Our first stop on our mini tour took us over the border to Uruguay. As we had planned this super last minute, we didn’t know what to expect.
Colonia del Sacramento
Our first day/night was spent in Colonia del Sacramento which is just over the Río de la Plata estuary from Buenos Aires. It’s easy to get to and many people come over for a day trip. After an hour ride on the ferry, we had arrived. Colonia is a cute tourist town, lined with cobbled streets and has an eclectic mix of both Spanish and Portuguese architecture. As one of the oldest towns in Uruguay, it has gained UNESCO World Heritage status. There’s not that much to do here so one or two days would be more than sufficient.
The next day we set off on several bus journeys which led us to our home for the next 3 nights. We were staying at a working ranch owned by the very humorous Juan and his lovely wife Suzanne. On-site was also the gaucho Bilinga and his wife who help look after the ranch. The main environment of this ranch is the rearing of sheep and cattle and the attraction of tourists is a side project. Unlike many other Estancias, which cater to tourists, it is very basic and homely so the experience is much more authentic. There is only electricity for 3-4 hours a night (after sunset) and the shared rooms are basic. There is hot water but with a 3-minute limit.
This type of stay may not be for everyone, but we sure had a blast. It was an unforgettable experience and one of the best from our travels so far. It was nice to detox from our mod-cons and to relax and socialise with other people.
As part of the stay, you are treated to 3 hearty, delicious home-cooked meals every day and invited to take part in the daily routines of the ranch. As mentioned before, the ranch is based on the rearing of cattle and sheep, which is done by horseback.
Wendy and Mike had never ridden a horse before so were understandably a little nervous (especially Wendy). After the safety briefing by Juan, the nerves only heightened. There is no hand holding on this ranch. You are shown how to saddle the horse (they help check you have done it properly), how to ride, turn, stop and then you are off!
The first morning of horse-riding we just had a nice stroll over the fields so we could get used to riding. In the afternoon, we went to round our first herd of cattle in order to take them to the ‘ring of hell’ so they could be treated for ticks. Although there were about 15 of us altogether, we weren’t much help. Most of stayed at the back, whilst Juan, Bilinga, Juan’s 2 daughters (7/8 years old) one of the other guests, Rose, and the 2 dogs did all the work in gathering the cattle. They did manage to rear all the cattle into the ring of hell. Here the cattle were separated into groups and sent into a pool. Some knew what they were doing, whilst others had fear written all over their faces. It was one of the weirdest, yet enjoyable experiences ever.
The next morning, we did the same. This time we went to a further paddock and had to round up an even bigger herd of the cattle. We felt we were much more productive this time. Our group had shrunk in size (the girls had to go to school and some other guests had left) but we worked well and managed to chase the cattle into the next paddock. Then, it all went Pete Tong! Some rogue cattle decided to make a dash for it and then others followed suit. Luckily, the gaucho, Juan, and the dogs were all there to chase them back. Nevertheless, they managed to get them back into the ‘ring of hell’ to repeat the process of bathing and to also inject the calves. Because this herd had so many calves, the mother cows were going crazy and there was so much noise! There were several hundred and their glaring eyes stared straight into your soul!
That afternoon we had another ride out and took the cattle back to the paddock. The next day, we didn’t go on the last ride as our legs were in so much pain! It was a fantastic experience and we would highly recommend it to anyone!
On to our next stop,Foz do Iguaçu/ Iguazu Falls via an overnight bus! See you back in Argentina!