Horse Riding in the Cochamo Valley

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This continent just continues to amaze me! I thought I’d seen some of the most spectacular places in the world, but yet again South America has shown me that it is a land made of jaw- dropping scenery that you could never get sick of.

The Cochamo Valley in northern Patagonia was one of those places that stopped me in my tracks and had me shaking my head in disbelief at just how beautiful this part of the world is.

After a 2-hour bus ride from Puerto Varas we arrived in the town of Cochamo where the riverside lodge of Campo Adventura is located. It was here that we would begin our 5-hour ride into the mountains. After being kitted out in wet weather gear, we met our guide Kurt, who owns Campo Adventura, and our Chilean ponies.

Then our group of seven horses and riders was off. The ride started out nice and easy on the flat, following the river, but soon we started to head into the thick of the forest and up into the mountains. I’ve been trail-riding before but this was something entirely different. The track wound through the most beautiful green forest, with the aqua-marine waters of the river visible through the trees and over a number of smaller creeks running down from the hills.

I know it sounds lovely but it was a tough trail. The path is over a hundred years old and in some parts has been cut in so deep that the ground rises above the horse on either side and is so narrow your knees often scrape against the rocky walls. And the mud! I’ve never seen mud so deep or so thick! But the horses took it in their stride and traipsed through even though at times it was up past their knees.

The horses were incredible! They could take a hair-pin turn while stepping down two feet from one slippery rock to another even slipperier rock. In places they needed to walk across mossy wooden poles that had been put along the track because the mud was too thick. They crossed freezing cold, fast-running rivers that came up to their bellies. And they did it without any fuss, like absolute troopers. Incredible I tell you! I have always loved horse but these ponies gave me a new found respect for just how intelligent these creatures can be.

So after 5 hours of absolutely grueling, but incredible trail riding we arrived in La Junta Valley where the Campo Adventura mountainside lodge is located. As we rode out of the forest and into the open fields if the valley I was amazed by the astounding beauty of the area. On every side the valley is surrounded by enormous snow-capped mountains made of granite that are so dark in colour that they have a metallic shine – it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

The lodge was a gorgeous little wooden building with a warm kitchen and cosy beds. The trail we took is the only way to get there so everything has either been brought up on horseback (or by mule) or on foot (including the huge slow combustion oven) and it also means there is no electricity. What an incredible place to live. We were well looked after by the locals Tatiana and Horacio who cooked us a delicious dinner of salted pork and vegetables.

In the evening and also the next morning Kurt took us for a walk around the property where we saw beautiful waterfalls, got to take a ride on a cable car across a raging river and at one point had to make a river crossing in bare feet through water which two hours ago was snow on the mountain tops (brrrr).

I couldn’t believe that one place could be so beautiful – lush green rainforests, spectacular waterfalls and awe-inspiring mountains – what more could you ask for!

Riding back down was once again an amazing experience and I still couldn’t believe the things these horses could do.

Thanks so much to Kurt, Cochelo, our local guide, whose horsemanship was incredible to see, Tatiana and Horacio for allowing me to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience and see a place so beautiful I know I will never forget it.

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The World’s Most Dangerous Road

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Even though my mother forbid me from doing this, I couldn’t visit Bolivia and not take on the Death Road – I would’ve regretted it forever.

For those of you playing along at home, the ´World’s Most Dangerous Road´ or ´Death Road´ is a narrow track that snakes down the side of a mountain just outside of La Paz. It used to be the main road between the towns in this part of the country and is a gravel path generally only wide enough for one vehicle (just!) with sheer cliffs on one side that can drop up to 600 metres. On average 26 vehicles disappeared over the edge each year. However, they’ve now opened a replacement road which means the WMDR is mainly only used for cyclists and support vehicles.

The 64km ride began on a tarred road to give you a chance to get used to the bikes and then we began the infamous road. There was just one other girl, Ruth, on my tour (Pro Downhill) and we were given full suspension bikes, protective pants, vests, gloves and full-face helmets. Our guide rode at the front and the support vehicle followed behind.

At the start I was pretty nervous but it didn´t take long before I relaxed and was able to enjoy the spectacular views,  soon I had a smile on my face that lasted the whole way down.

Really the road isn’t that dangerous if you go at a steady pace and don’t panic, although I can see how accidents occur as people could start going too fast and lose control or see the steep cliff to the side and break too fast, sending them flying over the edge.

It’s difficult to describe how amazing it was; the vistas, the track itself and the steep mountains were incredible. We passed under waterfalls and the forest-like landscape was just stunning.

We stopped every 10 minutes or so to take photos and take in the views but all too soon we arrived at the bottom of the mountain, 3,600 below where we started, where we had lunch and a swim in the pool – it had been freezing when we started but by this time it was boiling hot!

And then it was back to La Paz via the new road.

What an experience! It was so exhilarating and I couldn’t believe how beautiful the landscapes were.

I definitely recommend it to everyone, just tell your mum about it afterwards like I did!

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