El Charabon

Trip Start Jan 06, 2008
Trip End Mar 31, 2008

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Monday, March 31, 2008

Estancia El Charabon (www.elcharabon.com)

One of the items on our wish list from the very beginning of our trip was a visit to an estancia. It took until the last week of our trip to fulfill this objective. We were richly rewarded for our wait.

We selected El Charabon almost at random from a list supplied by a travel agency in Montevideo. But, like most of our choices on this trip, we could not have picked better. The welcome extended to us by the owner (duena) Graciela was most gracious and inclusive. It was almost as if we were being welcomed into her family.

El Charabon means `baby rhea´ and indeed there were two rheas (nandu) on the grounds. The estancia is located some 220 km from Montevideo in the province of Rocha which is northeast of the capital, and not far from the coast. The estancia sits on the highest point in the region and has stunning views over the rolling pampas. The weather, for the three days we were there, was magical with puffy white clouds in brilliant blue skies. The recent much needed rain had made everything green.

The estancia is a working ranch with 950 hectares, 150 of which is Eucalyptus trees for lumber, and there are 900 Hereford cattle and many Hampshire Down sheep. The principle activity is horse riding and most guests avail themselves of this with the help of an imposing gaucho (Fernando). The estancia can accommodate up to 20 guests but, it being the end of summer, there were only, at most, 6 guests when we were there. We were content to take in the tranquil atmosphere of the surroundings and go on a walk over the fields. The estancia is so located that it seems remote from everything and everybody - there is no sign of any other human habitation in looking over the pampas.

Four meals a day are included, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. We struggled valiantly to eat all the delicious food cooked by two charming young chefs. Those of you who know us will understand when I say that we were up to the task. Joan is threatening starvation rations when we return to Chicago!

The estancia being so close to the coast, we drove to Cabo Polonio, one of Uruguay´s wildest area. Cars are not allowed into the reserve which consists of rolling sand dunes. Walking and horse riding are options, but also available, and which we took, are high rise trucks which offer 10 km rides through the dunes to the `settlement´ of Cabo Polonio. In addition to the `hippie´ life style on view, the main attraction is a seal and sea lion colony. Unfortunately only two sea lions were to be seen, and the seals had all moved offshore to rocky outcrops about 1,000 metres from the shore. We ate lunch outside at La Perla restaurant which sits almost in the water.

We returned to El Charabon for our last dinner at the estancia. As it was the end of the season (although the estancia is open year round) we had a special dinner and drank a champagne toast to the staff, who had all assembled in the dining room.

We lingered until after lunch on our final day, reluctant to leave, but finally we drove off back to Montevideo and `home´.
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