arriero in the mountains scanning the landscape

An arriero in the mountains on a high point near Santiago Chile

In  late autumn the horses and cattle are moved down from the high cordillera to safer winter grazing at lower levels. This is called an arreo, or herding. An arriero in the mountains has to find the animals loose on the wide range of hills and peaks in his part of the Andes. Here one (actually our guide Rigo) has chosen a vantage point to scan the nearby mountains and valleys for the presence of the animals he is seeking. In fact, these days they often use binoculars, usually a gift from a departing tourist, and mobile telephones which are widespread at every level in Chile and useful for communicating with other arrieros searching on different peaks and valleys.

In spring the animals are taken up again and loosed on the mountainside for the next few months. If needed, an arriero, or a group of arrieros, rides up to seek them out and bring them down for work, but they are not the horses usually in use for our day riding trips or overnight camping expeditions. It seems very labour intensive to us but the ‘talaje’ or pasturing on the mountains is very cheap, and saves the costs of hay. The available [pasture is high up in the ‘cerro’ in summer, and lower down in winter.

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