Bulldogs in jars and a lesson in gauchos… (an excerpt from Latinalicious)

6.Estancia-Los-Potreros-gaucho-games--600x400Just over a year ago when I was writing the Argentinian bits of Latinalicious, I spent an incredible few days at a dreamlike place called Estancia Los Potreros in Cordoba. Here’s where I got to grips with the way those sexy gauchos really live… mmm mmm… and also got to go very, very, very fast on a horse for the first time in my life.

I’m just cantering down memory lane looking at some photos, so I thought it was time for ya’ll to get another book excerpt! Au natural…

“When I was at school, my best friend Claire had a pony. I’ve forgotten his name but I used to call him Pooh Bum, because he always had a constant trickle of shit running out of his bum-hole. Apparently it was a medical condition that no amount of drugs from the vet would fix but Claire loved that shitty-bummed pony like I loved my first Kylie album and neon pink nylon shell suit.

Every Saturday morning I would accompany Claire to the field where Pooh Bum lived and watch as she lovingly brushed his mane and tail, and then tacked him up and went riding. I was fascinated. As they trotted off over the hill leaving me swinging on the gate, a beacon in pink humming Especially For You, I would watch them in admiration and envy, and wonder when I would become a horsewoman myself. I waited a long time.

When my car pulled into Estancia Los Potreros – an impressive, sprawling Argentinian expanse of green fields and grazing horses that gives guests the chance to ride and get involved in estancia life – the vision before me was fresh from the pages of a Jane Austen novel. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and I instantly felt re-energised. Handsome, young gauchos (finally!) in neckerchiefs and flat caps leaned on fences, parakeets squawked in the trees, guides in jodhpurs carried tack, dogs barked and wagged their tails, horses whinnied, chickens pecked at the grass and Kevin and Louisa Begg, the estancia’s King and Queen greeted me in matching berets, carrying a glass of lemonade on a silver tray.

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It was paradise after a few too many Quilmes beers the night before. I should share a little something about that…

I walked into the Mate Hostel in Cordoba having returned late from Capilla del Monte, to the roar of a group of roughly twenty Brazilian men singing some sort of soccer chant in front of a giant projector screen. In the dorm I found Mike, a bald-headed, tattoo-splattered man from Scotland, travelling alone till 2015 for reasons he did not divulge. Mike was lounging on a beanbag, swigging from a bottle of Quilmes, streaming a movie on the impossibly slow Internet connection and cursing every time it paused and churned.

On noticing that I wasn’t about to get any sleep any time soon I did what any other normal, solo travelling female would do. I invited Mike out for dinner.

Over plates of fried chicken and chips in a street-side cafe off St Martin’s, Mike told me all about his two marriages, his stint in the army and the following years he spent packing boxes in cold food factories. Swigging yet more Quilmes he talked at length about his lesbian daughter’s six-year marriage and the fact that he was stopped at customs in Bolivia for having the cremated remains of his two dead bulldogs in a vitamin jar in his suitcase. It was an interesting night. I was a little bit afraid of going to sleep in the dorm with Mike once we got back, so eventually I did what I’d been trying to avoid in the first place; sat up in the lounge with the Brazilians and drank some Quilmes. And then I drank some more Quilmes.

Justifiably I was knackered when I arrived but thankfully I was in good hands and just ten minutes after Winnie had been hauled into the gloriously maintained, 300 year old farmhouse at Estancia Los Potreros, I was sitting at the dining room table with the other guests, tucking into bacon and eggs. Shortly after that, I was saddled up on a horse, playing polo for the first time in my life…”

Read the rest in Latinalicious – The South America Diaries. Out Dec 01.

Order your advance e-copy on Amazon