The first week of our Intrepid tour went well; everyone seems to get on and the tour leader is nice and personable. The highlight has certainly been the three days on the estancia, though our bodies are feeling the effects of all that horse riding.
Monday 29/8 Melina and Juan had to leave at 9:30 to head to work: quite a respectable time, we thought. We left at the same time as them and walked to the hotel in the microcentro where we were going to meet the rest of the tour group, and the receptionist was happy for us to check in at that early hour: score! We dropped off our bags in our room and found a cafe for breakfast before attempting to post some things home — sadly, the cost was prohibitively expensive, so we decided to throw some of it away and cart the rest around for a bit longer.
We spent most of the afternoon relaxing back at the hotel, and met the rest of our tour group in the evening. Everyone seems really nice: our tour co-ordinator, Yasmina, is from Argentina, and there’s also a Lithuanian couple and four single girls: from Switzerland, Scotland, England and the United States. In the evening Craig and I walked down to Puerto Madero for bondiola and reggaeton on the waterfront: a great end to our time in Buenos Aires.
Tuesday 30/8 After breakfast in the hotel, we all took taxis down to the ferry terminal for the ferry to Colonia. The crossing was a smooth and unevenful three-hour trip, during which Craig worked and I studied a bit of Spanish. On arrival, we had a tasty lunch of chivito then Yasmina gave us a quick orientation walk around the town.
The weather was infinitely better than it was the last time we were in Colonia: brilliant blue skies instead of fog and rain. The atmosphere was the same though: quiet and relaxed. For dinner Craig and I had choripan from a shop on the main street; the others went to a restaurant but we didn’t want another huge meal!
Wednesday 31/8 Our departure time was a bit later than yesterday’s, so we had time for another wander around Colonia, to take the photos and videos we’d missed the day before. Then, we walked down to the bus station to catch the bus to Montevideo, which is only about two hours away. Jasmina gave us a quick orientation, then left us to discover the city for ourselves. We wandered down to the markets at the port, where Craig and I had an asado lunch with the Lithuanian couple Ignas and Jurate; the girls chose to have a lighter lunch of empanadas.
Afterwards we wandered around town taking photos and video, and had a rest back at the hotel before a light dinner.
Thursday 1/9 Once again, we had time in the morning before departure, which we used to revisit the old town and Plaza Independencia. And find some coffee, of course. Today’s bus was longer: about five hours to Tacuarembo, followed by about an hour in a minivan to the estancia. In Tacuarembo, while standing around waiting for everyone to get their bags, someone started waving wildly at someone behind me — or so I thought, because she couldn’t possibly be waving at me; who do I know in Tacuarembo? It turned out to be Catha, who we met on our walking tour of Buenos Aires with Urban Adventures on our very first day in the country. It was great to see her again; in fact I spent most of the evening catching up with her after our tasty dinner at the estancia.
Friday 2/9 Our first adventure on the estancia was learning how to saddle horses gaucho-style then riding them for a couple of hours. Craig came to the lesson but missed the first, quiet, outing with the horses; instead he stayed behind to try to catch up on some work. Lunch was salad and potatoes, accompanied by stir-fried veges and t-bone steak cooked over an open outdoor fire: delicious.
In the afternoon we saddled up our horses again and headed out to work: first we rounded up sheep and drove them to a pen, where we drenched them; and next we moved some cattle from one field into another. It doesn’t sound like much but the fields are enormous! After another delicious dinner, we watched the Motorcycle Diaries and an episode of An Idiot Abroad, while enjoying the fantastic fire Craig had built.
Saturday 3/9 Kata convinced me to get up early to go for a run with her, which turned out to be really pleasant. We chatted in Spanish as we jogged across the estancia, which was nice — I’ve spoken almost no Spanish this week, since everyone on the tour speaks English. Craig and I both stayed behind in the morning to get some work done, but I headed out on the horses in the afternoon, after yet another delicious lunch.
Sunday 4/9 In the morning we waved goodbye to those staying behind: Lisa and Sally, two other travellers who had also been staying at the estancia, Catha, and Susanna. Juan drove the rest of us to Salto, about three and a half hours away, where we had lunch and some of us relaxed in the hot springs. It was the perfect thing to do after two days of horse-riding, the pools were so hot!
Now, we’re sitting in the bus station in Concordia waiting for our overnight bus to Foz do Iguaçu, where we’ll spend the next three days. Brazil, here we come!