So, after visiting the little town, we drove out to La Pampa – the grassy plains, and to a ranch. The road to the ranch was a dirt track, but still really wide (four lanes wide!) ALL the roads in Argentina seem to be very wide.
The ranch we visited was called Portenia Estancia, and was used for a film with Antonio Banderos and Emma Thompson. It was also the home of an author, Ricardo Guiraldas (who wrote a very famous book about gauchos, but when I tried to buy it on Amazon, I either have to pay about £700 for an English copy or learn fluent Spanish or Italian. Will wait for a Kindle version.)
We were shown around the house and gardens, and given snacks and lunch. Again, it felt more like we were guests than tourists, people were very friendly and hospitable.
A gaucho, Fredisco Pereyra, took us riding. We were given polite, slow horses as neither of us can ride. One of the horses walked through bushes to cut corners, was incredibly slow and walked along chewing lumps of tree (accountants aren’t necessarily great with animals.) We saw lots of cattle, pigs, horses, dogs. Mostly we saw grass – as far as you could see, stretching across the great flat plains. There were lots of clumps of pampas grass, which I assume is where it got its name ( It’s huge, you could fit several of England into the space.)
Lunch was at a long table in a room with a fire at one end. There were flowers on the table and we were served meats and salads, then pancakes with dolce latte and bananas. Along the table were people with other tour guides, so we listened to a range of languages and chatted with different people. After lunch, the gauchos played the guitar and sang some folk songs (which actually, was very tuneful, so was nice rather than embarrassing) and we were shown some traditional dances.
There were lots of animals : dogs and puppies, pigs and piglets, horses and cattle. They all roamed free. It was how I felt animals should live. I have no problem with eating meat, but I do think animals should be free and happy while they are alive, not pumped full of hormones and kept in cages. I don’t think you could get much more ‘free range’ than the animals we saw.
The national bird of Argentina is rufous hornero, we saw lots of the nests. They look a bit like House Martin nests in England and have a little hole which always faces north (because here, north is warm. I never got used to that, in my mind, north is cold!) The gauchos use the bird nests for orienteering, even if there is no sun, they can see which way is north.
Came back tired but happy. I have found a mosquito bite on my forehead, which is very annoying as I smothered myself in repellent. They have dengue fever in Argentina, so I am hoping this was a healthy mosquito.
The film (which shows the estancia we visited), ‘Imagining Argentina’ is a bit odd. I think the people at the estancia were slightly embarrassed by it, and I wonder if they had realised before it was released what it was about, as it didn’t show Argentina in a very good light. It’s not at all the sort of film I would usually watch, as it was horribly violent and a bit weird, but it was interesting to see places that we visited. It shows the story of Argentina during the late 1970’s, when the regime refused to allow any opposition. It was a time when lots of people went missing, they became known as ‘The Disappeared’. I had no idea, before we visited Buenos Aires, of any of the history. In my guide book, it said that every Thursday there is a procession of women outside Casa Rosada, protesting about the Disappeared. They are still waiting for information about their sons, husbands, sisters. I didn’t go to look, so I don’t know if the women are there are not. But that so many people disappeared – estimates of 30,000 people went missing between mid 1970s and 1982, when the regime collapsed following the war over the Falkland Islands – is terrible. It reminded me of stories about the old Soviet Union. As I said, I had never heard, I had no idea what was happening. It is very easy to ignore the circumstances in countries that don’t affect us. But the world is small, these places are accessible, the people are the same as us.
Argentina still has political problems, especially with their economy. But it has excellent natural resources and an intelligent, educated population. Buenos Aires is like a faded Paris. With the right governance, it could be a very different place in the near future. We won’t sell our left over pesos, they would be worth very little with the exchange rate now anyway. In a couple of years, I think they will be worth significantly more. If I had money to invest, I think I would invest in Argentina. The new government seems a sensible one.
Tomorrow we go home. It has been a lovely trip, though I’m quite looking forward to being home again. I wonder how much the ducklings will have grown and if the eggs by the pond have hatched yet.
If ever you come here, the two things you MUST do are eat alfajores with your coffee and visit a parrilla (the Argentinian version of a grilled meat restaurant. They cook roughly a whole cow at a time.)
I would also recommend that you try to avoid coming with someone who only knows some of the words to, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”, but who sings it every time you pass a monument to Evita. There are lots of these monuments in Argentina, trust me.
Bye for now,
Thank you for reading.
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