company was the perfect ending.
Chris put this all together for us was not like
dealing with an outfitting company but more like
having a good friend or relative in the area that
wants to show you all that they have come to know
and love of the country.
have had many wilderness experiences throughout
our travels. From being flown in by float plane
and being dropped off with just ourselves and
our canoe in the wilderness of Canada, to riding
the Bitterroots along the Lewis and Clark trail
with a veteran rancher from the mountains, to
exploring Alaska on horseback and rafting, but
this trip by far is our greatest experience.