Only an hour east of Santiago, the capital of Chile, Cajón del Maipo (Maipo Canyon) cuts through the Andes foothills and into the mountains proper. Offering spectacular scenery and loads of activities, from camping and hiking to white water rafting, Cajón del Maipo is popular with visitors and locals alike.
Antonio, our Santiago-based guide from AFIServices, took us to Cascada de las Ánimas Ecotour Resort and Nature Sanctuary in Cajón del Maipo to go horse trekking.
“So how much horse riding have you done?” asked Antonio, as we mounted our horses.
“Well, Sue used to ride a lot,” replied Rich, “But this is my first time on a horse.”
“Really?” questioned Antonio, sounding surprised.
“Really,” Rich confirmed. “I’ve been on a mule in Hawaii, but never on an actual horse before.”
“Oh, I thought you were an expert,” Antonio said.
We’d expected a gentle ride along the valley floor, but we were about to discover we’d signed up for something a little more adventurous!
The Cascada de las Ánimas Sanctuary is named after a waterfall within the private park. We did actually get to see the waterfall from one of the many switchbacks we climbed, but at the time we were too preoccupied with staying on the back of our horses (at least, Rich was)!
Lead by a local guide from the sanctuary (I’m ashamed to say we can’t remember his name), we rapidly zigzagged from a starting elevation of about 3600 feet up to flatter ground at around 4200 feet. After this we continued to climb, but at a much gentler rate.
We finally topped out at just over 4800 feet, with an amazing view down into the Estero Manzanito ravine.
Before heading down, our local guide (via Antonio’s translation) asked whether we wanted to go back the way we’d come, or go the normal way down, which was a bit steeper.
We thought, what the heck, let’s go for it! How much worse could it be, right?
The trail down was definitely steeper than the way up. But that wasn’t the real issue.
The real issue was that the trail was only a couple of feet wide and made of loose rocks. So the horses were often sliding along on their haunches. That might not have been so bad, but on our downslope side, the mountain dropped away alarmingly.
And then Rich’s horse decided to leave the path completely!
Don’t get me wrong, the trek was a huge amount of fun. I’d definitely do it again. But it really got the adrenaline pumping.
And I was soooo glad to be riding with Sue and not Rich!
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