Friday, May 9, 2014

Authentic Argentinian Ranch Experience

Ingrained in Argentinian culture, the gaucho lifestyle has always been a little bit mystical, sometimes mischievous, but always noble.

authentic argentinian ranch experience header

Yesterday we visited the traditional Argentinian ranch Don Silvano on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. With a few spare days to fill we found a tourist agency that convinced us a trip to Argentina would be incomplete unless we had a full day experience on a ranch. All inclusive with food, transport and a full days entertainment, we booked it in.

WHAT IS A GAUCHO?


Gaucho's are nomadic horsemen who maintain estancias, or ranches, and are adept with handling various livestock. Historically, gauchos were venerated as brave and somewhat mysterious, with legendary tales behind many of the most notable. With an estimated 150,000 today in Argentina, gaucho culture is interwoven into the fabric of Argentine culture and are now considered a national symbol of the country.

gaucho on horse

The coach bus arrived early before breakfast at our hotel and we made our way to the ranch in about an hour. Warmly greeted, we were offered empanadas and a cup of wine or juice at arrival and the day's itinerary was explained to us. Being a large ranch you didn't have to participate in every activity and could spend the day wandering around and relaxing if you preferred (but wheres the fun in that?!).

pink building in the ranch

As a fully operational ranch there were cute farm animals freely wandering the grounds. Not only horses, but exotic birds like peacocks, roosters, chickens, ducks and pigs. Accustomed to human interactions and not shy at all, it was a good photo opportunity and I got plenty of cute animal photos during our first meal. We also got our first lesson in mate tea drinking, the most recognisable national beverage of Argentina.

ALL ABOUT YERBA MATE


Yerba Mate is more than a beverage, it is a cultural tradition used for socialising and health benefits. First consumed by the indigenous Guarani peoples, served in a gourd and sipped through a metal bombilla, it is consumed today in groups in an almost ritualistic manner. In a group everyone will drink from the same gourd and bombilla until the mate no longer has a potent flavour.

duck family on the ranch

After our meal we were ushered to the first activity - a horse and carriage ride around the ranch. You couldn't tell from first sight but the ranch extends at least a couple of hectares. Afterwards we got to ride the horses ourselves on a trail! It was a lot of fun, but my horse was naughty and kept stopping to eat leaves from trees.

me riding a horse

Afterwards we had an Argentine lunch with all the trimmings - juicy steak and salads, sausages, red wine and a rich dulce de leche flan to top it off. The meal was accompanied with a show and popular music and dance from every region of Argentina. The singer asked us where we were all from and performed a song from each of our countries (impressive), and finally some members of the audience were given a chance to learn a few dance moves for themselves.

THE TRADITIONAL GAUCHO DIET


Was one rich in protein, traditionally beef, slowly cooked over embers of a fire. The meat was often seasoned in chimichurri, and usually supplemented with a hot yerba mate.

traditional argentinian dance and music

The next activity was my favourite of the day. We watched a demonstration by a few gauchos (one lady included), performing tricks and ring racing with the horses and showing us how they raise them from young. The gauchos showed us unbelievable horsemanship, it is apparent that what they do is not only their job but their passion.

CORRIDA DE SORTIJA


aka ring racing is a traditional gaucho sport where the riders are given a single stick and have to catch a tiny wedding-band sized ring from a goalpost. Traditionally, the gaucho that can catch the ring was the one to get married.

two gauchos on horses

We had time to wander around the grounds and do a few other activities before heading home. There was a small zip-line, antique cars scattered around the premises and a leather shop and saddlery for souvenirs. By the time the day had come to an end we were exhausted, but sad to be leaving. A stark contrast from city living, it was exciting to get a glimpse into an elusive lifestyle that is widely known about in Argentina, but only lived by a few.

cactus in the ranch garden

Image attribution:
"El Calafate (3)" by bibliojojo // CC BY 2.0 *
* changes were made to the original materials

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