Sunday, January 1

The Golddigger Trail


While we were in Chile tweaking the settings of Phil's remote telescope(El Sauce Observatory), we stayed at the Hacienda Los Andes.
The Hacienda is in the valley of the Hurtado River at the southern end of the Atacama Desert in the foothills of the Andes. It is well away from the usual tourist routes and surrounded by pure wilderness although the valley itseld is green and fruitful.
The lodge grows much of its own food and has hiking trails and is a centre for astrotourism as it has several observatories on the property.
It also has a small herd of Chilean Criollos horses and has horseback riding tours ranging from half a day to multi day expeditions where you can spend up to 5 days in the saddle with overnight camping under the stars.
Well, I've only been on a horse once and that was fifty years ago but the Hacienda can cope with rank beginners as well as experienced riders so I decided to tackle the Golddigger Trail, a three hour morning ride.
My horse, Sirius, was very placid and new the trail intimately. I just had to sit on his back and hold the reins loosely. He had a tendency to stop and pull up clumps of grass to chew as he ambled along but he was the ideal mount for a non-rider.
It was a fascinating ride; once you leave behind the Hacienda environs you are out in rugged country with not a sign of human habitation.
The trail is narrow and winds alongside steep sided canyons, through dry riverbeds and over rocks and sand. Vegetation included cacti, lotsof them, and trees, shrubs and grass that were all so dry that they looked dead but must get enough rain during the winter to keep them alive.
We stopped on top of a ridge for a drink of water. This is supposed to be where an abandoned goldmine was situated, hence the name Golddigger trail, but I saw no sign of anything there.
Thought I might be a bit saddle sore at the end of the ride but I wasn't at all. This is obviously thanks to Sirius - the ideal horse for a beginner.