Colombia's Old Cattle Trails riding holiday in Colombia - Far and Ride
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Colombia's Old Cattle Trails, Colombia




Programme


• Highlands to Plains Trail

 

Horses



Type of horses:

Horses are all Arabian and Anglo-Arabian; hardy and built for the long hours required of this ride.

Nature of horses:

Very fit, forward going and responsive. Many of these horses have won championships in Colombia for endurance racing and regularly compete throughout the year.

Height of horses:

15hh-16.2hh

Weight limit:

100 kg (dressed) - this means the maximum weight limit must include all your riding gear as well.

Tack type:

Predominantly McLellan saddles, although quality English leather saddles are offered for more advanced riders. Small saddle bags are provided to store items in during the riding day.

 

Weather



 

Ride Description

This trail offers guests to chance to experience the life of a traditional Colombian cowboy - a Llanero. An adventurous trail for anyone who is interested in a challenge and wants to know the lives of the country's wandering cattles-men; guiding their charges away from the flood waters of the plains - the Llanos - during the wet winter months. You will ride through some fantastic scenery and over some difficult terrain as you make the perilous journey from the highlands to the plains. At the end you will discover the true cowboy country of Colombia - the Casanare and its incredible people. The culture of the Llaneros is deeply routed in charge of the cattle they tend to, with over 12 million head of cattle present on the Llanos. But also in the music they have come to be known for. Accompanied by the traditional harp and maracas, the words of these melodies are designed to sooth the cattle and keep them close whilst on the move. Now the songs are sung to an upbeat tempo and normally danced along to in the typical "Joropo" fashion - which is very energetic and rhythmical. You will have a chance to experience this first hand following an evening demonstration of the cowboy songs.

Alongside cattle, these plains are also home to a huge range of wildlife including the capybara, giant anteater, monkeys, foxes, wildboar, tapirs, fresh water dolphins, South American jaguar, orinoco crocodile, several species of snake, as well as vast numbers of water birds and tropical species too. For those with a keen eye, spoonbills, ibis, woodpeckers, kingfishers and eagle-hawks can be regularly spotted from horseback.

Your host and guide on this ride is Julio Pardo, who has been working closely with horses for the majority of his life, firstly in the competitive sport of polo, then in the demanding long distance Endurance races and now as an experienced trail guide. Together with his hardworking and dedicated ground team, he welcomes you to share in the magical relationship between the Llaneros and their horses, as well as experiencing first hand the physically challenging expeditions along the cattle trails.

In general Colombia enjoys a very tropical climate due to its unique position on the equator and it's combination of influence from the surrounding rainforests, mountains, pacific and caribbean oceans. However, in this trail ride you will journey from the relatively high grounds and cooler temperatures of the central highlands, down to the extreme heat and humidity of the Llanos of the Casanare. You will witness extreme changes in temperature as you venture from one environment to the next, but will also see how your tough little horses cope with this with the greatest of ease.

See Programmes.

 

Food & Accommodation

During this ride you will be accommodated in a range of hotels, comfortable cabins and traditional working farms. Each Place will showcase a different quality of the working lives of the Llaneros (the old cowboys of the Casanare). Some nights you will sleep in beds, in twin or double rooms. Other nights you may be in cabins with larger rooms, or cosy hammocks as is the traditional way in the Casanare.

Accommodations will include;
Bogota - Embassy suites (Hilton) or Biohotel Colombia
Macheta - family hotel with 11 rooms (double and twin)
Chivor Dam - hotel with 10 cabins (shared rooms)
Sabanalarga - farmhouse with hammocks and some rooms.
Monterrey - family hotel with 16 rooms (double and triple)

Some of these hotels will offer private bathroom facilities, but in others it may be necessary to share. The Casanare is generally very warm and humid year round, therefore some accommodation will provide air conditioning, but others may provide only fans to cool the rooms. Due to the temperature it is also not common to find hot running water installed in accommodations in the Casanare. This is a strange concept to begin with, but at the end of a hot day of riding you will appreciate a tepid shower to freshen up.

The food on these rides is all typical Colombian fare which is hearty and filling. The local diet includes a lot of red meat (particularly beef!), as well as pork, chicken and freshwater fish. This is normally accompanied by starchy carbohydrates such as rice, plantain, avocado, maize and potato, as well as cheese, eggs, and fresh fruit such as coconut, mango, pineapple, melon, papaya, banana and kiwi, alongside a whole host of typical Colombian tropical fruits. You will also be able to experience a wide range of typical snacks, including Arepas (corn cakes), Patacones (fried green plantain), empanadas (corn parcels filled with meat or vegetables) during your stay. During some days of the ride you may bring a saddlebag picnic lunch along with you, including sandwiches, crisps, fruit and a dessert, whereas other days will see you stopping at typical local restaurant or family home on route. Vegetarian and some speciality diets can be catered to with advance notice, so please let us know about any special requirements when you enquire.

Colombia is famed for it's fantastic coffee, but alongside this it also offers a wide range of delicious fruit and herb infusions with hot water. And for something a little more refreshing, the Colombians generally opt for a local beer - you will have plenty of chances to stop for one or two of these along the riding route. There are also some wonderful regional wines available to choose from and local fire-water named "Aguadiente" will also play a big part in your Colombian experience! Bottled mineral water will be provided for you each day as the tap water is not generally potable.

 

Activities

This trail is not the best choice for non-riders as the riding days are long. For those taking part in the riding, the programme incorporates a day of cattle work on a working farm in the Casanare, as well as the chance to enjoy the thermal pools at Macheta and a night of traditional, local llanero music and dance.

It's also worth scheduling a few extra days before or after your trail to visit some of the other magical regions of Colombia, including the Caribbean coast, the ancient monuments of Colombia's past, the jungles of the Amazon, the mountains of the Pacific coast, or the central Coffee Culture landscapes which enjoy year round fine weather. We can make recommendations for tours and hotels in many of these areas, so please just ask for more information.

 

Further Details

Languages: Spanish and English.

Health requirements: All riders should be fit, with plenty of physical and mental strength, as well as having a good sense of adventure. These trails are designed to be long, challenging and engaging for very strong intermediate and experienced riders. You must be prepared to spend long hours in the saddle and feel comfortable riding at all speeds on forward going horses.

Age limit: 12-70 (those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult): All riders should be competent and physically fit. Riders over the age of 70 must provide a health certificate from their GP in order to take part.

Tuition: No

Included: Transfers, accommodation (twin/double rooms), meals as described, soft drinks, riding guide, horse and equipment, back-up guide/first aider, support vehicle and team.

Not included: Flights, travel insurance, alcoholic drinks, personal expenses (tips, laundry, etc.)

 

Travel Information

Travelling from Europe, there are direct flights to Bogota available from London Heathrow, Madrid and Barcelona with Colombian airline Avianca, from Paris with Air France, from Frankfurt with Lufthansa and from Madrid with budget line Air Europa. Many flights from Europe are overnight meaning that you will arrive in the early hours of the morning. It is therefore worth having one day of rest and recuperation in Bogotá in order to adjust to the time difference.

For those outside of Europe, there are also direct flights to Bogotá from Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Miami in the US, as well as from Buenos Aires in Argentina, São Paolo in Brazil, Lima in Peru and Santiago in Chile from Latin America. These are generally shorter flights and can arrive at any point in the day. The effects of time difference from these locations is not as great as for those coming from Europe.

Transfer from Bogotá to the start of the trail is included in the cost of the trail, along with a nights accommodation at a selected hotel in Bogotá. This gives travellers the chance to rest up and meet their hosts before embarking on their expedition. You will leave Bogotá in the morning (typically between 9-10am) and set off on the 1 hours trip to the start of the riding trail, where you will meet your horses and begin your adventure.

At the end of the riding tour, you will return to Bogotá for a final night before taking a flight home, or on to your next destination the following day. This is to ensure that there is no panic for customers as the traffic in this city is notoriously unpredictable and can become extremely heavy in busy periods.

Airport: Bogota

 

Programme


Highlands to Plains Trail



This week long trail will offer guests the chance to explore the old cattle trails leading from the highlands of Cundinamarca, to the lowland plains of the Casanare. Experiencing all weather and climates between as you climb from 2700 m.a.s.l to roughly 400 m.a.s.l, discovering the colourful cowboys who call these grasslands home and the culture which has grown up around them.

Day 1:

Arrival to Bogotá during the day, where you will be met by host and guide Julio before being transferred to a hotel in the city. Once here you will check-in and possibly have some time free to take a look around the city before you enjoy dinner with your fellow guests and host that evening.

Overnight at the hotel (meals not included on this day).

Day 2:

Following an enjoyable breakfast at the hotel, you will take a private car to the main horse farm - Moxgua - which is located approximately 1h45 from Bogota, located close to the Sisga Dam. Horses will be saddled and waiting here for you here. On arrival at the farm you will be offered a cup of coffee whilst you listen to the safety briefing of the ride.

The ride begins by taking the ancient royal road “Camino Real” toward the town of Machetá. The roads where built in local stone by the ancient inhabitants of the region and later reinforced by the Spanish "Conquistadors" during the colonial times. Along the way you will begin to experience the exuberant nature of the Colombian páramo ecosystem, passing through valleys, canyons, and dormant volcanos (the thermal activity in this region are wellknown, as you will discover later). Descending from 2800 mt to 2000 mt above sea level, you will feel the dramatic change in temperature, as it becomes warm and quite pleasant. The Tenza valley below will offer an amazing view over the impressive Guantafur canyon and will make you feel as if you really are on the top of the world! Lunch will be taken on the road, a saddlebag picnic of sandwiches, fresh fruit and assorted snacks.

Upon arrival to the town of Machetá towards the end of the afternoon. You will have a chance to help wash, feed and settle the horses before being shown to your own rooms for the night. The hotel is located at the edge of the Guatanfur River and has a natural thermal pool with waters permanently at 28°c. The warm water will feel like a calming bath after a long day and offer a great chance to relax. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Riding c. 8-10 hours - please note that you may end the day riding in the dark.

Day 3:

Following a tasty breakfasts, part of the morning will be devoted to visiting a local coffee plantation - an unmissable trip as Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee in the world! You will have the opportunity to learn everything about the production of the beans and their traditional preparation. Safe to say that you will never look at your coffee morning in the same way. At the end of the morning, you will rejoin the horses and continue the ride along the royal roads. There will be a short stop in Tiribita, a small town, for a picnic lunch and a chance to appreciate the beautiful typical colonial church, with its astonishing painted frescos. Through the afternoon you will continue the ride in the countryside along the edge of the Guatanfur River. The vegetation here becomes very dense and mysterious until you reach the village of Somondoco, where you will be leaving your horses for the night. A short transfer by car to your hotel will find you situated in an ideal location at the edge of the impressive dam of Chivor.

Chivor, is a small town characterized by the richness of its landscapes, a little paradise surrounded by amazing mountains, wild green forests and dotted with secretive waterfalls. The region is best known for its long history of Emerald mining, as well as a wide variety of tropical crops to discover. Some varieties include the typical granadilla, lulo, tomate de árbol, yucca, sugar cane, coffee, corn, oranges, and pineapples, amongst many more... Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Riding c.5 hours.

Day 4:

Morning departure by car in order to retrieve the horses and set out towards “Los Llanos” - the plains. Gradually you will see the land slope down to the east, and catch the occasional flash of the sun as it is reflected by numerous waterways and falls. Beyond this, the vast expanse of the plains. Here the landscape changes once more; the contrast is clearly visible as you pass from the rugged, rocky mountain slopes to the huge green meadows that stretch out ahead of you and continue until you lose sight of the mountain range all together. Here you will enter the world of the “llaneros” - the Colombian plains cowboys. There, waiting for you on the road, will be the “llanero” welcome party who will act as escorts through this region. 

As the sun sets over the plains you will need to cross successive small rivers in order to reach your destination. Some are shallow enough for the horses to walk, but others may require a little more swimming! The waters of the Llanos rivers are "bathtub" warm and very pleasant to ride through, making this stage of the ride a magical and most inspiring one - you can just hold your breath and enjoy the wonder of the moment and the environment. 

Finally you will arrive at the home of Pedro and his wife who will be providing accommodation on their farm for both you and the horses. Following a typical "llanero" dinner, made of local homegrown products, you will also be treated to a performance by a group of regional folk musicians. They will intrucduce to you the "joropo" (traditional Colombian and Venezuelan dance) and the “música llanera” which is the traditional music of the peasants and farmers of this great land. The music is played entirely with an arpa (harp), a bandola (mandolin), a cuatro (small four-stringed guitar) and capachas (maracas). Comfortably seated under the stars you will experience an unforgettable performance. Overnight in the cowboy way, in hammocks at the “finca” (family farm). (Limited traditional beds are available for those who would prefer not to sleep in a hammock).

Riding c. 7-8 hours.

Day 5:

A traditional breakfast at the farm will put you in good stead for the day of riding ahead of you. Continuing along the trail you will pass through a mixture of dry forests, lowland hills and grassy plains. The Llanero cowboys will accompany the group through this idyllic rural landscape - still very different from the day before - as you continue heading east towards Sabanalarga and Monterrey. Ascending and descending steep hill roads, you will become more and more aware of the vastness of the Llanos plains just ahead of you.

Come late afternoon, you will arrive to Monterey, where your trusted steed of the past 4 days will take a well deserved river bath. Here it is time to say goodbye and get into the car that will take you to the hotel, located nearby. Diner and overnight at the hotel.

Riding c. 5-6 hours.

Day 6:

Today has been set aside in the programme in order to give guests the chance to meet and learn about the local culture of the ranchers; these cowboys who roam the vast plains with their herds. In this region the breeding of cattle is one of the major occupations for the local people and horse still remain the predominant means of transport. Through history, the “llaneros” of the plains have became famed for their bravery and skill in times of war. Namely the battle of the “Pantano de Vargas”, when a troop of cowboys soldiers came to the aid of Simon Bolivar, to fight against the invading Spaniards.

During the day you will stay on a typical ranching property of the region. Your hosts will share with you some of their admirable hospitality as they share with you their traditions. You will witness a demonstration of traditional battle techniques - on horseback, of course! - a llanero rodeo, traditional cattle work and the other daily tasks of the farm.

Lunch will be served at the farm with the llaneros before you return to the hotel in the afternoon. Dinner and overnight here.

Day 7:

Following breakfast at the hotel, you will ahve some time to pack up your things and load the car before you return to Bogotá. The drive will be nearly 7 hours in total, with a stop for lunch along the way. You can expect to arrive in the city at the end of the afternoon and enjoy some free time to look around or rest. 

Overnight at a hotel in the city (Lunch and dinner are not included on this day).

Day 8:

Transfer to the airport in time for your flight home or onward travel plans.

**Please note that the itinerary may vary due to local conditions such as weather or other unforeseen circumstances, but always with your best interests at heart.



Minimum group size: 6
Maximum group size: 12
Ability description: Strong intermediate to Advanced riders only. You must be comfortable in the saddle for long hours and through some very challenging landscapes. You will need to be happy riding a fit and forward going horse and have a great sense of adventure for this ride. At the end of the day, the horses will be seen to before guests and you may help out with the un-tacking and washing down as you please.
Type of ride: Trail ride.
Total riding time: 5-10 hours per day.
Departure dates: 2017: 28 January - 4 February, 23-30 September.

2018: 24-31 March, 22-29 September.
 
Pricing: 2017:

8-12 rider: £1562 per person
6-7 rider: £1822 per person

Single room supplement: £30 per night, payable if you are unwilling to share a twin room with another single traveller of the same gender. Single room options are very limited, so please let us know at the time of enquiry.

Price includes 2 nights of accommodation in a Hotel in Bogotá (twin/double rooms), transfer from Bogotá to the start point of the ride (round trip), professional bilingual guide, horse and equipment, saddle bags, all meals from breakfast on day 2 to breakfast on departure from Monterrey and soft drinks during the riding program (picnic lunches or meals in restaurants), 5 nights of accommodations in hotels and farmhouses during the riding expedition (shared rooms), transport of luggage in private vehicles (1 suitcase per person), First Aid Kit, satellite tracker monitored by a security expert, 1 day working cattle farm experience in the Casanare.

Not included: flights, personal equipment and expenses, meals not specified in the program (1st and 7th day), travel insurance or medical care.