Kel: We left BA for a place called Junin, a 4 hour bus journey out of town. It's a nice enough wee town but we didn't go there for that. We got another taxi about 16k out of town.
We had a driver who looked like a Spanish Andy Garcia in an old addidas shell suit. He had longish hair and Matthew made me take pictures of him from behind cause he's finally found a long hair do that he can aspire to .... honest.
Anyway, Andy took us to La Oriental, a beautiful beautiful estancia (working farm) We were met by Raphael the owner and Miguel, his staff. I'm not going to describe the home well enough but it was like a big stately home as as soon as we walked in it reminded me of Wedderburn (our wedding venue). Very exciting. Our room had an open fire, a massive bed, a hair dryer (!) and ceilings so high you could barely see them! Eek! We dumped our bags and headed outside to find Miguel starting up a bonfire and had enough meat to fill a butchers counter next to him. I presumed it was for all the other guests that were staying too. But no. It was for the two of us plus the owner. Gulp. Even better, we were the only guests and had the place to ourselves. Ace.
Raphael had lunch with us and told us the history of the home, one of the oldest estancias in the country. It was made for a wife who died weeks after the owner had married her. Then it became a place for men only (and lady visitors). I said it must have been boring without women around all the time but Raphael didn't seem to think so! Then it started getting passed down the male side of the family and is a working farm exporting soya beans mainly (biggest export of South America apparently) Very interesting.
Then the food started coming. Oh boy. They call it an asado and basically it's a mixed grill using most parts of a cows body. Like Scots, they don't believe in wasting bits, and Raphael says it's generally a nightmare when Americans come because they won't touch anything but fillet and aren't used to things like black pudding etc. Mind you he said he once had a vegetarian to stay so can't imagine what that was like.
Anyway, loads of salad on the table, and first to be served was a mini choripan each (chorizo in a roll). Nice. Then a bit of pork. Then a fillet steak (so gorgeous, bloody, salty, barbequey). Then some ribs. Then more fillet steak (thankfully Raphael declined at this point since he had work to do that afternoon, so I did too. M ploughed on though) Then more pork and chorizo (M declined then) Amazing. How can people eat that much beef! Raphael said it was so healthy. The cows eat grass and get loads of exercise so they're much more fit and lean than most cows.... still that much beef can't be healthy!
We really really enjoyed it all though, and after went for a walk around the house and grounds, met their crazy dogs Scooby, Pancho and Puff and got ready for horse riding with Miguel (real life cowboy). Matthew's horse was really really slow so had to be kicked along by Miguel but mine was a wee bit more spritely. I had a gaucho saddle too (animal fur underneath, high front and back of the saddle and much wider in the middle... really comfy) We took off and went for the most gorgeous ride around the Pampas late in the afternoon, past cows, horses and three territorial bulls! At one point we stopped to chat and Miguel stopped. He only spoke Spanish so we weren't quite sure what he was saying. Anyway, his horse kicked a wee bit and before we knew it a hare flew out of a hole beneath us and took off up the field. The dogs went absolutely nuts and we were all laughing loads watching Puff, a collie, give the hare a good run for it's money. They didn't stand a chance though. The hare was so so fast. Miguel found everything funny. The hare, Puff yelping after touching an electric fence, my horse bolting at something (no idea what), life generally, so it was a pretty awesome afternoon really.
Back at the ranch and we had a game of ping pong (3-1 to me!), a wee afternoon nap, and a read in the gorgeous dining room in front of an open fire. Life doesn't get much better than that eh! We struggled to polish off a beautiful dinner after our meat fest but gave it a good crack (soup, stuffed chicken and pears in a really nice sauce) before collapsing in the most gorgeous bed (with an open fire on all night!)
But it didn't end there. The next day we had breakfast in the dining room. So far breakfasts here have been bread and jam and either tea or coffee. Not here. We had fruit and cheesy eggs and everything! Then... Miguel even took us out in a horse and carriage around another part of the estancia! The dogs followed us again .. v cute.
So after that we had to admit it was over, said our sad goodbyes and made it back to Buenos Aires.
All of that, including activities and food, cost us 200 pounds. A splurge but money well spent I reckon. We'll remember that experience forever. It's not every day you hang out in a beautiful home and pretend you are a cowboy eh (ok a chubby cowboy. We can't keep eating like this!)