7 Apr 2014

Horseriding With Gauchos In Salta

Our next destination after wonderful Cafayate was Salta which was a meagre four hour journey north by bus through the Quebrada De Las Conchas (aka. those rocks again). The main reason for heading to Salta was to go whitewater rafting on the Rio Juramento, we’d loved our rafting experience in Bali so much and were very keen to try it again. We even emailed the only agency in town to check it was available and of course they said "yes, no problem" but when we went to the office there was of course 'a problem’ and we couldn’t go.

gaucho horseriding salta argentina

Salta is also home to a lot of riding schools and where there are horses in Argentina there are Gauchos - big, burly gauchos in traditional hats! We decided that a day horse riding at Cabalgatas Gauchas would be a fun alternative to whitewater rafting. 

horseriding gaucho ranch salta argentina

Early morning we were collected in a pickup truck by David who owns and lives at the ranch with his family, he didn’t look like a gaucho though so we were a little apprehensive during our 90 minutes journey deep into mountains around the valley of Salta - we really wanted an authentic Gaucho experience. 

We were greeted at the ranch by around thirty horses of different sizes and colours, after seeing the awful way that horses were treated on Gili Trawangnan we were very relieved to see happy, healthy looking horses. In our group that day were about eight other tourists all different ages and nationalities, after grabbing a rather sweaty riding hat it was time to meet our horses and climb into the saddle. 

horseriding instructions salta argentina

We were given very basic ‘how to ride’ instructions, Steve had only ridden a horse once before and Vicky hadn’t rode for about 15 years so our main concern was not to fall off. 

horseriding gaucho ranch salta argentina

In our group we rode single file through the beautiful La Quesera Valley enjoying stunning views along the way. We had a gaucho leading us and one holding up the rear, their horses were much bigger than ours with huge muscles and they each had a lasso just in case. Steve had the hungriest horse in the group who refused to walk unless he was chewing on something meaning Steve was often the cause of a back up. 

horseriding gaucho ranch salta argentina

Some parts of the track were really steep so we had to go up one by one, we didn’t really need to steer the horse too much though as they know the route inside out, it was pretty muddy too so they would often slip a little but thankfully nobody fell off. Along the way we were interested to learn about our Gaucho's three favourite things from the UK: Gok Wan (!), QPR and The Magic Numbers. What an eclectic kind of guy!

horseriding gaucho ranch salta argentina

We trekked with our horses for a couple of hours and the final section was a corn field where we were under strict instructions not to let our horses eat the corn. 

horseriding gaucho ranch salta argentina

Steve's disobedient horse went straight for it so our Gaucho wasn’t happy, Steve needed to be more firm aka act like a gaucho! The best approach was to gallop through the field in a bid to distract the horses which was great fun!

horseriding gaucho ranch salta argentina
"Sit up straight Steve!"

Back at the ranch the owner David was firing up the BBQ for lunch, we’d skipped breakfast so were really looking forward to another authentic Argentinian asado. Of course there was plenty of food to go around and we were served plate after plate of delicious steak and chorizo, with a healthier side of salad and veggies. 

horseriding salta argentina

We were seated opposite the lead gaucho whose name we forget but he was such a cool dude he even ate his steak with the dagger from his belt. His dagger also served as a mirror for preening his bushy brows! This guy had the perfect job everyday he rides horses at the ranch including training them and then has an amazing BBQ and loads of red wine. 

Lunch lasted a couple of hours, the food and wine seemed to be endless and we were having a great time. Eventually we left and headed back to Salta and town life, it was a fantastic day that turned out to be much better than expected. 

The ranch we visited was family run and had been theirs for at least three generations, they had so much land and when their horses were not being ridden they were able to roam free wherever they like. Aside from entertaining tourists they also farm cattle, living the authentic gaucho lifestyle.

gaucho horseriding salta argentina

As usual we scoped out a couple of great places to eat in Salta. First up, El Patio De Empanadas specialising in those Argentinian pasties we’d grown to love. It’s quite an intense setup for Argentina, as we walked out on to the patio we were accosted by a about five women in different coloured baseball caps and tabards all eagerly waving their menus at us for our attention. We has no idea this patio was five individual kiosks with some fierce competition. 

We politely perused each menu which were pretty much the same before taking a table at random, we ordered a half dozen empanadas and mixed things up a bit with another Argentinian dish called humitas. Humitas is a delicious mix of mashed cheese and corn steamed inside the corn husk. We’d seen it loads on menus throughout Argentina but had forgotten to order it. The empanadas were perfectly nice but not the best in Argentina as many have claimed are found in Salta, if you ask us the best are definitely in Buenos Aires!

gaucho horseriding salta argentina

On our final evening we treated ourselves to some tapas at Bartz, the plates here were much bigger than those in Spain and as we were reeling off our list the waiter cheerily stopped us at five saying it was plenty! It really was too and the standout dish was a zesty prawn ceviche.

We had two nights and three days in Salta which was plenty of time as we didn’t find much to do in town. Mostly we shopped for more wintery clothes in preparation for our upcoming trip to Bolivia’s Salar De Uyuni, the best place for this was the Artesanal Mercado.

border crossing argentina bolivia
"Big smiles as we arrive in Bolivia!"

Salta was our final stop in Argentina, next we headed north via bus to the border with Bolivia. It was a very easy land border crossing compared to that time we travelled from India into Nepal, we got a little lost in La Quica trying to find the immigration point but nothing major. Once in Villazon (Bolivia) we had a bit of a walk with our backpacks to the bus station and were thrilled there were two seats going spare in a shared minivan to Tupiza for just 20 BOB (£2) each. The cheap prices were so refreshing compared with Argentina. Bienvenidos a Bolivia!

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