Saddle-Up for the Southern Andes

Article excerpt

Horseback-riding tourists looking for new trails to blaze can now traverse the Patagonian Andes. Campo Aventura, in Cochamo, near Puerto Montt, in southern Chile, offers a variety of horseback and trekking excursions, including a two-week ride to Argentina and back. Other excursions range from a one-day forest visit to several-day trips on horseback or foot into the surrounding countryside. Clark Stede, Campo Aventura's German proprietor, is a veteran traveler, writer, and photographer who came to Cochamo in 1993. Before settling in Chile, Stede skippered the first sailing expedition around North and South America and rode a camel across the Sahara--twice. He speaks German, English, and Spanish

The two-week, trans-Andean ride, dubbed "The Butch & Sundance Trail" because its destination is the ranch of the famous North American bandits Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, ascends into the Andes on an old cattle trail along the Manso River, a route pioneered by Jesuit missionaries in the early 1700s. Campo Aventura provides horses, camping gear, food, and guides. Stede says that "previous horseback-riding experience is necessary," but that the trip is worth the effort, because it takes people "into a forgotten world of pure nature far from the tourist track."

Leaving Cochamo, the trail cuts through thick alerce forests and skirts upland lakes, including the remote, cobalt-blue Lake Vidal. The majestic trees at El Arco, the oldest alerce forest in Chile, spire 155 feet and date back to 2,000 B.C. Before the cutting of live trees was banned in 1976, the alerces (often called the redwoods of the Andes, although they are actually cypresses) had been logged relentlessly to supply the wood for the shingles used in the region's vernacular architecture. …