Discover the heart of the Gaucho with Camino Pampa
Article by Nora Wallenius.
Just a short hour and a half drive outside of Buenos Aires city lies the small town of San Antonio de Areco. With its county population of 25,000, San Antonio de Areco is actually considered a city by Argentine government. However according to Juan Manuel, my guide for the day, “we are a town and we want to stay a town.” Located a mere 110 km outside of Capital Federal, Areco offers the charm of a traditional gaucho town, representing the rich culture of the region, La Pampa. Known for its fine silver making, Día de la Tradición gaucho celebration, and rich immigrant culture, San Antonio de Areco is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.
Camino Pampa offers a guided visit to San Antonio de Areco and nearby estancia, but don’t let the word “tour” fool you. Camino Pampa emphasizes the tradition and authenticity of every site visitors are taken to. The gauchos we meet are real gauchos, born and raised on the estancia with love of the land and animals flowing in their blood.
Our morning starts with our incredibly sweet driver Mr. Cesar picking us up and quickly transporting us to San Antonio de Areco, explaining the history of the area and roads that we took along the way. Upon our arrival, we meet Juan Manuel, a modern day gaucho in a wide brimmed hat, cargo pants, and running shoes. As a later-in-life transplant to Areco, the charismatic Juan Manuel has travelled the world and chosen to live in this quaint town. Our tour is filled with saludos from neighbors, kisses from shop owners, and waves hello across the street. It is true that many gauchos have settled in Areco, and bringing the economy to life with cattle, horses, and crop farming. However, this pueblo has a surprising international twist in that one of the largest Irish population in the country have settled here. A browse of the inside of the church’s walls reveals forefathers’ names such as Juan O’Sullivan and Fernando MacAuliffe. Most of the town’s citizens speak English with accents reminiscent of society 100 years ago. Our stops in local silver shops, leather-makers, and a chocolate factory showcase local artisanship and traditions have been kept alive.
As lunch time rolls around, it is time to head off to the Estancia El Ombú. Argentine and international families and friends gather in small groups across the beautiful grounds, enjoying a glass of wine and the winter sun. After a snack of empanada and cheese picada, our group is ushered over to the stable where three gauchos await to lifts us up onto our horses. Their calming spirits instantly relax a fellow member of my group had never ridden a horse, and we began trotting our loop around the complex. With the sunlight shining on my face and a cool breeze ruffling my hair, I can actually hear birds chirping, a sound I had long since forgotten amidst the blaring noise of Buenos Aires. I understood the pull to the land the gauchos feel, as if they can truly hear their own thoughts and feelings.
After a filling asado lunch with livestock raised on the farm, guests were treated to a beautiful guitar serenade by one of the estancia’s oldest gauchos. Simple guitar strummings and a voice heavy with emotion brought tears to my eyes. The show continued with a dazzling horse performance by a 16 year old gaucho, who I would call a true “horse whisperer”. One could see the intimate connection between the boy and the horse, the gift of the gaucho. My favorite part was when everyone was able to take a picture while laying down on the ground and cuddling with the horse- a once in a lifetime experience.
As the afternoon came to a close, we began our journey back to the frantic city of Buenos Aires. I felt myself regretting not spending the entire weekend in the countryside. The pace of life was slower, something I found myself desperate for after almost a year of living in the always intense and loud Buenos Aires. For those looking for a quick getaway and a chance to learn about the culture and customs of the real Argentina, I couldn’t think of a better way than with a trip to San Antonio de Areco.