Today was my favorite day so far in Argentina. We went to an estancia (ranch) in the countryside, not far from Buenos Aires. We all slept in the bus for the entire trip (we woke up at 6 am!) Once we arrived at the estancia, a man dressed in strange clothes was waiting for us with empanadas (little meat turnovers) and mate (an Argentinean version of tea). We later learned that the clothes he was wearing was that of the gaucho (Argentinean cowboy). He had a wide hat on, a poncho, loose baggy pants and knee-high leather boots. He also had a wide belt with silver coins on it, and a big knife they call the facon.

Gaucho with Traditional apparel

The owner of the estancia and three or four gauchos took us all to the area where the horses were. I’d seen horses before, but these were impressive!  One of the gauchos told us that they had 125 horses there. WOW! Each of us had the chance to ride a horse with the whole group lead by a gaucho.  I had been horseback riding once a long time ago, but most of my classmates had never ridden a horse, so there was a mixture of excitement and fear among the group. Once we came back we all loved it!

Gaucho Boleadoras

Then, a gaucho directed us to a huge open place made out of wood where there where long tables and chairs. There was a small stage and after we all sat down, three gauchos got on the stage along with two guys with drums. Then the show began. The gauchos began dancing to the rhythm of the drums and their boleadoras hitting the wood floor. Boleadora is a tool used by the gauchos, made out of stones, and bound in leather strips.This dance is called malambo and only men dance it. There were three or more gauchos on stage where they bounced the boleadoras in a circular motion at a high speed hitting the floor with one of them at a time. The boleadoras followed the beat of the music. Since I play the drums, this was especially interesting to me. I really, really loved it. The three gauchos hitting the floor combined their sounds to create something spectacular, but it also looked very dangerous. All the while they continued to tap on the floor with their boots. I don’t know how those men did not hit themselves or the other dancers with the boleadoras. It was absolutely amazing!

While we were watching the show, several men were cooking a typical Argentinean BBQ or asado just outside where we were. I was sitting close to the huge grill, so I managed to take some pictures. The grill was close to the ground, and they were cooking all kinds of meat. Finally it was time for lunch, and what a feast it was! The servers brought steak, chorizo sausage, blood sausage, and tenderloin–a true meat lovers’ dream. We were told that Argentinean meat is considered the best in the world…and it tasted like that to me!

Gaucho Barbecue

After the meal, we were directed to a place where we could sit to watch several gauchos demonstrate their horseback riding skills. I don’t know exactly what the game is called, but the way it works is that the gaucho and his horse go faster and faster down a dirt path towards a small golden ring hanging overhead from a string. When they reach full speed, the gaucho tries to “grab” the ring using a utensil about the size and shape of a pen or a pencil. Then they gave the ring to one of the girls in the group. I think this was their favorite activity of the day!