Home on the Range

Trip Start Feb 15, 2011
Trip End Apr 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
Panagea Ranch

Flag of Uruguay  , Tacuarembó,
Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Left Salto at noon with the owner of the Panagea Ranch who had driven 4 hours to pick us up.  First impressions of Uruguay -
just about pancake flat, roads straight to the horizon, land a scrubby grassland with knots of trees. Cows speckled across the land in the distance and occasional gauchos moving herds along the roadside.  Sheep the size of small donkeys and surprising flock of Rheas - birds which look like emus - and hot not humid like Brazil but dry.
Few houses, few people - perhaps just five encounteed on the boneshaking 4 hour drive to the ranch.  But the ranch - what a place.  It looks like Northumberland - the land is more rolling than around Salto and with rocky outcrops, big horizons and green hills could easily be mistaken for north Northumberland.  But what surprised me was that the birdlife mirrored what we see in the North East of England with birds looking like lapwings, partridges, snipe and eagles that we see in England.  Juan the owner, farmer, local vet, entertainer and badminton star is the perfect host and excellent teacher.  He manages single handed to give a dozen travellers the skills and confidence to ride his horses then takes them out on the range to herd sheep and cows.  Within a day we were all taking part in the roundup - some more effectively than others -  before 'enjoying' helping with the branding, castrating and injecting and all the other tasks that go with running a ranch in Uruguay. Quite an experience and one which you have to dive into without to much consideration of good old Health and Safety.  But a great experience it was. 

Meals were very typical gaucho style stews - plenty of meat and beans and plenty of beer.  Evenings were spent around a log fire or some other favoured spot around the gardens surrounding the house.  And we played badminton in the garden with a net much too high and a court much too short for us professionals!  This gave Juan home advantage and Juan always won - yes he was a good player unbeaten for 18 months.  I lost 15-6 (but was coming back strongly ;-) )

The town nearby, Tacuarembo was hosting the annual Gaucho Festival while we were there.  There was a ranch building competition showing how Uruguayan Gauchos lived 100 years ago complete with houses, schools, chapels - they looked like a cross between spaghetti westerns and african mud huts.  The builders had to live in them for six days during the festival before judging.  There was also a traditional rodeo giving an insight into Gaucho tradition and culture which is so important in Uruguay.  The rodeo was prefaced by the pomp of overlong speeches, parades and never-ending national anthems with the entire stadium hats in hand.  It was also full of what we would judge to be extreme brutality to the rodeo horses but also some brilliant riding skills from the gaucho horsemen.  Of course the few women just sat primly on their horses looking very pretty in fine flowing frocks. 

Now we head for Montevideo - the capital.
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nicola on

hey you two!
should have started horse riding sooooo much sooner. Like when Maureen got Nat and I on ponies when we were 7!

Looks like you're having such fun!
lots of love

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