06.07.2007 10 °C
Managed to survive the plane journey over the Andes and arrived safely in Santiago yesterday, however the pilot did have to take a diversion due to bad weather over the mountains, and there was plenty of turbulence to keep me guessing if we were going to fall out the sky.
On Monday morning we went to stay for a few days at a ranch 220km North of Buenos Aires. We were picked up from our weird little hotel by Javier who would be our guide for the next three days. He was a nice guy and seemed really interested in Scotland, so did quite a lot of reminiscing about home with him over the course of our stay. Santa Maura is a working estancia/cattle ranch. It is absolutely massive, something like 4000 acres with 4000 cattle.
The whole of the East coast of Argentina is absolutely flat. Really weird not to be able to see any hills for 360º. There are lots and lots of cows all over the place though. Big fat juicy succulent walking steaks as I have come to view them over the past month. Jenny was well up for some horse riding whilst we were in Argentina so Santa Maura was perfect as they owned about 70 horses, some tame, some wild, and the farm itself is worked by traditional Gauchos on horseback.
I wasn't so keen on the idea to start with as I'm a bit apprehensive of horses. I'm happier putting my money on them as opposed to my self. Anyway turns out we both had a really good time, and I even managed to get my horse up to a canter which was quite exciting. My horse was called el sincero - the sincere - and he was nice and sedate. Didn't really seem that keen on moving anywhere too fast, and took a good kick to get him going....on the way out. No problem encouraging him to go home though, back to bed - the kind of lazyboy attitude I admire. Did manage to get him up to a canter though which was good fun.
The first day that we were there we settled in to our accommodation which was an old farm house. Was really nice old place. Absolutely freezing, but had a huge open fire which kept me entertained.
The only electricity came through a generator that went off at about 11pm each night. Was all good though. Olga looked after us, preparing all our meals whilst we were there. She was such a good cook and really friendly. She kept taking the piss out of me because I looked like a dummie when getting on the horse, and like a cripple when I got off at the end of our riding. She and her husband let me and Jenny join them to watch the football (Argentina v Colombia) on our first night. Olga is probably in her fifties, and I have never come across a woman, let alone a woman of that age who was so excited about watching a football match, and so knowledgeable about the players. Was very impressive. Argetinians are absolutely mental about football. Most impressive was the asado (barbeque) that she prepared for our final lunch at the estancia.
Absolutley amazing. Stuffed ourselves full of meat. Argenina is all about meat, meat, meat, and cakes and buns smothered in Dulce de Leche. Dulce de leche is basically caramel made from boiled condensed milk I think? It's so so sweet, but they all love it. I'm sure some them even have it on their steaks behind closed doors.
Having settled into the house we went canoeing on the lake behind it with Javier.
Was nice and peaceful and saw loads of ducks and birds. After this we played bowls, me and Jenny against Javier. Javier was very competitve. Unfortunately we, as team Scotland, put on a typically Scottish display, starting off so promisingly then ending up getting inihalated. We had a wander round the farm houses, which had plenty of animals for Jenny to chase about the place, in particular two young puppies which she was very fond of.
I liked the chickens and the big black pig that they had locked up in a kind of dark wooden prison in the woods. It got very excited whenever anyone went near it. Along with horses and cattle they also kept quite a few sheep. They were weird looking things though, not like the ones at home. They had thick wool all over them, head and legs, and no tails. They looked a bit like miniature polar bears.
On our second day we got up early and went for a long horse ride to look for the Gauchos, to try and see them working. Unfortunately we didn't get going til a bit later than planned because Jenny was in control of the alarm. We did get to see them the next morning when we went out, as we left earlier. Was really interesting to see them herding the cattle into a pen and giving them vaccinations for the winter. Jenny even got a chance to give the shots, which she really enjoyed. The afternoon of our second day we went for some more canoeing. This was a big mistake. It was ok on the way out onto the river, but the wind picked up on our way back and both of us were knackered from the riding. Me especially, not being used to it. I felt like someone had taken a cricket bat across my lower back. Anyway it took us ages to get back, and at points we were going round in circles and backwards, wasn't much fun.
All in all Santa Maura was a really enjoyable experience, and the locals on the farm were so nice and made us feel really welcome. From here we returned to Buenos Aires spent a quite night in and got up early to fly to Chile.
Only spending another half day here in Chile then leaving South America for oz tonight. The weather hasn't been great since we've got here, pretty grey, wet and cold. However, Santiago seems decent enough.
There's not anything that really stands out about it as a city. It has a prettyish central plaza and lots and lots of religious sculptures and monuments littering the streets but nothing that really sets it apart. Today we took a trip up the cerro San Cristobal which is a big hill in the centre of the city. Took the funicular up to the top.
Unfortunatley was a bit cloudy, so couldn't really see much, which is a shame because I know the Andes are out there somewhere, as we saw them when we were landing here.
There is a big statue of the Virgin Mary at the top of the hill looking out over the city which is quite impressive. Also up there, there is an open air church with speakers all over the place playing hymns and latin chanting which is quite creepy.
The one downside to Chile so far is that it is a lot more expensive than anywhere else. We were staying in a pretty grotty little hotel for more than we have paid anywhere else so far. It did the job, although there was a nest of pigeons right outside our window flaping about and cooing at each other the whole night. Eating and drinking is pretty expensive here. A bottle of wine in a restaurant starts at about 4 pounds which is a shame, because the wine here is supposed to be pretty good, and we are being confined to drinking the stuff from the Chinese supermarket at 85p a bottle that tastes like vinegar. Food is really good here, I had conger eel soup the other day, which was a lot nicer than it sounds. Spent last night drinking in communal area of our hotel with a paralytic Chilean guy. He was a good laugh, although was a strange conversation, because he kept talking to me in broken English and I would respond in my crap Spanish. There was an Australian guy with us too, Glen. He seemed alright to begin with but as the night progressed it became apparent that everytime he opened his mouth a torrent of diarrhoea would come out. He was full of shit. He came out with some absolutely ludicrous claims, like his friend had been eaten by a crocodile, he'd been kidnapped in Columbia, he'd been stung by a boxjellyfish and he worked for the 20th richest guy in Australia etc etc. Didn't impress me very much, and I told him as much. Ended in a bit of shouting at each other. I just hope there aren't too many Glens in Oz.
Anyway, we are having to kick about here for the rest of today, before flying out to see the wizard later tonight......