Patagonia on Horseback
A Tale by Xin Xin Loh

We asked our friend and on-the-ground partner to recount one of her many epic adventures.

Xin Xin Loh, Founder of Pudu Puda, shares her experience horseback riding through the breathtaking landscape of Chilean Patagonia. Xin Xin and her team help us curate exceptional adventures in unique destinations like Peru, Ecuador, Bhutan, Kyrgyzstan and many more.

At a latitude of 51 degrees south, summer mornings in our sleepy fishing town of Puerto Natales are frigid. I stood at the water’s edge with my best friend who was visiting, waiting for the boat to be loaded with supplies before making the crossing to the other side of the fjord. We were heading to Estancia La Peninsula, one of the oldest working farms in Chilean Patagonia, where we embarked on a two-day horse trek. Visitors to Chile travel this far south to visit the world famous Torres del Paine National Park, but where we were heading to is a hidden gem.

What is someone who was born and raised in a city like Singapore doing at the edge of the world? This was not what I had planned when I visited Patagonia twice in the last decade, but I fell in love and moved here. Life could not be more different. A morning on this farm starts off slow with homemade sopaipillas, a breakfast fritter made from pumpkin flour, served with a freshly brewed cup of coffee as we observe the gauchos saddle up our horses from the comfort of the main house. Outside, the summer wind was blowing strong.

We rode up the slopes of Cerro Ballena, named after its whale-like shape when seen from across the waters. The trail descends into one of the hidden valleys and its magical forest of lenga and coihue, indigenous evergreen trees. Our riding guide Cristian is an atypical gaucho. He is chatty and engaging, and has ditched the traditional slacks and flannel for a leather jacket and pants. He pointed out native plants and flowering fire bushes before we stopped for our picnic lunch next to a stream. Our destination was an old shepherd’s outpost on the edge of the sound called La Barrosa, and the ride there would take us to the hidden bay of Bahia Miseria. The melodramatic name is an homage to the shipwrecks which were common when explorers navigated these waters in search of connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic. The ever-changing weather and trees which grow horizontally add to the intense landscape and history of this place. I find riding in Patagonia very meditative. The vastness adds to the sense of freedom while the sounds of nature heighten my senses, yet calm me.

After a full day on horseback, nothing feels better than arriving at a warm and cozy shelter for the night. The traditional Patagonian stove has been lit with firewood and there was a steaming hot pot of porotos granados. My travel companion decided to go skinny dipping in the icy cold waters of the fjord before dinner because, carpe diem. Patagonia has worked its magic.

We woke up to an unusually calm morning. The reflection of the mountains was crystal clear in the waters as we saddled up for the ride back to the main house, this time taking the coastal trail and a detour to an indigenous burial site in the caves high up in the hills. The view from here of the surrounding mountains, glaciers and the Last Hope Sound is indescribable. This is Patagonia – beautiful, secluded, and untouched.

View of the mainland from a cave once used as an indigenous burial site. Photo by Xin Xin Loh.
Riding along Misery Bay with our guide Cristian. Photo by Xin Xin Loh.
View of the mainland from a cave once used as an indigenous burial site. Photo by Xin Xin Loh.
Riding along Misery Bay with our guide Cristian. Photo by Xin Xin Loh.