Huw and Allison together with Stephen and Katy were the riders on our 7 days "Colonostrail" ride .
We do not ride the same 7 day route anymore but still use the same paths in our rides in Huerquehue National Park.
A lot to read, but worth it: they have the most lively description of this ride I have read up until now. Thanks to Huw and Ally to letting me publish it, thanks to the four for the pics and for being such a great team and lovely guests. Here's what they wrote about their 7 days in the Andes:
Up and finished packing up to meet the girl from the horse centre at the camp site entrance at 8.30am. She arrived in a yellow van and was called Ale (pronounced Ali, not like the beer!!) short for Alejandra (probably not spelt right though!!) and was lovely right from the start. She helped load up the bikes and off we went to Mathias´ farm, 12 km from Pucon. We arrived and met his wife and family and then were introduced to the other two people who were to share our week long adventure on horse back!! They were Steve, from a town about 100 miles from Atlanta in the USA and Katy, a gap year student from Newtown in Wales and who has been volunteering / teaching English in the south of Chile. Our initial impressions were favourable - your travelling companions can make a HUGE difference to a trip like this - they both seemed like lovely people!!
We chatted over a delicious al fresco breakfast and learnt that Ale was to be our guide on the trail - good news too! So. To meet the horses!! Very excited. Ale made us try to guess which horse in the field would be ours for the week - no-one got it first time but Allison had been given a lovely dark bay mare called Polka to ride (named because of her black spots on her white socks) and Huw had an equally lovely chestnut called Regalona. We brought them in, gave them a good groom and then watched how a Chilean saddle and bridle are put on... very different to the English set-up and looking a little bit like a Western saddle but without the big pommel. They certainly look comfy though! And they were! We set off on a 3 1/2 hour circular ride from the farm - to test out the horses and for Ale to look at our riding abilities etc. It was GREAT! The horses were generally all fairly biddable but with some get up and go....Katy´s had a little too much with a bit of bucking to begin with and Steve´s had a bit too little resulting in him actually getting a different horse for the trail itself. We had a super gallop along the volcanic sand on the banks of the river....this looks like it is going to be fun!! Unfortunately it started to rain just after we got back from the ride...and it rained....and rained....and rained!!
The rest of the afternoon was sorting and snoozing and then we went to eat dinner in the house. Mathias and his wife Karin have been there since 1997 and have a super set-up with a delightful family (two children and parents living there) and they are in the process of building their own house...it is going to be fantastic. Over dinner we talked about the possibility of postponing the ride by one day as the forecast was bad for tomorrow....that was fine by all concerned. There is a girl who works for Mathias who is called Janet and is from Switzerland (Mathias himself is originally from Germany) but she caused great hilarity by telling Steve that he sounds just like Forest Gump!! He took it in very good part!! But he does a bit!!! Off to bed in the rain. Tsk.
Flippin´heck!! Did it rain in the night or what?!? Mathias made the decision for us to cancel the ride today when it was still hurling it down at 8am...good call. So. We then proceeded to do very little for the rest of the day. There isn´t really a lot that you can do in the rain, on a farm in the middle of no-where. Steve went fishing but Katy and us two just read and slept. Until 6pm when we got a lift into town and then had a spending spree. In half an hour we´d both bought jeans and leather hats, sweeties and books. The jeans are because our lightweight cotton trousers are not up to a weeks hard riding and the hats are because our baseball caps will not be much use if it does continue to persist it down! Back to Antilco at 9pm. Bed. Fingers crossed for tomorrow!!
Allison was up at 7am and it was a beautiful morning!! We hadn't´t realised but there is a great view of the volcano from the camp site. The pink light on it this morning was gorgeous. Then packing and sorting and organising horses and more packing. We had thought we might be taking a pack horse but no, all the stuff came with us on our horses. We each had a set of saddle bags and then one bedding roll that sits behind the saddle. The horses didn't´t appear to object though! We finally left the farm around 12pm and then trundled along tracks and roads for a couple of hours. We got to a lake called Caburgua around 2pm and sat on the beach eating empanadas (delicious Cornish pasty-type Chilean food) and feeling very content with the world. Then after lunch we went along the black sand beach (from the volcano) and then along a track by the side of the lake. And then. The real stuff began. We rode up into a wooded valley. and when we say up, we mean UP! Oh, my goodness......how steep!! The horses were fabulous and puffed and panted but didn't falter (they did pause for breath quite frequently though) and we gained a lot of height in a short space of time! We got to our first camp site around 7pm - a delightful plateau - and we got off the horses, unsaddled them and turned them loose!! What clever horses they are to not run away (or is that thick?!?!?) A beautiful evening followed with a great soup and pasta tea cooked on the open fire. We sat around the fire and chatted and toasted marshmallows and looked at the stars....good, eh!
More about the horseback trek to sollipulli volcano
Up around 8am, to the sound of bellowing cows, and then breakfast by the fire. Then to find the horses. We discovered they are NOT as good as we'd thought last night.....we were actually camped in a huge enclosed plain...and so they couldn't have gone home even if they'd wanted to!! Saddled up and off around 11am - a lovely steady pace to this trip - another fabulous day. We did lots more up and down, through ancient forest of huge, tall, monkey puzzle trees. This whole area is famous for them and they are magnificent. There are also huge areas with only low growth and that is as a result of a very large fire over 50 years ago - it puts the age of the other trees into perspective. Everything is very dry here - it is a totally different climate - they do get rain and snow but then the rest of the time is very dry so, where at home we would have damp and mossy woodland, here the fallen trees end up bleached and brittle. Part of today was SO steep we had to get off and let the horses go down alone. Ale and Luis stayed on though - they must have glue on their bums! The Chilean saddle and stirrups are very different to the English ones though and do make you feel much more confident and secure in the down bits (well, it meant Allison didn't squeak QUITE as much as she might have done otherwise!! - not a brave soldier going down hill!!) The end of the ride today was at some hot springs. We untacked and rode the horses to the field bareback...with cantering too....and then back for a beer. Then, Huw went for a snooze and Allison went with Steve and Katy to the springs. How good are these things? The hot water flowed into the river and so there were some VERY hot parts, some cooler bits and then the river was freezing. We were all brave enough to get into the river but Katy got the highest score for braving the cold the most. We were the objects of much amusement to a Chilean family...three very white Gringo's squealing and exclaiming at the water temp.....what more do you need for entertainment? Dinner tonight was a bar-b-que prepared by Luis and Ale and was delicious and was washed down with red wine. Tops.
Allison woke up around 7am and got up and went for another hot springs dip....pure bliss to lie in gorgeous hot water and watch the sun come up and touch the mountains...ahhhh. Then had to sort out a chocolate / clothing crisis. Huw had stashed two bars of chocolate (emergency rations) in his bag. Unfortunately, they must have been near the outside of the saddle bag and in with his clothes. Hot sun + chocolate = melted chocolate all over trousers, underpants, socks and t-shirt. Tsk. Not only was it a mess....there was no chocolate left!! Ale helped to sort the problem out by showing Allison the "bath" rooms where you can use shampoo as the water goes into the drains not back into the river. The bath are carved out of wood and the water is pumped straight from the springs and it is great!! Then breakfast and horses from the field - Huw was very brave and rode bareback back down from the field. We finally got around to leaving around 12.30pm and rode up a wide valley with a sandy track. We stopped for lunch at a logging place and Huw provided the after lunch entertainment by performing a perfect side-wards roll into a ditch....barely missing the stream! There was a polite pause.....and then hysterical laughter from the rest of us! Bless him! The rest of the ride today was through a bamboo forest. Not only did the horses want to eat like it was their last ever chance but there were some HUGE steep bits - Allison squeaking again, but more quietly now! It really feels like a HUGE adventure, proper exploration stuff - which in a sense it is as with every rainfall there are landslides and trees fall and we had to make detours off the path - although "the path" is an overstatement really. Got to the camp site, another open space and let the horses wander around with long ropes tied round their necks while we put the tents up and got sorted. The fire was lit and vegetable rice was made for tea. We had hoped to walk down to the Laguna after tea but Ale decided we wouldn't get back before dark. Steve was disappointed as he has brought a telescopic fishing rod with him and wanted to have a go. We built the fire up to a roaring blaze with two massive logs though and spent the evening with toasted marshmallows (on bamboo sticks) and little nips of whisky from Huw's hip flask. The horses were put into a huge corral built of massive tree trunks for the night. Nice.