When the 2001 economic crisis took its toll on Argentina, most people thought Hernan Cipriani’s decision to up sticks from Buenos Aires and take his family to live in a tent in the middle of Patagonia was nothing short of crazy. Maybe so… but what he’s painstakingly created since – the ultimate adventure experience in the breathtaking wilds of the Andes – proves there’s method in the madness.
Deep in the Andes in Pino Hachado, 50km from civilisation, Hernan got to work building rustic cabins from stones he collected in the mountains. Tucked away from everything with no phone signal, miles from the nearest shop and with a thick blanket of snow covering everything in sight for three months of the year, he couldn’t have gone further off the grid. He now runs a business with volunteers, sharing the beauty of his surroundings with visitors year-round. Offering horseback expeditions in the summer and husky-sledding in the winter, guests get a true taste of Patagonian adventure.
The summer months are glorious and alive with colour. The camp’s horses roam freely around the cabins and the team will take you out for beautiful rides into the mountains. You can ride for a few hours or for 10 days if you wish, with a pack horse carrying tents and food to last your trip. You’ll gallop through icy streams, camp in the araucaria forests (monkey puzzle trees), and ride up to plateaus with arresting views over Chile’s volcanoes (Villarrica, Llaima & Lanin) and the Sierra Nevada glacier, all the while spotting swooping Condors overhead.
In the winter (June-Sept) the experience is completely different but equally as thrilling. The camp has a pack of 40 huskies (mainly Alaskan with a few Siberians) who live there year-round in rustic kennels made from volcanic sand and local wood. Guests are taken out on sled-rides, usually for a few days at a time, but you can enjoy shorter trips for half an hour or half a day if you just want a taste of the experience. What guests find particularly cool is that you can ride a sled with your own team of huskies! You’ll be shown how to operate the sled and work with the huskies by the experts, before taking the reins and speeding across the snow on your very own adventure. Along with sledding, this is also a great area for cross-country skiing and split-boarding. The team recently built a dome up in the mountains with a wood-burning stove and comfy blankets, which works as a cosy little base in case the weather turns, and you can sit and relax there in the evenings.
Accommodation is simple, but the sense of remoteness, tranquil surroundings and opportunity for unshackled adventure more than makes up for the basic digs. Sleeping up to 11 guests (but 6 is optimum to get the most out the experience), there’s a main house and two guest cabins (picture great timber logs and sheep-skin rugs). The beds have decent mattresses with feather duvets, proper loos, the water is fresh from the mountain and hot showers are operated by gas. The camp runs on Solar panels with a backup generator when needed. Guests usually dine in the main house where your hosts can cook up an Argentine feast to enjoy by the fire, and the house is full of photos showing the region’s history.
Hernan’s team want to share their way of life and to give others the chance to explore rural Patagonia from rustic cabins; an experience that is becoming ever more rare.