We were lucky to have a five days on an estancia (traditional ranch) to learn how to horse ride, meet some Gauchos and enjoy the beautiful Pampas countryside.
Bus journeys in Argentina can be very long but are made more comfortable with large padded chairs that fold down. (I did think they were a bit dirty though.) We went from Retiro in BA to Tapalque taking about 6 hours, but we met two girls from Paris on the bus, Pauline and Aurélie , who were going to the same estancia, and were lots of fun to talk to. We were met by the estancia manager Louisa, who turned out to be English and when we arrived at La Margarita Estancia we were very pleased because it felt very homely and original, but most of all it had dogs, horses, chickens and piglets!
The next day we went horse riding for the first time ever and my horse was called Picasso because he had different colours on his face. Cameron got a horse called Dolores and Dad rode Jack. Two volunteers at the estancia, Christina & Natalie, took us out on the Pampas and we got to ride up close to the cows and a huge bull called George. The ride was relaxing and fun, and the horses were very easy to ride, so even Mum could have a go. By the end of the first day we had fallen in love with the Estancia and I enjoyed playing with the dogs, particularly Bastile the puppy. After lunchtime Cameron & I also got to collect the eggs from the coop, and they felt warm in our hands. By Ollie.
At lunch and dinner we were being treated to the best food we have had in South America so far, delicious traditional meals by the cook Graciella and served by Adriane. We also got to meet the other guests, there were three people from Denmark who were very friendly and we also got to meet Pilar, who is from Buenos Aires. She became our ‘amigo’ and we had lots of conversations about living in Argentina and she helped me with my Spanish practise. With the help of Christina and Natalie I had great fun on the horses and on Emma I started off trotting in the field and by the time we left I was cantering and even guiding the horse around barrels. I loved the horse riding so much I hope I can do some lessons when we get back to the UK. Cameron
Not for the first time on this trip my highlight of the Estancia involved food! On the second night Leo the Gaucho cooked up an Asado, a traditional bbq, with locally reared beef, sausages and ribs, all washed down with a smooth Argentinian Malbec served in a penguin (very traditional). Afterward I was enthralled looking at photographs taken of Bolivia, Peru and Argentina taken by Mark, a fellow guest. We also had a glass of wine with David who is the friendly Estancia owner.
We were fortunate enough to visit a pulpería – best described as a rural grocery store that also serves as a drinking establishment for the gauchos. This particular one was built in 1850 and has been run by the same 2 brothers for the past 60 years. The iron bars are there to protect the proprietor from the gauchos who are prone to becoming a bit feisty after a few beers and get their knives out!! It’s sad, but it seems doubtful that the pulperia will be there in a few years since the brothers are now in their 70’s. Anyhow, Louisa kindly treated us to some very tasty salami and a cold Quilme (Argentinian beer) before we headed back to the Estancia for more food!! Ben
There are few places you can really ‘see’ stars and the country location of the Estancia meant very little light pollution making it a perfect place to find the Southern Cross, Orion’s Belt and some of the other constellations I’ve only seen from Australia before so it made me feel closer to home! The Pampas also reminded me of parts of the country in OZ, the wide grassy landscapes dotted with cattle and the vast skies of bright blue. On our first early evening ride we also experienced the most amazing weather front, wind whipping up the grass on the Pampas and bolts of lightning firing up the horizon. It would have been a little scary if it wasn’t so exhilarating to be part of!
They also say people make a place and that is also true here, from the staff at the Estancia and our fellow guests we were fortunate to have great company and interesting conversations; learning about life on an estancia, correct Spanish pronounciations with Christina, house prices in Buenos Aires with Pilar, Danish coffee tastes, snakes to avoid in Australia, studying Sociology (of all things) in Buenos Aires, and a French obsession with the gun-toting cowboy, Lucky Luke. Now this is why we travel!! Thank you all for making it a truly memorable visit. Adele