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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Argentina -- Estancia Santa Susana 9.3.08


* Estancia Santa Susana                                                      *Palermo Chico

It was another day that we had to get up early.  We arrived at the travel agency by 9:45 AM for the bus to pick us up.  We booked the tour through Tangol.  I was not sure if Tangol outsourced the trip to another travel agency, but it was Travel Line's tour guide & bus that came to pick us up. 

Estancia Santa Susana was 78 km away from Buenos Aires.  I was looking forward to see the gaucho culture & country side scenery.  On the way there, our tour guide wanted to show us how to make famous Mate, which we had yet to try on this trip.  She told us that she "forgot" to bring hot water, and would get some as soon as we make a stop.  After 30 minutes on the highway, the driver took us to a rest stop with a small gift shop.  Running on New York schedule, I was thinking "it's only an hour drive, do we REALLY need to make a stop?"  Then, the tour guide announced that we would stop for 20 to 30 minutes.  I was not pleased.  There were only 9 people on the bus; I did not think we would need all this time to use the bathroom.  Of course they wanted us to shop around and get commissions on things we bought.  I bet the hot water bullshit was just an excuse to get us to this place.  Judging by the way the shop owner greeted the driver & the tour guide, it was not the first time they met either.  It just reminded me how much I did not like to travel with tours. UGH......

Finally we were back on the bus to the estancia.  The tour guide made Mate and passed the cup & straw around for everyone to have a taste.  I remember watching Samantha Brown's travel show when she drank Mate.  It seemed Mate was meant to be shared among friends.  As much as I would have liked to try Mate, there was no way I would swap saliva with strangers. 

By 11:30 AM, we were still on the highway, and the driver was LOST!!  Now, I was really agitated.  Come on! How could a tour bus driver not know where he was driving?  We literally had to stop three times and ask for directions.  Anyway, we were the last tour bus to finally arrive to the estancia by noon. 

 The aggravation was quickly swept away with warm empanadas, cheap red wine, and cute cowboys dressed in gaucho outfits.  

The estancia was a nice change of pace & scenery from the busty city.  The vast landscape instantly calmed me down.  We rode horses around the ranch while our lunch was prepared on the grill.  I was surprised that H enjoyed the horse riding even though he was never too crazy about horses.  If I had known that before hand, I would have pick a less touristy estancia to visit and spend more time riding horses on the ranch.  

After the horse riding, lunch was pretty much ready.  It was the typical Argentinian grill with blood sausage, beef, chicken, and some unknown desserts.  During lunch, there were dance & music performances on a stage.  

After lunch,  we came back out to the ranch and took a stroll.  It was very windy, and the weather was much cooler than the past few days.  

The gauchos gathered around and demonstrated various horse riding skills & tricks.  It felt like one of the scenes straight out of the western genre movies (not the one Ang Lee directed).  I had to say that all these tourist geared activities were not my thing, but I truly enjoyed the landscape immensely.

At 4PM, we got on the bus and headed back to Buenos Aires.  Thank god the drive back was smooth and easy without any dramas.  We asked the driver to drop us off on Avenida Del Libertador in Palermo Chico and walked through the big avenues and parks.  As a dog lover, H loves the fact that there are friendly and happy dogs everywhere.  The dogs here just seemed so much better adjusted socially compare to the dogs in New York City.  After doing enough homework, I was forewarned many times about the dog poop phenomenon and did not think twice about it.  However, H was not prepared for it and could not accept why there was not a law requiring dog owners to pick up the dog poop.  (I say it was his Germanic genes talking, and I am sure the government had bigger problems to worry about than dog poop.)   

We also saw many wild cats wondering in the parks and some unknown gigantic trees that were in so many plazas & parks.  They were GODZILLA HUGE! (Thanks to BASandy, I now know that they are called gum trees, over 100 years old.)  Trees were everywhere in this city and they were not just small bushes.  They were tall trees with lean branches extending out.  I told H that I would love to visit BA when the weather is warm.  I could just picture how beautiful the streets must be with leafs growing out of the trees, and the sun shining through.

We got back to our apartment around 6:30 PM for the internet repair appointment.  The technician was able to fix the connection problem within minutes.  It was something about not having an IP address in Argentina.  

Once we got back to the apartment, we never made it out again.  We were tired from all the running around and lack of sleep.  It was getting really cold outside and H's throat was feeling scratchy.  Neither of us was hungry for dinner.  We put on our PJs, watched some TV movies, had cups of noodle soup, and called it a night.  

Despite all the wonderful restaurants that this city had to offer; sometimes, a cup of noodle soup was exactly what I needed.  I felt at home that night.

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