I completely agree with the tip submitted by my sister (hana11)for Calbagatas Ranch near Salta. I rode from the age of 7 to 16 but had minimal practice since, so at the age of 27 I decided it was time to get back in the saddle among the gauchos in Argentina (and drag my sister with me!)
Needless to say that our day of trekking did not disappoint and from the moment we were collected in a private car from our hostel we were treated like good friends of Enrique and his staff. We were lucky enough to be the only visitors to the ranch that day and so received breakfast with the staff before heading out for three hours of riding.
We meandered through stunning scenery past golden fields, deserted brooks and streams and tree lined lanes all surrounded by a backdrop of soaring mountains. Our guide treated us to stories of gaucho life in the mountains and highlighted elements of rural life as we rode. He was understanding of our varying levels of experience and when it came to galloping he was encouraging but not forceful, choosing safe areas and even galloping alongside where necessary!
We were treated as guests of honour at lunch among the staff and Enrique and his team insisted we eat more fantastic steak and drank more of their home made wine-so who were we to resist?! It did make the three-hour ride in the afternoon less enticing but the beautiful scenery and postcard sunset drove us on.
There were so many highlights to our trip in Argentina but our day at the Cabalgatas ranch is a strong contender for the top spot. Enrique and his team provide a genuine gaucho experience in a market where there are so many competitors of questionable authenticity. I am so glad I chose their ranch for my re-introduction to riding but on my next visit I will go for the overnight trek into the mountains and hopefully my sister will be a little less reluctant to join me!
Before visiting Sayta-Cabalgatas I had never been horse riding before, nor had I had any desire to do so. In fact, my planned day of city sightseeing in Salta had become waylaid by my sister, who had been strongly recommended that if there was one thing we were to do while travelling in Argentina, it would be to visit this place. Still, I could have happily ignored the recommendation, especially as this would mean avoiding having to confess that horses actually scare me senseless. Yet wanting to avoid any arguments, and being the younger, I eventually gave in to her persuasion.
On arrival at the ranch the welcoming gauchos at Sayta assured me they had been riding since they were two years old, and began competing in rodeos not long after, so I was in the very best of hands. Still, sitting 5ft from the ground, I felt no more at ease. Once we set out, however, I soon left behind any anxieties that I'd had. As we were led down gentle shaded streams with stunning views of the Andes constantly at our side, what I thought would be a nerve-racking ride became a peaceful and relaxing few hours in the most beautiful surroundings, with no other people in sight.
The morning ride was also a great way to work up an appetite for a large Argentine parilla at lunch! As soon as we came close to conquering the stack of meat before us, Enrique, the owner of the ranch, would top up our plates (and our wine glasses!). We just about managed to climb back onto our horses for a further three hours of trekking, by the end of which, and due to a slight mistranslation, I was galloping across the dusty and deserted Lerma valley.
We were driven back to our hostel that evening as we sipped mate and the sun set over the mountainous landscape, and I realised that this was exactly the image I had of a South American ranch. A truly unforgettable day and the perfect introduction to horseriding - gaucho style!
Living the Gaucho life... which basically consists of horses, wine, steak and music!
A horse riding trip with Reto Cabalgatas in an experience not to miss. No luxury, no ranch and not at all 'touristy'.
We started our trip into the mountains by making an offering to Pacha Mama. After heading up the trail, glimpsing beautiful mountains through the trees, and listening to Tono playing on his flute or harmonica, we came out into the open to be greeted by the most incredible view. There we were, high up in the mountains, with not a soul around. All around us was lush greenery and mountains, a huge lake, and, if we looked carefully, we could just about see the stream from where we started. I found it hard to believe we had come up so far. We moved into a shaded clearing for a lunch of cheese, salami and bread, all cut using Tono's gaucho knife, and his leather chaps as a table cloth.
That night we stayed in a Gaucho hut that was certainly authentic; it had been in Tono's family for over 50 years.
We had an amazing asado - with some of the nicest beef I've ever eaten. None of us had plates or cutlery, it was all cut up on the chopping board and we all ate from that.
After much wine, singing, music and chatting (as well as a few more layers of clothing) we were all ready for bed.
The next morning we got up early and, although we didn't quite make the sunrise, the mists hanging over the mountains, and the colours of the early morning clouds were beautiful and breathtaking. As we huddled with our sleeping bags wrapped round us, the clouds came over the mountains behind us and the feeling was magical.
I hadn't planned to go horse riding in the mountains, but I'm glad I did. I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences of my life.
I visited Salta for some respite after traveling through from Columbia and the countries southwards. Salta feels luxurious after the tough living conditions of Bolivia and a 24hour bus journey from Potosi.
Staying at lower altitude, with its warmth, oxygen, shops that sell stuff you need was really useful, as was the vast improvement in cuisine.
Two days after my arrival I booked to go riding on a ranch an hour south of Salta.
There I met the family, who'd farmed the area for generations. Their herdsmen showed me the horses. They were huge, magnificent beasts, far larger than anything I'd previously ridden. I was given one, and we set out. A full day's riding destroyed me. The herdsmen rode their horses like they were attached to them, effortlessly and painlessly. I tried to keep up. A mountain of a horse, galloping at full speed is something of beauty and also of terror as you hold the reins with one hand, balance with the other behind you and grip the horse with your thighs.
I've rarely been filled with such terror and exhilaration. I am a novice horse rider so the horse seemed to have control of the situation, adding further to the sense that I had less control over the situation than I would have liked to have.
I survived. The gaucho's were great, interesting guy's who loved their horses and their lives. I ate that evening with the family. The father was in charge of grilling the most perfect meat (beef and lamb) and the table was covered with delicious food and gorgeous local wine.
I ached afterward for a week! My tip is warm up, warm down and maybe select a horse that is small and is almost ready for the big ranch in the sky. You may not have the adrenaline based excitement, but at least you may be able to walk again.
There are a handful of farms that allow you to ride. I found the place via my hostel in Salta - sorry I don't have the details.
It is a 400-year-old Estancia, in northwest Argentina, where you can join in and experience the activities at the ranch. Horseback riding with the local cowboys or gauchos, and in the afternoon a wonderful asado or Argentinian bbq with the hosts. Very welcoming, beautiful and relaxing place to stay.
Sayta means “where time stands still” in Aymara - and it certainly does in this beautiful Argentinian ranch, nestled among tobacco fields, in Chicoana, about 40km south of Salta. Its charismatic owner, Enrique, presides over a business that is obviously his great pride and joy. We had booked a half day’s horse-riding, great for beginners like us, but there are also longer tours for more experienced riders, and accommodation in the white-washed colonial-style estancia. Rufillo, our laid-back gaucho, took us out riding on two very docile horses. You either walk or gallop. Gauchos don’t trot, he told us. Three hours later, and slightly saddle-sore, we were ready for lunch - a huge barbecue or asado with succulent meats, delicious salads and copious amounts of local red wine. We wished time could have stood still for much longer.
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