Gaucho’s were the cowboys of Argentina. Descending from the Spanish conquistadores, gaucho’s occupied themselves with cattle herding. Sitting high on their horses, galloping across the Argentinian pampa’s these tough men got by with very little. Similar to the North-American cowboys the gaucho lifestyle has often been romanticized in novels and movies. Nowadays the term gaucho is often used to refer to all Argentinians, only very few ‘real gaucho’s’ can be found in the countryside. Usually working on large ranches in remote Argentina. These ranches are also called ‘estancias’ in Spanish and some of them have discovered the possibilities of tourism. Meaning that you can spend the night here while going horseback riding during the day. Of course we had to try that!
Our Argentinian estancia
Picking the right estancia takes some time. We eventually chose an Argentinian rural estancia two hours driving away from Buenos Aires. The owners, Jorge and his wife, owned a ranch specialized in the breeding and training of horses for the polo sport. Driving up to the ranch we first encountered one of the farms horse trainers. Sitting high upon his agile horse he was followed by an enthusiastic pack of dogs. Good guard dogs as they were they immediately trailed our car, following us as we drove to the entrance of the main house. The dogs barked loudly as we stepped out of the car. Most likely alerted by the sound of the dogs, Jorge appeared, called off the dogs and welcomed us to the estancia.
After freshening up in our rooms, a few hours of relaxation by the pool (yes, we did opt for the slightly more luxurious rural stay) and befriending most of the guard dogs (all dogs love me and vice versa) it was time to go horseback riding. Ok, I did have very little horseback riding experience and my travel companions were looking paler and paler at the thought of having to climb on the back of one of those noble animals. Just the moment for Jorge to tell us that his horses are very fast and could run for miles and miles through open land. Grinning through his teeth he also mentioned that the last time they had to call an ambulance for someone who fell off their horse the only ambulance in the area could not come, its paramedics where apparently ill. Meaning: if one takes flight with you on its back you better hold on tight.
Fortunately one of the trainers would ride along with us. However, our trainer/guide seemed at most fourteen years old and the horses selected for us, inexperienced tourists, did not seem so fast and furious at all. In fact, they seemed to be more interested in grazing the grass than walking. So far for us pretending to be Argentinian Gaucho’s!
Ok, the horseback riding experience was not as wild as I expected however staying in rural Argentina is an experience you should not miss out on. I mean how many of us still experience pitch-black darkness in the evening (no streetlighting, no nothing!) or have breakfast guarded by your new ‘four legged best friend’ the mastino dog while watching horses and little foals gallop by.
There are estancias you can stay at throughout Argentina ranging from a few hours away from Buenos Aires to remote stays on ranches in Patagonia.