Wilderness Experience FAQ Field Course in Argentina

Discover the Natural History of Patagonia with NATUCATE

Prior to departure

Do I need specific requirements or abilities to apply for this project?
What services are included?

Before you start your journey we offer assistance in planning your stay in Argentina: We help you with booking the flights and the process. After your arrival in Argentina you’ll be picked up in the city of Neuquén and brought to the ranch. After you finish the course you’ll be brought back to Neuquén. During the course you’ll be accommodated in a guesthouse and tents. All meals will be provided for you. Flights, visa fees and other transfers are not included.

Do I need certain medical precautions or requirements?

A travel health insurance is obligatory for all course students. Long day rides and changing temperatures can be physically demanding. That’s why our partners need the health certificate mentioned above. A tetanus shot is also compulsory for all participants. You should make sure you are vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Morbilli, Mumps and Rubella. In general, you need to talk to your doctor and we advise you to get vaccinations against Hepatitis B, Polio, Pneumococcus, Diphtheria, whooping cough, and influenza. For current information and warnings regarding your destination you should check out the homepage of the foreign department and inform yourself beforehand about possible risks.

How long can I stay in the course?

This course offers a 26-day wilderness experience.

What kind of equipment should I take with me?

The weather in the Patagonian Andes can change rapidly, so regarding your clothes you should be prepared for all weather conditions. The best is to pack clothes which are suitable as “layers”: t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts, but also jackets to be worn above. You should definitely bring long, light trousers, but also a couple of shorts. As you will spend most time outdoors we advise you to bring durable clothes which can get dirty. Also important are sturdy boots, a backpack, a warm sleeping bag and matt, a tent (if available), a refillable water bottle, spoon/cup/bowl and a first aid kit. You should also think of sun protection, such as sunscreen, sun glasses, sun hat and a head lamp and insect repellant. Do not forget to bring your passport, your driver’s license (if you have one), a bank card, an alarm clock, your phone/laptop, or a book. You’ll be provided with a complete equipment list after you’ve booked the course.

Arrival

How do I arrive at my destination, do I have to organize it myself?

After your arrival in Buenos Aires you travel to the City of Neuquén via bus or plane. We are happy to assist you with the planning. In Neuquén you’ll meet the other course participants at the Presidente Perón International Airport. You’ll be picked up and brought to a place called Buta Mallín. You will pack your bags on horses and ride to a ranch in the Andes that will be your guestlodge before and after the actual backpack trip. After booking the course at NATUCATE you’ll receive a detailed arrival plan. Please get in touch with us and we’ll talk about the details and travel options with you.

During the course

How is the course structured?

The primary focus of this experience will be to explore the fascinating diversity of life forms in Patagonia and the intricate relationships that exist between these organisms and their environment. Typical field days during the course will involve hiking with backpacks along the planned route, punctuated by lesson presentations, focused field experience, and group discussions. Travel days will alternate with occasional days of “rest,” which will be spent focusing on various study topics. The nature of the programme is, however, dynamic, and depending upon what is encountered, you may opportunistically take advantage of observing subjects/topics of interest that are encountered unexpectedly. Due to the group’s partial reliance upon nature to provide the subject material, participants should expect the schedule to change with some frequency. It is within this environmental context that you will observe and study both the landscape and forces that still shape it, as well as the various biological organisms that have evolved to endure and even thrive in such conditions. Specific attention will be paid to plants and vegetation types characteristic of the semi-arid steppe of the “southern cone," but you will also learn about bird, reptile, amphibian, and other wildlife species that live and reproduce in this region.

How big is the group?

The group consists of approx.10 participants.

Life on site

What is the accommodation like?

The programme takes place in the steppe, precordillera, and montane high elevation “altoandino” habitats of the northern Patagonian Andes in the southern province of Neuquén, Argentina. We will primarily be camping in remote backcountry locations and/or staying in very rustic accommodations. Participants should expect no email, internet, telephone, and/or commercial laundry services between leaving and returning to Neuquén. At some of our locations, we will have meals provided, but for the most part we will be carrying and preparing our own meals.

At the ranch, where you will spend a couple of days before and after your pack trip, are a couple of rustic and cozy buildings. The accommodation for the guests is next to the main lodge or spread over the area. There is one two room apartment with a queen-size bed, a three-room apartment, and a guesthouse with a double and a single bed plus a guestroom with a queen-size bed. All rooms are equipped with a private bathroom.

How is the food provided?

For the majority of the programme, the group will be cooking for themselves. Since the range of available foods suitable for backpacking will be somewhat limited, plan on menus including bread, crackers, cheese, salami, honey, jam, and muesli or granola for breakfasts and lunches. For dinners, participants will often have rice, lentils, pasta, polenta, and of course meat (for the carnivores). At some of the programme locations, we will be served prepared foods by our hosts. These areas are generally remote and often have few options. Expect simple but hearty meals high in carbohydrates, and that include meat (usually fresh goat, sheep, or beef), starchy foods (such as grains, bread, and pasta), cheese, and with limited fruit and vegetable options (e.g. legumes, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, apples, oranges, etc.). We do our best to make arrangements for vegetarian options, but these may not always be available and should not be expected. During your time on the ranch, a cook will be preparing the meals.

How can I spend my free time?

Before and after your actual backpack trip you’ll spend some time at a horse ranch in the Andes. During this time you will have a lot of free time: You can go for a day ride, a picnic or enjoy a wine evening at the veranda. You also have the opportunity to go for a swim in the pool, relax at the riverbanks of the Trocoman and Picunleo rivers or try your fishing skills.

Do I have a contact person on site?

Yes, you will have a contact person during your course.

What kind of cost do I have to expect during the project? Can I withdraw cash on site and do I have to pay in local currency?

The currency in Argentina is the Argentinian Peso. Instead of traveler checks you should change for US-Dollars or Euros. In the cities, it is often possible to pay by card. Compared to changing money at a bank or currency exchange it is easier to look for an ATM and change money there with a credit card. You should keep in mind, that in most cases this will include a transaction fee (~5$) per transaction. Before your departure you should talk to your bank about this topic. During your course, you basically do not have any costs, as food and accommodation are included in the course fee and in the Patagonian Andes you do not have a chance to spend money anyways. But you should consider bringing some money for your time before and after the course. The amount is depending on the free time activity you are planning to do outside of the course. After your arrival, we recommend you to exchange 200$ in Pesos for your time till the course starts. We would also advise you to take $100- $200 for emergencies with you.

How can I contact family and friends at home?

You should contact family and friends before or after the course. Please do not expect to be able to communicate via email, internet, or telephone between leaving, and returning to, Neuquén.

What’s the climate/weather like?

The weather in Patagonia is changing often within a day. During the pack trip along the “shadow side” of the Andes the group will ride from the hot offshoots of the Andes up to the alpine regions, which are known for the rapid changes in weather conditions, intense sunlight and winds. Rough weather fronts can develop within a short time and without any advance notice. Even during the summer months, it can snow from time to time in the higher regions of the Andes. The group can expect temperatures between 50°F (10°C) and 80°F (27°C) during the day, but there can also be extreme temperatures between 105°F (40°C) in the lowlands and down to 30°F (0°C) in the higher regions. Depending on the conditions it can rain a lot or be extremely dry – which means you should be prepared for nearly everything!

What happens in case of an emergency?

Every participant needs to bring a small first aid kit to be prepared for small accidents. All guides have completed a special first aid course to be prepared for emergencies. Still every participant should be aware that the course takes part in the midst of the Patagonian backcountry far away from civilization and without satellite connection, which means that a direct, professional medical supply cannot be provided.

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