Patagonia: A Field and Stream Lover’s Dream
Although the Estancia Quemquemtreu, a privately owned 250,000-acre working cattle ranch, is but a speck on the vast stretch of Patagonia, it’s on every angler’s dream map. Reverse-season fishing in a remote corner of the world known for some of the hemisphere’s best trout fishing draws sportsmen from all parts of the globe. A private stream runs through the estancia, but it’s the ranch’s proximity to three of the region’s best-stocked rivers that sweetens the deal.
With only five guest rooms at the ranch, you’ll be virtually alone wading those streams, taking in the big sky and big spaces that evoke the frontier days of the unspoiled American West. Streamside lunches, traditional barbecues, and wildlife viewing are framed by the awesome granite peaks of the Andes that separate Argentina from Chile to the west. In addition to raising 25,000 head of cattle, Quemquemtreu is a working polo ranch, and guests are welcome to watch some of the country’s best players practice and train the ranch’s forty resident polo ponies.
For a real cowboy experience in Patagonia, stay at the Estancia Huechahue, a more “intimate” 15,000-acre Anglo-Argentine cattle ranch at the foot of the Andes, where the stables of fine criollo horses can make a gaucho out of even the most unconvinced gringo rookie. The expanses of northern Patagonia are best appreciated on horseback, and riders can explore sparsely populated and wonderfully varied terrain, including barren, rolling hills, picturesque lakes, and dense forests, high ridges where the condors nest, and the valleys and narrow rock gorges below. Guests can roll up their sleeves and participate in rounding up, herding, and branding the estancia’s livestock, or do nothing more strenuous than attend the day’s delicious asado lunch. There are optional rides to the ranch’s summer pastures, higher in the mountains across the Atlantic-Pacific watershed. Or trade in your mount for a jeep and head for the charming lakefront city of San Martín de los Andes, a slice of the Swiss Alps transplanted to Patagonia. The region becomes a popular alpine and cross-country skiing area in the winter months of July and August.