At Estancia Peuma Hue in Argentina’s Lake District, the resident animals have made a name for themselves by guiding guests on hikes and horseback rides through the surrounding countryside.
Situated on a 50-acre lakeside estate of Argentina‘s Lake District, Peuma Hue is the quintessence of traditional estancia life, with the warmth of owner Evelyn Hoter and her team of knowledgeable staff, as well as the estancia’s dogs, cats and horses who each play an essential role, winning guests over with their charm. “We consider all of our animals a part of the team; maybe even the most important part,” Evelyn tells us, “They are a key factor in our guests´ delight.”
“With the harmony between humans, animals and nature here, I would say the animals are the experience.”
“Our eco-lodge is in a valley that’s surrounded by mountains, pristine forest and waterfalls, and two miles of lake shoreline,” she continues, “but Peuma Hue is also a place where people can just relax and reconnect with themselves, nature, the lodge’s animals and the other guests. With the harmony between humans, animals and nature here, I would say that the animals are the experience.”
All of the estancia’s animals roam freely around the lodge and are always there to share time with. “The animals do have identity issues though,” she says laughing, “the dogs think they are human, the horses go into the staff house to lie on a couch or drink mate, and kittens and sheep go hiking with the dogs who are leading our guests. Our dogs are not only the ‘official’ hiking guides, but people actually book to be guided by them before they even book a room. They win hearts, help the sick to recover and are a joy to children.”
“Our dogs are not only the ‘official’ hiking guides, but people actually book to be guided by them before they even book a room.”
The lodge’s stable staff not only guide guests on horseback rides, but they are also skilled horse whisperers. “And not only are they horse whisperers, but they also train our horses to swim in the lake with our guests,” Evelyn explains, “These horses are suitable for anyone from complete beginners to the real experts. A woman told us that she had learned more in one day of riding with our guide Chris, than she had breeding horses for 30 years.”
Horse-whisperer, trainer and guide Chris Barrett grew up among horses while learning from them, and as a result decided to devote her life to understanding the animals better. Now, Chris is renowned for her skills. Chris and her team care for and train the horses by communicating with them and each one is trained to meet a different level of expertise. The horses are then chosen to suit each guest’s personality.
“The horses thrive on galloping across the plains and beaches, climbing steep slopes, swimming in the lake and wading through creeks.”
“On summer days, guests can ride and swim with our horses in the lake,” Evelyn enthuses, “The horses thrive on galloping across the plains and beaches, climbing steep slopes, swimming in the lake and wading through the creeks.”
While staying on Estancia Peume Hue you can horseback ride with a horse whisperer, go on a hike that’s led by golden retrievers, kayak in a lake that’s so clear you can see the bottom, and hike through 500 acres of pristine mountain forest with views across the lakes, mountains and valleys.
The hiking guides
Golden Retrievers Alpha, Gandhi and Tara
“Alpha and Gandhi were both born eight years ago,” Evelyn explains, “and all they’ve ever known is the amazing terrain to hike with whoever comes to visit. From going on hikes with our staff, they learned every corner of the land. They are so loving and caring, it’s hard to describe the bonds they trigger, and they each one has a different personality.”
“Gandhi is always carrying these huge rocks on hikes, panting along the way, then adding them to a rock collection at home. Alpha on the other hand craves for asados [barbecues].”
“When Tara was two months old, she was all energy, but then she started to get stiff and needed a hip replacement. We got her to swim a lot to strengthen her muscles and now she is doing amazingly well, joining Alpha and Gandhi on all the walks, and jumping on the boat to guide our guests from the facing peninsula back to Peuma Hue. She´s as fast as a hare.”
The riding guides
Border Collies Cocoa, Pepe and Atila
“Cocoa is about one-and-a-half years old, a bit rambunctious and born to the other two, Pepe and Atila,” says Peuma Hue guide Jessie McNeil, “Cocoa is very accustomed to guiding both hikes and rides. She is a bit of an opportunist and goes with the first activity of the day, no matter what it is, and is usually around to greet the guests when they arrive. She loves to swim and chase sticks. Cocoa is very attentive on the trails with the guests, always making sure they are on the right path and waiting patiently while they take photos.”
“Pepe and Atila are also very special dogs. Border Collies are very duty driven dogs, and these two know very well that their number one job is to watch over the horses. They are excellent guides on the trail because they drive stray animals off the track long before the group gets there. They are both very friendly and come to the main house almost every evening. They are very sweet dogs.”
“The biggest stars we have are probably the famous four: Barack, Mamba, Gringa, and Brumby,” Jessie tells us, “I call them the famous four because they are always up to something. Barack and Mamba will eat anything, and cross any fence or creek to get to the greener grass, while Gringa and Brumby are famous for opening doors around the estancia and letting themselves in, which can be problematic.”
“Another star here is one of our oldest horses, Chima. He’s well loved because he’s the most gentle horse we have. Chima has been here from the start and knows the trails better than any other horse. He walks a bit slower than the rest, but is sturdy and very sure-footed, which are qualities our new riders really appreciate.”
“I have a favourite cat called Balu,” Jessie says, “She and her sister Shorty were born by the back door of the main house. When they were about a week old, their mother was tired of all the attention from the dogs, people and other cats, so she decided to carry each of the five kittens from the box up a very large poplar tree, where she found a nest for them to grow up in.”
“Another one of our many cats lives in the stable and goes by the name Big Tom. Big Tom grew up fast, emulating his name perfectly. He’s a gentle cat that’s well loved by many who go to the stable and he’s known for giving leg hugs to whoever is around.”