Trip Start Feb 27, 2009
Trip End Sep 13, 2009

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Flag of Uruguay  , Tacuarembó,
Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tuesday 4 August 2009

We arrive in Salto after the overnight and are met by the somehwat eccentric Juan Miguel who will be our host in a hacienda for the next 3 nights on his ranch which is literally in the middle of nowhere in Uruguay´s gaucho country. 

For the moment thought we are going to be treated to some quality spring action in Salto's hot springs to shake off the bus journey.  The springs are tacky as can be but strangely satisfying.  We don't get away with the lack of understanding of the sign in the first pool we hop into which is for nudies only.  NEXT!  The pools are great.  Justine is in here element - feigning an orgasm on a fountain in one of the pools.  I really do think I could be in an episode of big brother.

The ranch is a further 4 hours away - so Jerome and I go and stock up on booze - as good a reason as any.  Well actually the purpose is to have a wine tasting test that evening to show that us Europeans and in particular our french friend have a good fine knowledge of the various grapes and aromas and regions and shit.  The road to the hacienda is long, deserted, straight and cuts through vast plains with only herds of sheep, interspersed with the odd cow, ostrich and gaucho on horseback.  We stop once for a look at some sheep shearing - sheep shagging sadly not on the agenda.

The hacienda itself is a joy.  Juan Miguel and his Swiss wife Suzanna converted the working farm to a home stay style hostel in order to bring in some cash when the recession hit.  My fears of Emma´s high maintenance-ances-ness are coming to fruition as she moans about room allocation and lack of hair dryers.  Though in fairness a stint with Justine would drive anyone to distraction.

The house itself sits among the plains out on its own and is without electricity except for 3 hours everynight when the generator is turned on.  The toilets are like normal toilets except they work on the water displacement method and not the traditional flush for no. 1s in order to conserve water.  So each trip to the toilet requires a trip to the well outside to refill the bucket for the next person.  One such early morning trip for Anita was most confusing.  She couldn't understand this "well" concept and came searching for help.-  In fairness it was 5 in the morning and her brain didn't register that now that the bucket was filled with water in the bottom of the well she had to actually hoist it up.  Bit of a laugh on that one Anita, wha? 

Wine tastin'

The first night before our amazing dinner which was a mutton stew (freshly killed sheep), Juan Miguel offered us a lesson in sarcasm as he gave his welcome speech which many thought to be a bit over the top and we're not children type of speech.  I thought it was a lesson in sarcasm gone to far.  But ultimately he redeemed himself over the next few days to show he was a bit of a character and an all round good un.  My opinion of him changed fairly quickly when he offered me a grappa with honey before dinner - he knows the way to an Irish man's heart. 

The wine tasting went down a storm - we all tasted the wines blind and tried to guess each one.  I was fairly confident that I was right - especially since the frenchies had the same answers I had.  It turned out I got them all entirely wrong.  I mistook a cheap as piss carton of plonk for a top quality Argentinian Malbec.  Ah well.  Can't win em all and I will never listen to a french connoisseur again.  Jerome - you were SERVED!

The night descended into a card fest where I was the only one who seemed to be a bit tipsy.  But all good.  I proved that my fellow travellers were now among my friends by showing they'd passed the ultimate friend test - I flatulated and burped liberally - apparently!  Though Iain served a few of those himself later in the holiday so don't feel so bad.

Wednesday 5 August 2009 - Horsin' around

The weather really is "serving" us.  We awake after a glorious day the previous travel day to rain and thunder.  After breakfast, we head to the horse paddock and learn to saddle up our horses who are singularly disimpressed and uninterested.  Then the thunder rolls.  So we head back to base where some of the active folk go walking and well the others like me play cards and wait for lunch which is a serious of amazing salads and meat cooked in the garden wood fired oven.  YUM!  The weather clears and we go back to fetch the horses - mine is called gala and she bites and kicks other horses - she is the Patsy Stone of horses.  She has no intention of letting me get on her either as I engage in a Benny Hill style chase as everyone else is mounted and ready to go.  Eventually I'm on and we're off - a 4 hour trek on horseback through amazing landscapes.  Amazing.

The evening was much like the night before with lots of boozin´ and dinner and cards an gossip and boozin'....what happens in the hacienda in Uruguay stays in the hacienda in Uruguay.

Thursday 5 August - Hacienda in Uruguay, You've got Talent

The next day starts with a horse ride in the morning to herd up some cattle - Iain proves a great addition to the herding team by falling of his horse - you get the gist now surely when I say the horse "served" him.  After lunch the cattle need worked on - and I by that I mean rounded up, and run through the pen for injections and stuff. 

Seb the great is dressed for the occasion in the full gay attire.  It really has to be the coolest gaucho in history.

We're given sticks with flags to go and "shoo" and "vamos" and "acka acka" the cattle into the pen and then separate them from the calfs in a mud bath before Juan Miguel sticks a needle in them and Katja in her role as auditor oversees the process in true germanic style allocating numbers and what not.  Good old craic.

The boyos need to be herded back to their field, but I elect to take a lazy afternoon on the hammock readying myself for another night on the booze.  Just before dinner we all have a volleyball match in the makeshift volleyball pitch - British Isles against the Rest of the World.  The British Isles "serves" the rest of the world.

After another great dinner, the festivities descend into chaos and embarrassing madness.  For some unknown reason the younger folk have decided a talent show is in order.  Ah bejaysus and fuck.  In fairness, the scots are all super talented, Iain a fine piano player, Leigh a superb singer - indeed they are in fact C List Celebrities in my view as Iain used to play for rangers and is a SPL referee and Leigh won the Scottish Karaoke championship with a serious of celine style crooning and "reaching and pulling".  Suzanne is a mean highland flinger.  Add to this Adele who is a singer, Justine who claims to be a songwriter (presumably for deaf and blind country artists) and Katja and Michelle the salsa and tango dancers - its all looking rather ominous for Steph and I from Norn Iron and not an ounce of talent between us.

The line up was as follows

Iain, Leigh and Adele write and perform a song about the group and Seb the great.  All very  great and when drunk - well fabliss.

Justine does her own song - strangely competent though I am not impressed cause - well quite frankly - I don't like her.

Emma, Adele, Justine and Leigh do a dance routine of debatable quality - but sure we're havin' a a laugh. 

Katja and Michelle serve the previous dance routine with a sexy salsa.

Then all eyes turn to Steph and I..........so we bring it.  We each down a large glass of red wine in one.  If thats not a talent then what is.  Sorry to our fellow Irish comrades for playing to the stereotype.

The night ends with drunken cards where Lucas proves his manhood by demanding to be dealt a round of cards and then falling asleep immediately on the table.  He was still getting over the rest of us cheating earlier when he went the toilet and serving him the worst hand of cards in the history of UNO.  You'd need to be there.....what happens in the hacienda stays in the hacienda.

On my iPod

Wanderin' - Johnny Cash and U2; Blaze of Glory - Jon Bon Jovi
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