This morning we were greeted outside our door by our tour guide Cami, and the driver Maxi. As we left the city limits during peak hour, the incoming traffic drew our attention, with 6 million people reportedly commuting into the city every day. Just before merging onto the highway, we passed the ramshackle buildings of a poorer neighbourhood. The highway that led out onto the pampas was quite different to the freeways at home, with speed limits varying based on the lane you were in, with the left lane reaching a limit of 130km/h. Before long, we reached the town of San Antonio de Areca, dating from the early 18th century it preserves many gaucho and criollo traditions, including the fine silverwork and saddlery of its artisans. Gauchos from all over the pampas gather here for November’s Fiesta de la Tradición. The town is known for being an accurate display of traditional Argentinian society. Hopping off the bus we were immediately reminded of the searing heat, before we ducked inside the town’s silversmith museum, which wasn’t the most riveting experience of the day. Mum got suckered into buying a ring, while the rest of us sat in the square wondering where the closest air conditioned building was. Tania and Kate made a quick detour into the town’s 300 year old church, before we all jumped back on the bus to continue our journey to the ranch.
On arrival at the ranch we were met by the owner Pablo and his collection of well fed dogs. We were all put on horses with a safety briefing heard by only half of us that consisted of “pull the reins in to stop, but not too much or they will walk backwards”. Off we went across the pampas on what was the slowest horse race ever. It is much greener than at home with apparently rain all year round. The asado (BBQ grill) had been firing all morning preparing yet more meat for us for lunch. It was very tasty and washed down by plenty of wine and beer. All to loosen us up for a lesson in traditional dance. Needless to say more lessons are required. Then followed the most bizarre display of a man loving his horse. Another rather strange tourist experience but everyone is always happy to make the most of it and eat a lot.