Once settled on spending a few days in Cordoba (read article) I started looking for activities around the city as the landscape seemed very nice. I spotted a few day hikes that we could have done but the weather discouraged us to go hiking in the mud, as it is not so enjoyable…
Another activity that I had spotted was to do some horse-riding! I personally did a few years of horse-riding younger (thank you Mom and Dad!) but not for the past few years. However Silviu had never got the chance to ride a horse before and this stay in Cordoba was therefore a perfect opportunity for him to do that.
Finding our gaucho guide
Looking over the Internet I found a post on a forum, from a few years ago, of a French girl enthusiastically talking about her volunteering stay in an estancia where she would not only help around and take care of the horses but also accompanied tourist excursions. She was very happy about our experience and the contact she had with the owner and his family. It sounds like a good place to investigate no?
The owner is called Salvador Gimenez Gonzalez and indeed runs a touristic company called after him: Salvador Gimenez Turismo Ecuestre. Turns out that all the reviews are super positive! So I contacted him by e-mail (email@example.com / http://www.salvadorgimenez.com/ ) and the reply came pretty fast. Communication was easy and clear and we soon agreed on a one-day tour (he also offers several days excursions). The price in October 2018 was 2000 ARS (about 50 EUR) per person for the full day all included (transport, snacks, lunch, wine!). I think you can get the better deal booking through an hostel but we found the price to be super fair for the tour, especially at a time of inflation in the country.
Proceedings of the day
Salvador himself came to pick us up in the morning around 9 am, not too bad! We also met in the van an Italian tourist who was doing the excursion with us, and a German girl who was volunteering for 2 months at the estancia. We learned that she has a horse back home and took this opportunity to learn Spanish from scratch: she did one month of class in Cordoba followed by this volunteering. For what we heard it worked pretty well! Even though Cordoba might not be the best choice for that as they are known to have one of the worst accents in South America 😛 We did personally had some issues understanding them and vice-versa…
The road up to the estancia is a bit more than 1 hour. Salvador makes a stop on the way for you to have a coffee (on him!) and be able to use the toilets while he buys some bread and meat for the lunch. The road is a good paved road until we arrive at the estancia where it turns into a dirt road.
Feeding the horses
On the way we stopped in an open field where the horses were staying. They know what this means: food time! They all come towards us and it is time to get to see the many horses of the estancia. While Salvador and the volunteer gets to feed them with hay we stay a bit on the side to observe the horses. Despite of the fact that the hay is distributed in many piles, allowing an easy access for all of the horses, some of them still fight for the food. We seem to note some bullies, but surprisingly some of the bullied ones turn into bullies themselves to other horses. It is just very funny to watch the herd effect…
Visiting, snacking and getting the horses ready
Our welcoming corner is a cute small barn. Leaving there our stuff we follow Salvador around a part of the estancia that was built to welcome tourists and in particular weddings. Even under the rain the place looks amazing! So many details all around makes it very romantic and bucolic. It also has accommodation for about 30 guests. Really, the perfect place for a wedding.
They also have little huts made out of recycled plastic. Very cool concept!
We then come back to the barn where some snacks of salami, cheese and bread is waiting for us. Yummy! There is even a bottle of Malbec and it turns out that Silviu and I are the only ones drinking alcohol. Of course Salvador does, but not while working which is completely normal. And … one bottle just for us! 😀
In the meantime, the volunteer goes get some horses for the 5 of us and, being the only one used to horses, I helped her saddle them. I slowly get my old reflexes back and I start to enjoy it.
Normally we should have gone for a first small walk but since the rain didn’t stop we decided to start preparing the lunch. When I said “we” I meant Salvador while we are chatting and watching him! 🙂
He prepared us a superb argentinian BBQ with sausages, a giant piece of beef and some grilled vegetables. So good! The opportunity for Silviu and I to finish that bottle of Malbec… For dessert, luckily it is much lighter: coffee, tea and fresh fruits. Perfect!
It felt like it has only been about food so far but no worries here come the horse-riding part.
It was still raining lightly but Salvador had prepared huge rain capes for us. Not only did they protect us completely from the rain, but they also kept us warm. On another note, they made us look like dark knights, which was pretty cool. We started in a random order before finding our natural order: Silviu and I in the front with Salvador, while the Italian tourist stayed in the back with the intern. She struggled a bit with her horse, so she was often in the back (basically she had no clue, nor willingness to control her horse, so the smart animal was just stopping all the time to eat!).
I had briefed Silviu a bit before, as well as during the ride, and I have to admit that he did great for a first time. I, myself, got along super well with my horse and our communication was super easy. In the open field I had the opportunity to gallop around freely, which was pretty fun!
The ride went through the small village nearby and the rest was mostly through forest.