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The High Chaparral

Cordoba hills, Argentina

sunny 24 °C

Apologies for no pictures or hyperlinks, you should see what I´m writing on.

After crossing the Andes for the seventh or eighth time, Gus the British ex-cement mixer truck we were travelling overland on, meanders through north-west Argentina <http://www.dragoman.com/>. We passed through more deserts, canyons and river valleys on our way through Cafayate wine country to verdent lands of the Cordoba hills.

We are headed for Estancia Potreros <http://www.estancialospotreros.com/> whose marketing material says, "The estancia dates from 1574 when breeding mules for the silver mines in Peru was the principal activity. Today it is an idyllic retreat for horsemen and nature lovers. This organic working farm breeds Aberdeen Angus cattle and Paso Peruano horses. It has been in the same Anglo Argentine family for four generations.". It´s incredibly exciting after seeing nothing but desert and rocks for several weeks, beautiful although they are, to suddenly see green. Sometimes you could be in Cheshire specifically where the Man U boys have their homes and sometimes in the wilds of Scotland.

The main attraction of the Estancia is horse riding. On our first evening, Kevin (I know it´s an odd name for an Argentinian, see below) the owner, asks us about our horse riding experience so he can pair us up with a horse. I´m not entirely sure how I described my experience as the conversation took place over wine ´tasting´ which seemed to be a good excuse to drink rather tasty wines in civilised environment (again a bit of a shock after the camping and Refuges of the Bolivian Alto Plano).

I´ve taken a partial liking to Torrentes, the local white grape variety. I happened to have ´tasted´quite a lot by now and some of this unoaked young wine has a bitter aftertaste, tastes sweet but is actually dry and some is smooth and florid and goes down very nicely. Suffice to say we all got pissed...and the next morning I woke up to find myself with a big hulk of bloke who feigned indifference but when he got going he was magnificent. His name? Tractor!

Our two days riding the Estancia and learning to lassoo poor defenceless Aberdeen Argus felt very High Chaparral. I am Victoria Montoya Cannon, the only principal female character, and an aristocratic Mexican beauty (ahem)...After the first day of riding I didn´t feel so aristocratic, I have chafed bum cheeks and walk with a gait. A fellow traveller who has ridden in Colorado says the traditional cure is to rub the inside of banana skins on your arse. I pass.

Kevin, the owner entertains us again on the second night. He is dressed as an Argentina country gent with a boinas flat felt cap (like Spanish beret), chinos trousers that taper in at the ankle, knee-length leather boots and gaitors and a colourful woven belt across his middle. He IS Argentinian but he speaks and presents himself like an English toff. <Not this http://amilcarmoretti.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/argentinos-crispados/1-gaucho-argentino-de-marcos-zimmermann-3/).

His family is from Anglo descent and symbolic of that connection/affection he was sent off to boarding school in England. There he had his Argentinian accent knocked out of him, learned his clipped vowels and developed a love of Britian. He talks candidly about a range of personal and political subjects including: the Argentinian currency (tanking and you can´t change pesos to US dollars anymore); his education; the Falkland Islands/Malvinas; how how adopted his mother´s preferred name instead of his birth name approved by the church; and how he fell in love and married an English guest.

Day two is centred round a lunchtime break at a farm on the Estancia. Cattle are rounded up into a pen for us to practice our lassoing. I think this is all terribly cruel and decide not to participate. But everyone seems to be having so much fun and I am nothing less then competitive when my gander is up so I decide to have a go at lassoing -just the post...and then I decide to have a go at lassoing the cows...and then I manage to catch a cow round all four ankles and trip it up...and then it gets up and tries to run on...but I decide it´s woman against beast and even though it is a calf that I must win...I pull to try and trip it up again...and then a voice snaps me out of my reverie, "Let it go!", and I blush as the audience howl at the irony of the non-meater eater being the most vicious lasso-er of the lot.

Posted by AlisonLeahy 18:29 Archived in Argentina

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