Down on the Ranch


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South America » Argentina » Salta » Chicoana
February 4th 2016
Published: February 9th 2016
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C: While researching our trip, Roger had come across a newspaper article recommending ranch stays in Argentina. We were keen to do this and had booked one with the slogan 'Todos es possible!' - everything is possible. We were booked in for one night to include full board and two 3 hour horse rides. So, the morning after the bus, a car came to pick us up and drove us into the countryside outside Salta. It was a really beautiful area, very green and verdant and surrounded by hills and mountains. We arrived at the ranch and were greeted by a Flemish girl, Ringe, who, it turned out, was volunteering at the ranch as a translator. We had our second breakfast(!) and then went out to meet the horses and our gaucho. The horses were obviously very well looked after which was nice to see. Now, neither of us has ridden a horse for years so it felt a bit strange to start with but the horses were lovely and we soon got used to it. They clearly knew where they were going as we did a great private 3hour trek around fields, along quiet roads amongst the Northern Argentinian mountains and even across rivers. Roger's horse, Nochero, was slightly less well behaved than mine and was determined to munch grass and leafy bushes at every opportunity, dragging Roger through the surrounding trees and bushes too. They weren't interested in going massively fast unless the gaucho gave them a shove from behind, so we got sudden bursts of speed.

We arrived back, slightly saddle sore, and were greeted by Ringe and several bottles of red wine, excellent. Some more people had turned up while we were riding and we had a nice chat with an Australian couple and some German girls. Then it was time for lunch. We had read that this particular ranch was known for copious amounts of good food and that was no lie, it was amazing! Beautifully tender bbqd steak that just kept appearing alongside a huge array of wonderful salads and potatoes all washed down with lots more red wine. It's a strong contender for best meal of the trip. Everyone ate at one big table and it was great to just sit and chat to the other travellers.

After lunch, and feeling slightly drunk, we saddled up for the second ride of the day. We were a bigger group this time but it was just as fun. I had a different horse this time and I think Roger was slightly disappointed to have the same one as she was definitely in charge. The best bit was when we stopped so that a few of the more experienced riders could have go at galloping and our horses just decided that they didn't want to wait around so they headed off across a river. Whatever we did made no difference as they had clearly decided it was time to go, thankfully, we later discovered when the others caught up, back to the ranch. I was pretty achy by the time we got back but there was plenty of time to shower and relax as we were informed that dinner would be at 9.30pm - they eat late in Argentina. What we didn't realise was that the day's entertainment had barely just begun...

The accomodation itself was pretty rustic - a wooden cabin with twin beds made withh knitted blankets and a little bathroom attached.

Before dinner there was more wine, of course, and we got to know Ringe who was really lovely and interesting putting us to shame by the fact that she spoke four languages! She said that she was employed because the owner of the ranch really wanted to be able to communicate with the guests but his language skills weren't very good. We had seen Enrique around earlier but hadn't really spoken to him much or got to know him, that was certainly about to change. As we sat chatting, the sky was lit up repeatedly by an approaching thunderstorm and, having been sat out under the trees, we decided to move into the covered dining area.

There were less of us now, some people just come for the day, but we settled down to dinner with Enrique at the head of the table. First of all he wasn't happy unless you had a full glass of wine and was constantly filling everyone's up. He was a dreadful flirt and had a good grasp of most English swear words, which he used freely. He was also a guy with a lot of long and convoluted stories which poor Ringe had to translate, a task she found more difficult as he insisted on filling her wine glass up constantly too. There was the one about the priest and the red wine... (He buys 70,000 litres of wine for he ranch each year). Many of them Ringe did not even want to translate. The best one started by him telling Roger that he had something every Englishman should have. By this point we were ready for anything but it turned out to be a framed photograph of the Queen sent from Buckingham palace itself. Considering that relations between Argentina and the U.K. are not the best, I was somewhat surprised by this but it turned out that that Queen's website manager had once been to stay! Apparently she was very 'sexy' (the website manager not the Queen) but also a 'snob', his way of referring to people he considered posh. He also liked the Queen because she liked horses, princess Anne too but definitely not Charles! After further discussion of the merits of the royal family he decided I wasn't drinking enough wine, I had had about six glasses by this point, and so i clearly didn't like wine. Roger helpfully informed him that I liked whisky and he disappeared into the house only to return with a very expensive bottle of Laphroaig quarter cask! I poured myself a small measure but that was no good at all and i was expected to drink pretty much a wine glassful. Well it was good whisky.... The scariest moment came when we noticed a mouse run across the fireplace, Enrique disappeared again and returned with a handgun. He was pretty inebriated by this point and the two German girls definitely shared in my fears. Luckily he proved pretty quickly, but without killing the mouse, that it was an air gun and put it away again. All that got killed that night was a large spider which ran across the ground near his foot. We finally ended up going to bed in the early hours but it had definitely one of those great travel experiences you never forget. Overall he was a genuinely nice guy who wanted to share his home with his visitors and you definitely felt like one of the family by the end of it.

When we told him how we had found out about his ranch in The Guardian, he again used his command of English swear words to shout "Enrique is f*****g famous!".

The thunderstorm came in properly overnight and we felt enveloped by it in our little cabin. We awoke the next morning feeling pretty achy, both from the riding and the fairly uncomfortable bed but it was definitely worth it. One of our best experiences so far and we would thoroughly recommend Enrique and his 'Todos es possible' ranch to anyone visiting Salta.


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