It was a challenge in this relaxed atmosphere, but we managed to be up, fed, and at the mustering station for our tour by 8:00. Once organized on the bus, our group of 22 drove an hour+ out of town and through the pampas (grasslands). Destination: a ranch, La Mimosa, where we spent the better part of the day enjoying a huge barbecue lunch, touring the grounds, and enjoying traditional dances performed by two couples dressed in gaucho and gaucho girlfriend outfits. A highlight was watching four gauchos compete in a ring race, a pastime dating back to the 17th century. One at a time they galloped at full speed toward a ring (the size of a wedding band) dangling on the end of a suspended bar. The idea was to snag it with a thin wooden stick loosely the size of a pencil. Boom! They actually did it. The next round was galloping toward a larger ring with a wooden lance and snagging it, knight-like. Not a problem.
The ranch, which has been in the same family for 150 years, is now too close to Buenos Aries to run cattle, so it is technically a soybean farm. The current owner met us at the gate along with gauchos serving fresh, warm empanadas, red and white wine, water, and soft drinks. An old, white, stucco hacienda sits in the middle of dense vegetation and looked just like a movie set inside and out. The owners no longer live there but have maintained it very well. After our warm welcome we wandered the grounds, took a short buggy ride, and were amazed by the menagerie. There were 14 big dogs, half of which were German shepherds, all well behaved and completely unfazed by all the visitors. There were also peacocks, chickens with their chicks, horses, goats, sheep, geese, and a few ostrich lookalikes for good measure.
The ride back into town was uneventful less being serenaded by the gentleman behind me. He had earbuds in and moved swiftly from tapping to humming to singing along to F. Sinatra, the Beatles, Peter, Paul and Mary, and others the whole way back. He was not, unfortunately, blessed with much of a singing voice.
We returned to the ship in time to shower and change for dinner. Dan and I ate light (shock) because we were still a bit full from the huge, melt in your mouth beef lunch. The entertainment was my favorite so far on the cruise: the Argentinian group Impacto. Three hunks in tight, light blue mom jeans and black boots that looked like the marriage of cowboy boots and tap shoes danced up a storm, played drums, sang, did a couple of guitar numbers, danced while whirling whips, played the Peruvian flute, twirled capes, and did amazing things with what I call gaucho balls. Excuse the name. They are baseball sized cement balls wrapped in leather and attached to the end of a long rope. Back in the day they were used to bring animals down…sort of like a cowboy’s lasso. Anyway, the hunks beat the hell out of the stage floor with these balls all the while dancing and twirling them around in the air frenetically. Impressive unless you were in the front row and worried a dancer might lose control and let one go flying by accident.
Dan ended his night dropping a few quarters in the slots while I read in our room.
In case you are wondering, H&R took a city highlights tour that overlapped lunch and included time to shop and W&C were on their own and walked into town to explore.
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