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Published: March 12th 2018
The Chilean Rodeo...is a magical and confusing thing. We knew that the Regional Rodeo finals were being held in San Fernando so we deliberately came here to see how it all worked. I’m not sure we discovered how it works but we met some lovely people and admired some amazing horsemanship. The morning started with some amazing displays of horse dressage and control which, being not very horsey, got a bit boring after a while. But in the afternoon the main event got going and the “demi-lunar” (or crescent shaped stadium, same word as croissant) was filled with 72 pairs of gauchos, all resplendent in their silver spurs, fitted jackets, gaucho hats and blanket ponchos in the colours of their family. What an amazing sight....the horses were all so elegant, fine, gleaming and gorgeous (not to mention the gauchos). Each pair then were presented with a bull who they had to “shepherd” around the arena three times in different directions and then pin into the relevant area to gain points from the judges. Our feelings of sympathy for the bulls were clearly not shared by the crowd or the gauchos but we were assured by the lovely man next to us
that the bulls only have to do this once. (I didn’t like to ask what they did next in their probably not very long and happy life).
The skill of the gauchos was amazing... one horse ran forward pushing the bull forward whilst the other horse ran sideways (no, really really sideways, so it was crossing its legs as it ran (how does that work when you have 4 legs my horse-knowing friends), and apparently this is very difficult for the horse because not only are his legs crossing all the time but his head is over the cow so he can’t see where he is putting his feet. Whole thing looked difficult to us, and you have to “pin” the bull on the rump to get maximum 4 points (only a measly 2 points for a shoulder-pin).
You will not be surprised to hear that we did not work all this out for ourselves. As we sat down, Jan did her usual charm-offensive “Buenos Dias Signor”.....and from that faltering start we became firm friends with the two gentlemen next to us, one of whom was waiting to ride in the next heat. The other man turned out
to be a cross between the Lord Lieutenant of San Fernando and a business oligarch. He was a civil engineer (“yes, we’re in”, I thought, preparing my best Spanish joke involving reinforced concrete) but we discovered that he had his own construction business, his own vineyard and winery, his own stable with umpteen rodeo horses, and a charitable foundation to help Chilean people achieve affordable eye care. We did our best but we were in the wrong league and felt we needed to abandon our normal enthralling conversation opener about growing leeks in Little Kingshill. Anyhow he knew all about Rodeo rules and spoke good English so we were very happy to spend the afternoon in his company. He insisted on the picture here, with Jan draped in his family colours and his gaucho hat.
After we left his company, Pete, who had been slightly disappointed all day, ventured to ask a waiter, in his best Spanish-cum-gesticulation, when the bucking bronco bit of the rodeo would start. Not being sure of the Spanish for “bucking bronco bit”, he used his very best LKBC dramatic skills to enact the said missing activity, complete with holding onto the (imaginary) saddle with
one hand while waving the other arm in the air and leaping about to depict riding an (also imaginary) wild horse. I was proud of the detail he managed to include in his short but realistic pastiche. The waiter looked slightly startled reassured him that it would start shortly. Turns out from later conversations with English speaking people that the bucking bronco bit is only in American Rodeo and there is no part for such frivolous activity in the Chilean Rodeo. I wonder what how waiter described his day to his wife when he got home.......
The next day was the Fiesta of the Vendimia in nearby Santa Cruz. The Vendimia is the harvest and as the main crop here is grapes, the Harvest Festival was rather more boozy than we might have expected from our experience of the Harvest Festival at Kingshill Baptist church. As I (Jan) was in charge of the catching the bus to Santa Cruz we arrived before anyone else and were the first people to buy tickets for the event which only really got going a few hours later. But our tickets came with a free wine glass and tokens for tasting our choice of wines from a million on offer so what were we to do but put our joint shoulders to the wheel and just get on with it.
There seemed to be general confusion from the people running the wine stalls about what the tokens were for so we ambled about, tasting a number of wines without getting our tokens out of Pete’s wallet. A “tasting” consisted of a glass of about 100ml which might not sound much but it was certainly enough to make it’s mark at 11 in the morning. We realised that the only way to get through the day was to have a snooze so we found a shady tree in the park and lay down to rest for a few minutes. There was no-one else around, a nice quiet spot. Unfortunately, when we awoke some hour and a half later, half a million people had arrived for the Fiesta and as ours was one of the few shady trees in the park, we were surrounded by a large number of families, courting couples and elderly folk all having picnics and generally enjoying the wholesome atmosphere of the event which was somewhat marred by the strangely dressed elderly couple who had obviously been drinking since dawn and had fallen over in the park.
We dusted ourselves down and continued our enjoyment of the day.....By this time the stall people had got the hang of the tokens and we were thus limited to 8 further tastings but this was more of a blessing than anything else. I would share our tasting notes with you but they got a bit jumbled. Most were deemed to be “nice’ by Jan, with a slightly more flowery and pretentious opinion being offered by Pete.
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