LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 52
Pags. 110 - 119
Text & Photos: Lugares File
Los Antiguos, Santa Cruz. Petty and Coco Nauta are experts in art of hospitality. From the start, guests feel as if they were long time friends of the owners. Petty, a descendent of New Zealanders, who populated this region in 1917, is an expert guide and lively hostess. Coco's background is Dutch. For many years the estancia has been open to tourists, who can enjoy an elegantly set table with home made food, or the outside, more countrylike, version of a meal such as a succulent lamb barbecue. But the outdoor activities are the most attractive.
Lagos del Furioso.
Peninsula del Lago Posadas, Santa Cruz. The scenery surrounding the hostel belonging to the Cramers seems to evoke the best travelling chronicles. It is situated on a long and narrow isthmus between the Posadas and Pueyrredon Lakes, barely separated and of different bright blues that contrast with the steppe landscape. The big and well-equipped cabins made of Lenga wood, are surrounded by poplar trees and weeping willows. Amidst hedges of native flowers and berry bushes, is where Ana and Jorge Cramer look after their guests with style. The sauna is an uncommon and welcome luxury after a long pony trek, walk or fishing excursion. The delightful cuisine and library with their amazing collection of volumes on Patagonia deserve special mention.
Lago San Martin, Santa Cruz. Situated on the southern shore of the San Martin Lake, La Maipú wins over the guests with its authenticity, and has its own history which the owners, the Leyenda family, enjoy sharing with their guests. Here it is possible to make contact with the real Patagonia, that which the first settlers had to master, despite the harsh climate and long distances. The delicious asados, lamb chops, and other local specialities such as lamb tongue and pickled hare alternate with long treks in the Maitenes woods, a visit to the tiny Lively Museum and horse rides to the Astillado Mountain. A visit to the Condor nests (which is a 6-hour excursion) is highly recommended.
Perito Moreno National Park, Santa Cruz. A singular estancia with an exclusive privilege: 16,000 hectares in the centre of the wildest and most remote National Park in Argentina. La Oriental was bought by Jose and Manuel Lada in 1969 from the heirs of Alejandrino Nuñez. For many years the estancia was used for sheep breeding. Later Manuel, his wife Gladys and his son Eduardo, decided to turn towards tourism. They refurbished their house, and equipped another cabin to sleep more guests. It is only a step away from Lake Belgrano, and the extraordinary views of the snowy peaks and lakes are enough to win the hearts of the visitor, who can find here the only option in the region for staying the night.
Lago Viedma, Santa Cruz. The deluxe main house is a replica of the original dwelling of Alfred Ramstrom, a Finnish settler who, at the start of the century was moved by the beauty of the landscape, and in honour of the capital city of his native land, christened it Helsingfors. Situated on the south-west shore of Lake Viedma, the hostel looks over the Fitz Roy, surrounded by forest, lakes, glaciers and mountains. The current owners, Pablo Crespo and Paula and Alfonso Susacasa, have added other pleasures to the place, such as their gourmet cuisine and daily cruises to EL Chaltén on the Huemul boat.
El Chaltén, Santa Cruz. The best choice in El Chaltén, at the foot of the Fitz Roy. The former "Hostal de la Montana", belonging to Paula and Alberto del Castillo has changed its name and is inaugurating an additional two guestrooms this season. Their four rooms are the most modern and welcoming offer in this rapidly developing area. Alberto, a mountain guide, offers excursions to the Continental Icefields as well as different mountain climbing options, while Paula looks after the hostel with her warm hospitality.
El Calafate, Santa Cruz. A fourstar country style hotel with 50 deluxe rooms that preserve the style of the typical estancias in the region. Ballooning can be practiced from the gardens. An exciting experience which offers amazing views of the Patagonian landscape in complete silence. Flying at a height of 4000 metres over the overwhelming immensity of the lake and viewing El Paine and El Chaltén Mountains is an unforgettable luxury. Amongst the many possible activities, we highly recommend the pony treks under the stars and a trout fishing day in the Brazo Rico with experienced guides. The perfect way to end the day is to have a drink in the Alambique Bar by the fireplace and the music of guitar and piano playing in the background.
Route 40, Santa Cruz. This estancia, founded at the beginning of the century by Mauricio Braun, Ernesto Von Heinz and Rodolfo Stubenrauch, European immigrants who had settled in Punta Arenas, is ideal for agro-tourism in a Patagonian setting. With no pretensions, the guests can experience genuine country living, which includes horses, sheep, shearing, tail cutting and branding. Today, the 60,000 hectares are run by Victoria Braun (one of the grand daughters of the original founder) and her husband Enrique Viel Temperley. There is fishing nearby in the Pelque River.
Posada Los Alamos.
El Calafate Santa Cruz. The grand hotel in El Calafate, a magnificent building only two blocks from the centre, offering 144 rooms with cable TV and 6 suites with hydro-massage. It is the only hotel with a lift and has a 5-hectare garden. The wooden decor is the perfect backdrop for the photographs taken by the owner, the late Mario Guatti. Besides the restaurant that seats 300 people (also very unusual) the inn has the best golf course in the region: three holes with 9 tees, all par 3 which range from 92 to 138 metres. They also have tennis and paddle courts, and a bar "El Aljibe", where sipping pisco sour in the evenings is almost a duty.
El Calafate, Santa Cruz. Although the name may sound like the Tehuelche indian dialect, it is not. Nibepo is a contraction of the names of the three daughters of Santiago Peso, a Yugoslav who founded the estancia in 1914. Since 1989, the eldest daughter
Nini's husband Juan Enrique Jansma and his son Adolfo have run the hostel, which serves lovely lamb barbecues in the quincho. From Nipebo guests can go pony trekking to Frias Mountain, to the Chilean border and to the Perito Moreno glacier. Weather permitting, it is also possible to sail aboard the Tehuelche, owned by Hielos y Aventuras, departing from Puerto Bajo de las Sombras, near Los Notros, to Nibepo Aike and back.
Lago Argentino, Santa Cruz. Out of this world. In the most perfect location and with deluxe details in every corner. If you take the precaution of leaving the curtains open while you sleep, every now and then you can open your eyes and have the overwhelming view of the majestic Perito Moreno glacier under the moonlit sky. Actually the Perito Moreno can be sighted from all angles at all times: from bed, the living room, the wooden floored terrace, the bathroom, and one never tires of it. Los Notros also offers mini-trekking on the ice with crampons, and for fishing fans there is Canadian trout fishing right opposite the hotel in Catalana Bay. All of this with the warm hospitality of the owners, Michel and Viviana Biquard.
El Calafate, Santa Cruz. This Estancia, belonging to the Braun family, is now a very exclusive hostel, 33km from El Calafate. The English style house was refurbished with impeccable good taste. Enclosed by a white picket fence, from which lavender and little tiny roses grow, the residence has 6 splendid double rooms, a suite, living room, bar and dining room all decorated by Matías Freixas. The estancia is run by Leslie Scovenna, who makes the few, privileged guests feel completely at home. Her husband, Miguel Angel Alonso Merino, contributes with his experience to guide the visitors on their climbs to the Cristales and Fraile Mountains, on fishing trips to Lake Roca, trekking and horseback rides through the 74,000 hectares of land surrounding Alta Vista.
Rio Turbio, Santa Cruz. On Route 40, a few kilometres from the end of the continent, this grand English style house offers six comfortable double bedrooms. In 1895, the founder, the Asturian Manual Femandez Montes, built roads, fences and a small house, which burnt down in 1905, in the middle of nowhere. He then brought from England a two-storey mansion, which in 1995 was bought by Juan Carlos Morrison and Josefa De Dios. Santiago Fernández, grandson of the original founder now runs it, but it was the Morrisons who turned Cancha Carrera into a hotel. They offer quad bikes and traditional bicycles, as well as pony treks and the possibility of taking part in the farm work.
Río Turbio, Santa Cruz. Both the estancia and the river crossing were named after the male guemul deer that used to inhabit the region. Robin "Mick" Johnston, a gaucho with an English accent and a horse fanaatic, together with his Scottish wife Julie, have been the owners of the 20,000 hectare estancia, only a step away from Rio Turbio, since 1989. Instead of sheep, they breed "criollo" horses. They offer tourists the possibility of hunting (between 1 March and 31 May), riding and trekking. From mid November to mid April, there is fishing in the Gallegos, Penitente and Rubens Rivers.
Cabo Virgenes, Santa Cruz. The history of the owners, the Fenton family, reads like a novel. They estimate that the estancia was founded in 1880, when their forebears arrived here looking for gold. Hence the name of the place, Monte Dinero (Mount Money). The Fentons today work with modern technology. They have all travelled to Australia and New Zealand, from where they brought back modem know-how and specially trained dogs. They herd the sheep on motorcycles, and shear the animals with scissors. They train border collies and Australian kelpies. To watch these dogs at work is a fascinating experience. Amongst the many wonderful southerly excursions, they offer a climb to the lighthouse of Cabo Virgenes, a visit to the penguin colony, and horse riding on the banks of the Magellan Strait.