I had booked my stay at the finca online and had my doubts, because I already knew that the owner lived in the city and held only business relations to the place. A moody gaucho picking me up, didn’t make it any better but when we reached the property, lying in the midst of the mountains and cut of from any mobile connection, I saw light at the end of the tunnel.
While the age of the buildings and meager constitution of the animals showed, I was warmly welcomed by the old caretakers and a bunch of dogs. With me being the only guest to stay overnight, my chances grew that it would be somehow what I looked for.
Soon we would start for our first ride and in the mood to play, the gaucho let me choose a horse from the herd for myself. The mare I wanted, was not too keen on leaving the others and so I had to catch her by throwing the reigns over her neck. It took me some minutes to get close enough but the moment the reigns touched her, she froze and obeyed. While I got my first lesson in catching a horse Argetine style, the others got some good laughs. Afterwards I would not saddle the horse right away, but watched closely to learn how to adjust the different layers not to lose parts of it on the way. Time consuming as it is, the comfort of the seat makes it worth the effort.
During our ride the mare proofed to be a good choice and as the gaucho fell back, I happily took the lead.
For our second ride we changed the horses and I was allowed to do the saddling. The gaucho obviously wanted to challenge me now and as he tried to steal me out of the saddle, the game was on. Giving me a lesson about how to control horses here, he would make me gallop and stop, turn, walk back and start my horse in various situations. In the end it was important knowledge and it seemed that the horse and I had done a good job as following our training, we two outraced the others.
Returning to the finca I found the herd already surrendered in the corral awaiting their evening meal. One old horse, too weak to get back on its feet after a rest, wouldn’t follow the others back out to the pasture afterwards.
I returned to the house with a heavy heart and although the granny would only speak Spanish, she catched my mood right away and invited me to share a mate, during which we exchanged stories and got closer with the pipe of peace. Later, there was a lot of laughter and expertise as I practiced the right style when she teached me how to prepare Saltean Empañadas de queso.
The old horse was still lying in the paddock the next morning and the Gaucho terminated its suffering by cutting its throat. Hard as it was to watch, it was sure that there was no veterinarian to come out here in time. If I wouldn’t have noticed it till then, this moment would have opened my eyes to the harshness of a real life out here anyway.
To lift my mood the gaucho chose one of his trainees for me and decided that we would ride up the mountains to the highest peak nearby. While to catch the youngster was quite a challenge, he responded wonderfully to the rider. To my positive surprise, I also heard that the horses here were not started before the age of four.
As it were just the two of us for the ride, we took the dogs and made or way up steep terrain with thorny bushes. When we finally reached the plateau, the fact that it was all covered in mist couldn’t dampen my spirit.
While I had to share the next ride with some cityfolks, I went in front from the start and once more enjoyed to test me and the young trainee. Regathering with the granny for a Mate session at the patio, she would tell me the (love) story of her life and just by side effect, this lovely woman switched my mind and heart to Spanish.
The previous days must have left an impression on the gaucho, as he held a big surprise ready for me the next morning. We would ride to the Gaucho museum in the valley and this time he rode his own mare. Already after a few kilometers, he would hand me over his precious girl to get to know her qualities myself. With some wild blood running through her veins, she had a strong spirit. No wonder we “had some talks”, but keen about her personality I found her sensitive in her reactions and quick in her moves. Being a bit smaller than the others, she would still beat the wind.
For my last evening we rode to a view point nearby, where one had a good outlook on the lights of Salta in the distance. Leaving the finca, I knew that a bit of my heart would stay behind. The tears in the granny’s eyes proofed me right and despite a rough start, I was thankful to the gaucho, who had kept his promise to teach me and gave me a deeper inside into a gaucho’s life and “mujeres, mujeres…”.