Buenos Aires (girls) and Estancia Los Manantiales (boys)

The girl’s day….
The girls first full day in Buenos Aires started with a breakfast in the hotel before various groups formed organically to head to all parts of this amazing city.  




There was a group who decided on the Hop on Hop off bus to make their way to the Aranda saddlery, four floors of leather goods clothing and jewellery. Some purchases were made but other decided to wait until we could bring the boys back the next day.  Another group jumped in a taxi and headed for  Palermo SoHo which is recognised shopping area with shopping on their mind to kick off their day. Palermo SoHo is vibrant area of the bohemian sub-barrio Palermo Viejo sits between the streets Santa Fé, Coronel Diaz, Córdoba and Juan B. Justo. This is one of the trendier parts of Palermo (along with Palermo Hollywood) and a favorite haunt of backpackers, hipsters and designers. It is home to lazy, tree-lined cobblestone streets where new businesses continue to spring up in the old Spanish-style houses and converted warehouses.

Most of us met for coffee at the historical Cafe La Biela, it started operation more than 150 years ago 

 in what is now the magnificent Recoleta neighborhood, just a few houses (no mansions or palaces), the convent belonging to the monks Recoletos and a beautiful Church. In years gone by this was the waterhole of professional drivers, fans of car races, gentlemen, actors and politicians. We sat at the tables were beneath the biggest Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla) I have ever seen. The plague showed date of 1791 but the tree is said to be around 150 years old and if this is case this tree has seen a lot.

Then a third group, after coffee catch up set off walked all over the city but saw much and enjoyed getting to know this place.
Our group continued on the bus loop until later in the afternoon stopping off at the pink palace and the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral which was an amazing building in itself, such a feeling of sanctuary when you step inside away from the hustle, bustle and protesters across the street. Photos don’t do it justice but it sure was time well spent wandering around inside

before finding the most interesting Spanish Museum, but the biggest find of all was the restaurant in the gardens out the back serving the coldest Gin and tonic’s and a magnificat cheese board. This was just perfect, we rested our(my) tired legs.  







Our recovery complete it was decided that we grab a taxi and head to La Bomba de Tiempo a rave that Comodoro Show judge’s wife gave us the heads up about.  
Flying along in a taxi to parts unknown in the city there was some doubt if we were doing the right thing but in for a penny in for a pound.  When we arrived in a back street with a queue down the street we decided to see how long it took for the line to move and decide if we would stay. 

Well the line moved very quickly and in no time at all we were inside an old warehouse with open roof and wall to wall people, we pushed and burrowed our way to the middle of the throng, looking slightly out of place (this was aged related factor) but those around us were fun loving and we felt very safe at all times.  


A little about the group –  La Bomba de Tiempo is a percussion ensemble that practises improvisation with signs. Every show is unique and unrepeatable because its music is generated live on stage through the dialogue between musicians and director, who leads the improvisation using a code of more than 70 signs made with the hands. 
Every performance becomes a magical time when percussionists on stage interact with the audience while this one brings its energy, dancing and listening. It all creates a true ritual of rhythm and percussion. Click here for more information http://www.labombadetiempo.com/en
The beer was sold in litre plastic cups but the line was 50 minutes long to buy one, we borrowed a prop from a Canadian guy near us for photography purposes, we didn’t have our water as it was confiscated at the bag check on the way in, water taken but i did have 6 inch carving knife in bottom of my bag which was over looked. A fact I didn’t realise until we inside and well under the spell of the rhythm.
For these three ‘not as young as we used to be girls’ this will go down as one of our most memorable times in South America.  No we were not the oldest attendees we saw another lady who was oder than us getting right into the dancing in true South American style, she had coerced her daughter into bringing her and she was loving every minute of it..
We staggered tiredly home around 11pm smelling distinctly of strange smelling smoke, opening smoked by everyone at the venue.
A full day for everyone with lots shopping, good food and laughter. Tomorrow we wait for the boys to fly in with a few more outings circuit on the blue bus followed by visit to art museum.
The boy’s day….

Mid morning boys climbed back their bus and headed to
Estancia Los Manantiales for lunch and afternoon hosted by Ruben Alonso (Manager Estancia Los Manantiales)

Ruben and the stud master had put together a very good presentation next rams and commercial rams for everyone to pore over and compare with their own sheep.




Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day and rolled back on the bus after much food and beverages. The sharing of ideas and new friendships were the order of the day. Tonight was the last night with Michael and Charlotte Blake as they were headed back to the family farm. 



The boys decided to take them out to a farewell dinner so another late night ensured but 

The boys were very appreciative of the welcome and efforts Ruben and the staff went to to host them for the day and will remember the day for a long time.

 Sorry bit short on detail, I haven’t had a chance to get Sharpy to provide more information. This will be added here later…


Second day Show (for the boys) Off to Buenos Aires (for the girls)

One of the main features of the tour, we headed to the Showgrounds to eagerly see the judging of the

Merino Ram classes, and to browse the goods for sale amongst the stalls at the Comodoro Show.  Not much different to the Nyngan Ag Expo, except for the lack of english speakers, the day was fascinating.  

Western Australian Merino Stud breeder Collyn Garnett was the judge, and many had fun placing their preferred rams before the judge announced the winners. 






 Argentinians are an emotional lot, and it was a common sight throughout the day to see men embrace and kissing each other with great cheers as the announcement of first place for each class was made.  

The Merino show classes are somewhat different to that in Australia.  Classes were divided into best fleece, best head, and best whatever else without really judging the whole animal until the Grand Champion.  




Some were repeat ribbon winners, others were gracious and congratulated the winners with gusto.  First place ribbons are yellow, second a mixture of blue and yellow.  Speaking to the judge after the day had finished, he did say that conformation was paramount when placing the rams in each class.
Others in the group started browsing through the stalls, trying on the classic Argentinian beret, leather goods, gaucho  slippers (a canvas shoe with woven straw soles), gaucho knives (which are worn with the scabbard stuck into the back of the belt) and horse geargear.

Some walked away with lassos and sheep counters made from rawhide, whilst Frank and Henry sported the Boinas/beret.


Apart from the fact that they were giants amongst the more slightly built Argentinians, and couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, they nearly blended in with the crowd (or so they thought).

Lunch time saw a few of the group wander over to the standard Argentinian BBQ of cordello over coals (lamb), chorizo, corn and empanadas washed down with beer. 




So much better than a Dagwood Dog, when you buy a serving of cordello you need to ensure there are about 4 to eat it with you – a ‘single serve’ is actually a whole shoulder dressed with the Argentinian sauce Chimichurri.
Some locals started a latino guitar duel, to which Kerrie, Henry and Col thought they’d join in.  The musicians saw them coming and ensured they couldn’t leave without buying their ‘must have’ CD. 

As evening progressed some members of the group returned to the Hotel Austral, whilst others joined the drinks with he Merino breeders and their families. 







Struggling to speak Spanish or english, most were able to meet more sheep farmers and learn further about the market and the environment the expansive Estancias operate in. Wool brokers are rare in Argentina, as most wool is sold direct to buyers at the discretion of each Estancia’s management.

Girls head for Buenos Aires tomorrow while men return for another day at show ground for sale and presentation of prizes



Comodoro Show – Day one

One of the main features of the tour, we headed to the Showgrounds to eagerly see the judging of the

Merino Ram classes, and to browse the goods for sale amongst the stalls at the Comodoro Show.  Not much different to the Nyngan Ag Expo, except for the lack of english speakers, the day was fascinating.  

Western Australian Merino Stud breeder Collyn Garnett was the judge, and many had fun placing their preferred rams before the judge announced the winners. 






 Argentinians are an emotional lot, and it was a common sight throughout the day to see men embrace and kissing each other with great cheers as the announcement of first place for each class was made.  

The Merino show classes are somewhat different to that in Australia.  Classes were divided into best fleece, best head, and best whatever else without really judging the whole animal until the Grand Champion.  




Some were repeat ribbon winners, others were gracious and congratulated the winners with gusto.  First place ribbons are yellow, second a mixture of blue and yellow.  Speaking to the judge after the day had finished, he did say that conformation was paramount when placing the rams in each class.
Others in the group started browsing through the stalls, trying on the classic Argentinian beret, leather goods, gaucho  slippers (a canvas shoe with woven straw soles), gaucho knives (which are worn with the scabbard stuck into the back of the belt) and horse geargear.

Some walked away with lassos and sheep counters made from rawhide, whilst Frank and Henry sported the Boinas/beret.


Apart from the fact that they were giants amongst the more slightly built Argentinians, and couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, they nearly blended in with the crowd (or so they thought).

Lunch time saw a few of the group wander over to the standard Argentinian BBQ of cordello over coals (lamb), chorizo, corn and empanadas washed down with beer. 




So much better than a Dagwood Dog, when you buy a serving of cordello you need to ensure there are about 4 to eat it with you – a ‘single serve’ is actually a whole shoulder dressed with the Argentinian sauce Chimichurri.
Some locals started a latino guitar duel, to which Kerrie, Henry and Col thought they’d join in.  The musicians saw them coming and ensured they couldn’t leave without buying their ‘must have’ CD. 

As evening progressed some members of the group returned to the Hotel Austral, whilst others joined the drinks with he Merino breeders and their families. 







Struggling to speak Spanish or english, most were able to meet more sheep farmers and learn further about the market and the environment the expansive Estancias operate in. Wool brokers are rare in Argentina, as most wool is sold direct to buyers at the discretion of each Estancia’s management.

Girls head for Buenos Aires tomorrow while men return for another day at show ground for sale and presentation of prizes



Estancia Coronel and arriving in Comodoro, Patagonian province of Chubut

It was with some dread that the group squeezed back into the minibuses on day 14, but not before walking down the main street of Puerto St Julian to clamber aboard a replica of the ‘Victoria’, which was Mendoza’s ship that navigated the Argentinian coastline, including the Magellan Straits.  

The fleet of four Spanish ships were the first to circumnavigate the world, and tells a fascinating story of superstition, loyalties and mutiny. Worth exploring below decks, with replicas of Spanish seamen, canons and even a cow for fresh milk. 





A short trip down the road took us to Estancia Coronel, which was previously held by the Blake family and where Michael Blake’s father had grown up. 


 Now owned by the Italian textile family company Benetton, the manager of the Estancia, Leopoldo Henin, welcomed us in full Argentinian Estancia dress, looking very distinguished.  


A tour of the grounds and buildings together with a 12 stand woolshed was highlighted by hearing the personal story of Leopoldo entwined with the Blake family.  




Leopoldo first became a rookie gaucho under Mr Blake senior as an 18 year old fresh from Buenos Aires on Estancia Cormo near Rio Gallegos.  Leopoldo holds the Blake family with high regard for providing him with the opportunity to work his way up through the gaucho ranks to eventually become a Manager of expansive Estancias.  



Michael certainly had a tear in his eye hearing Leopoldo describe Mr Blake senior and the opportunity the Blake family provided to him.
Estancia Coronel was over 700,000 acres with a 40,000 merino ewe base and 1000 rams.  Significantly effected by a volcanic eruption a number of years ago, causing inches of ash to cover the landscape, and a recent dry period of lower annual rainfall, the carrying capacity of the Estancia has declined from 120,000 head to 50,000. The landscape was hilly, including snow covered peaks in winter, and featured seven woolsheds across the Estancia.  
Lamb marking was about to begin, and Leopoldo employs extra gauchos to start the 40 days of lamb marking each 7000ha paddock with two teams.  Each team musters their nominated paddock, male lambs are drafted off and trucked direct to abattoirs with the only treatment an ear mark as they walk up the race into the truck. The ewe lambs remain to be docked.  




Lambing in the harsh environment has challenges with lamb weaning percentages ranging from 80% down to 14%, pending the season but more recently from the predatory effects of Pumas and competition for feed from guanacos. 

On the good side, there is minimal internal parasite issues and definitely no blowfly would be game enough to survive in the harsh conditions. Ewe mouths are checked each year as the abrasive nature of the grasses, and no doubt the fine volcanic ash, does lead to wear and tear on the teeth. Input costs are very low, but 14% lambing percentages would have to be a challenge to overcome.



The soils were consistently chalky grey clay, and inherently fertile (no doubt from the volcanic ash).  The only paddock management was checking water points (wind mills mostly) and the odd fence line.  Solar water systems had been tried in Patagonia, but the short day length for most of the year did restrict the effectiveness of solar.  


Existing wells were being converted with submersible pumps, however technology hadn’t really enabled an easy adaption with such narrow bore holes. Mustering was all on horseback via gauchos, and all hombres.  The gaucho world does not embrace women.  With 140 km expanding from one boundary to the other, the horses must have good walking ability and no doubt are as tough and strong as the gauchos who ride them.
Leopoldo showed us a map of the expansive Estancia and politely fielded many questions whilst Michael interpreted.  The discussion was a tad on the serious side until one member of the group inadvertently made an interesting sound leaving everyone in hysterics.  Body language has no barrier between people of different nations.  
Back on the crammed bus to what we thought would be a morning tea stop down the road, a few hours later and around 3pm we stopped for a service station feed of empanadas.  Just like the Aussie meat pie, there were lamb or ham/cheese empanadas in a heated cabinet for self serve.  


Most of us were weak at the knees from the deferred morning tea becoming the typical Argentinian lunch of mid afternoon.

 

The final leg of driving across the Patagonian landscape saw us take a quick stop on the shores of the Atlantic to frolic with Sea Lions snoozing on the pebble beach.  








Don and Henry had to dip their toes into the Atlantic to claim they had dipped in both the Pacific and the Atlantic whilst on tour.  


From the sea lions on to Comodora we drove through suburbs, past mountains of rubbish tips, protesters burning rubber tyres and families frolicking on the pebbly beaches.  

Dinner was welcome tonight

Such a contrast of third and first worlds as our very patient bus drivers drove to the Austral Hotel in downtown Comodoro.


More on Comodoro thanks to wikipedia