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Mendoza, Argentina
Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recently down from the saddle, sipping on a glass of red, and chatting over the sizzle of huge hunks of steak in an outdoor brick barbeque; it was a gloriously typical Argentinean moment.

At 1730 we arrived at the ranch, about a forty minute drive out of the city centre, and half an hour later we were mounting the horses with the early evening sun warming our faces. For the next hour or so we circulated around the dusty fields at what I think was a trot (my knowledge of the horse speed classification system is minimal), stopping at various points to rearrange, and look at the views.

Back at the ranch (can’t believe I get to use that literally) we hopped off the horses and sat round the table with the owners. This part of the tour was the highlight for me.

The land was given to Javier for free some years ago. Growing up on a farm, and having studied Tourism, he started making these tours recently. His brother and a few friends joined him, and there were also a number of other people helping out who were living on site.

We all made empanadas (a sort of small, smooth Cornish pasty), cracked open some red wine/ beers and chatted about all sorts of Finding Yourself topics. Soon the sky was turning an array of reds, oranges and pinks. To stay warm we gravitated to the glowing barbeque which was being stoked up for the imminent arrival of meat.

Sat at the main table we all enjoyed the full hospitality of our hosts. Wine was flowing, and the various side dishes and chunks of beef were being passed around the group. Myself, Javier, a German and an Austrian attempted to put the world to rights, and in doing so compared our cultural backgrounds.

One thing of interest (#economicsgraduate) was the devaluation of the Peso about 10 years ago. It meant that overnight, prices reduced by a third, which at first might seem like good news as things became cheaper. However, grains/ cereals have a global price as they are traded on an international exchange, and so retained their previous price. Consequently there was an odd scenario of meat being, say $2/kg, but the grains required to feed the animals being $5/kg. This meant that suddenly, farmers (like Javiers’s father) had to cull all their livestock as it was not possible to feed them and keep them alive.

The devaluation made it cheaper for tourists to visit Argentina, so with the loss of his father’s farm, Javier took it upon himself to work in hostels by night, and learn English in the day to take adapt to this structural change. When the government gave Javier the land (it was otherwise going to waste), he the combined his skills to start this venture.

The night drew on, the food polished off, the jugs of wine were dried, and the arrival of our bus driver meant it was time to bid our farewells. It was nearly midnight when we returned (did I say that the Argentineans eat late?) concluding a very pleasant evening, and insight into an aspect of the Mendozan way of life

Javier + Horse

My horse

Sunset BBQ

Empenadas

Eating arena

Horses