Uruguay – Panagea Ranch, Tacuerembo (Mid January)
Tacuarembo is in Northern Uruguay, typical gaucho (cowboy) country. We’d pretty much decided to get out of Uruguay asap as it seemed like it was half-term for all the rich neighbouring Argentinians and Brazilians, thereby pushing the prices up way beyond our budget. Then we heard about this ranch, run by a Uruguayan vet and his German wife. It was off the gringo trail, not in the Lonely Planet and sounded iddyllic. Oh, it was also cheap.. a whole $3o a day each for accomodation, food and riding with the gauchos for 8 hours a day. We set off on our coach ride from the South Coast and arrived in Tacuerembo bus station at 6pm where we were met by the lovely German Sussane. The Ranch is another hour from Tacuerembo,deep in the heart of cattle land..no electricity and no running water. There was a generator on from 9-11pm and all the water was pulled up from a well, with a windmill helping to access the water.
Upon arrival, we were given proper gaucho clothing – tuck your baggy pants into leather boots and slap on a cowboy hat time. Got to say, the gauchos have got it sussed.. none of your British skin tight (unflattering as hell) jodhpurs, and skin squeezing leather boots. The whole ensemble was so comfortable, even the saddle was luxurious compared to the usual painful experience. Not a single one of us had the John Wayne Walk the next day, put it that way.
The farmyard was picture perfect. Remember back to those childrens books about farmyards, the ones with the idyllic windmill, cute little piglets, hens sleeping in wheelbarrows, dappled sunlight through the trees.. even the token friendly sheepdogs obediantly following you as you potter about feeding the animals. Honestly, if Enid Blyton had to describe a farmyard, then this would be that place.
We’d start by learning to saddle up our horses at 7am, then it was off to herd cattle and be back around 7pm..
It wasn’t all gently riding through the rolling Urugyuan countryside, being a working cattle ranch we had to actually do work. This may involve herding the cows into pens, then attempting to segregate any sick ones from the others for medication or vaccinations. I’ve left out the photos from the castration morning because I’m nice like that.
Cows are ridiculously jittery, extremely stupid and give a mean glare (see below)
And this big truck meant…. filet mignon, yep we then hearded them all onto the abbatoir truck. Except one crazy cow that knew what was going on, and did a giant leap ove the fence and made his break for freedom. We left him as he looked completely crazed.
Next day we rounded up sheep, correct term being ‘flocking’ apparently. Sheep are easy to get into groups as they’re, well… sheep.
After a hard days flocking (yes, you heard correctly), we all went for a swim in the local stream. Except it wasn’t very local at all. 40 minutes of sliding about, trying to swim in flip-flops, we made it to the clearing where the spring opened out.
Everyone had a race, apart from me (well, someone had to be the referee)
I think this sign was put up after a particulalrly obnoxious, nasty tourist attempted to blame her horse for her miserable existence.
This is Fleabag (that’s what I called him anyway), he was lovely but very very smelly (hence Neil is keeping him at the end of a stick)
Juan was always up to some sort of practical joke. Today he’d decided to saddle up the largest pig in the place and get his neice to ride him.
Lunch was amazing. Organic lamb, cooked over a barbq, and freshly baked bread made in the outdoor clay oven (I thought this was wonderful and would like one in our garden in Clapham)
Me catching up on writing the blog
My favourite meal of the week, homemade pizza cooked in the outdoor clay oven.. ridiculously delicious.
So it was Neil’s birthday and we all conspired to keep his party a secret from him. He went out for an afternoon ride and I feigned illness, so I could stay and decorate the farm with balloons etc. We had a cake, lots of booze and danced to samba (badly) late until the night.
I loved this little guy, his name is pierre and he’s the runt of the litter. His mum stepped on him just after he was born, and he broke his back leg. Because he’s now lame, he can’t get to the trough in time and all the slop gets eaten and he just won’t grow. So now Pierre has had a splint on his leg, gets fed by hand by a bottle and is soon up for running the marathon.
And that was our week as guachos..next stop, Iguazu Falls, Argentina. But we find ourselves a teeny bit stranded, with the next bus out of the area not until next week. So we decide to hitch to the border (after a good scrub and de-fleaing session- not joking about the fleas actually)..
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