horseback/hike/kayak through backcountry Patagonia & build a reading room
Dates: Dec. 16-24 (exact dates can be flexible)
Price For 5-7 people: $4,800 / person
Price For 8-10 people: $4,400 / person
Ever killed a campfire with the leftover coffee, saddled up your horse and ridden off track into a wild Patagonia sunset, stopping only to scoop up a liter of drinkable lake water on the way to a Malbec-infused backwoods feast?
This is your chance. For 8 days, immerse yourself in the crisp, luminous beauty of high Patagonian summer, riding (or hiking, if you'd rather) and paddling into a region way off the tourist circuit, and then help build a winter reading room for schoolchildren from the nearby estáncias. This Patagonia experience you won't find in any guidebook. No riding experience necessary!
This small-group expedition begins as you land in San Carlos de Bariloche, where we'll be waiting for you outside baggage claim. Together, we travel overland along the ridiculously pretty Ruta de 7 Lagos on the way to the charming town of San Martin de los Andes.
From San Martin, we disappear on horseback into the surrounding mountains, exploring the rustic backcountry and camping in generously sized tents around a cowboy-worthy fire. We are accompanied by local gauchos and our English-speaking Argentine partner, who comes from a long line of estancia (farm) owners.
Rather hike instead of ride? No problem! Take a day off from the horse.
Returning to San Martin, we spend a half-day paddling across a pristine lake you can drink from directly. Then begins our hands-on volunteer project. It's a small, sustainable way to give back and contribute to the very culture and region you've vigorously explored.
We'll spend 3 days building, with plenty of local helping hands, a needed community and reading room for provincial school kids from the region's backcountry farms and ranches.
The students are generally poor; many walk or ride horses to school from nearby estancias (farms), where their parents work and live in modest rented housing. About half the students live far enough away that they board at the school during the week. Winters are so rough and snow-packed, that the school year runs through the summer. Spring and fall weather brings snow, rain and slush, making it a challenge for students to attend classes.
The school community room will, thus, provide a welcome gathering, reading and recreational space for these kids. Our local non-profit partner for this project is Fundación Somos Acción Ciudadana.
This expedition includes: all lodging, tents and sleeping bags; hearty meals that include beer, wine; kayaks and experienced, well-mannered horses that are able to ride off track; ground transportation; airport pickup & drop off; deeply experienced local horse trainers and backcountry guides; and a custom-designed, start-to-finish, hands-on volunteer project coordinated with a reputable local non-profit organization in Patagonia.
The price does not include international airfare to and from Argentina and entry visa (which remains valid for 10 years).
In Patagonia, you will eat well, drink well (if you care to) and sleep very well, whether under a hotel roof or the starry Patagonian sky. Upon arrival in San Martin de los Andes your lodging is in a comfortable, locally owned hotel. During our 3-day backcountry horseback adventure, accommodations will be spacious tents in a campfire setting. During our volunteer project we'll enjoy a log cabins and piles of warm, wool blankets. Rustic? Yes. Survival of the fittest? Hardly.
Meals during the horseback adventure are prepared by local guides, and consist of hearty meats, locally grown vegetables, beer, Argentine wine and even local spirits. Vegetarians thrive in Patagonia. Meat eaters weep tears of joy. Wine lovers may never leave.
You should plan to arrive in San Carlos de Bariloche on the afternoon of Friday, Dec. 16, when we will pick you up at the airport. Bariloche is reached from Buenos Aires by daily connecting flights. We recommend flying into Buenos Aires a day early, spending one night in the city, and connecting to Bariloche the following day.
Departures can begin from San Carlos de Bariloche on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 24. There are same-day connecting flights in Buenos Aires to international destinations, so you may be able to continue home directly without another layover.
What you are doing has had a huge affect on all of us, internally. Externally, there is a playground where there was none and a bit more hope than there was just a week ago. There are ties forged by the experience that go both ways, and cross oceans, that will never be undone. It's a beautiful thing.
~ John, architect