5th October 2011
There may be more luxurious estancias in Argentina and there is undoubtedly more dramatic riding, but if you're looking for an authentic gaucho experience, Estancia La Rosita would be hard to beat.
Situated in the northern province of Corrientes, a wetland region renowned for beef cattle rearing, this ten thousand acre ranch is currently home to a two thousand-head herd, has a hundred and forty horses and a few hundred sheep. Very much a working estancia, you come here to play, but also to work, and there in lies the fun.
The average Argentine eats 75kgs of beef every year, nearly twice as much as their nearest rival, so it takes beef production very seriously. As do the Landgraf brothers, Fernando and Willie, whose ancestors have farmed La Rosita for three generations. Over the last few days we have corralled horses, herded cattle, injected calves, channelled cows through an anti-tick chemical dip, rounded up bulls - which were then tested for brusalosis (a grim and tricky procedure involving a half-metre long metal implement being forced up the 700kg animal's penis), lassoed stampeding steers - from foot and horseback - and learned to play polo. Actively encouraged to take part in whatever jobs needed to be done - or pastimes we wanted to try - we never felt like tourists, but more like guests staying with friends, and at times even real gauchos.
Although free to be as lazy as we liked, for us each day followed a similar pattern. After a hearty breakfast, we'd work from nine thirty till about one, have a good lunch, a short siesta, a swim and sunbathe, be back in the saddle at four, and finish around seven thirty; riding home just as the sun was setting. Then, after a cold beer on the porch and a quick shower, we'd all sit down to a delicious, home-cooked dinner either under the stars or in the estancia's pretty dining room. At midnight we'd go to bed tired and happy.
The family, maids and gauchos could not have made us feel more at home, the landscape is picturesque and the horses are beautifully trained and easy to manage. If wanted, Fernando will organise tango classes, Spanish lessons, fishing trips and a host of excursions, in vehicles, on boats or horses including a 5-night estancia to estancia ride. The wetland ecosystem also gives rise to amazing bird life that is home to over two hundred species, making it a veritable twitchers paradise.
I think this place will be great for tailor-made equine holidays, well away from Argentina's more famed establishments and could be a wonderful location for a new Christmas group tour: Gaucho Christmas in Argentina, 2012 (You have been warned!) I have to say I was very sorry to leave.