home away from home
12.05.2014 - 16.07.2014
Thomas and I had the opportunity to work on a ranch just outside of a town called El Bolson, Argentina through the WWOOFing Organization for six weeks starting on the 9th of June. The night before we met up with our host, Fransisco, we stayed in a hostel owned by a really nice family and since it was low season for them they gave us a discount and treated us like part of the family. But right before we left to meet Fran, the husband started telling us of all the horror stories he has heard about WWOOFing in Argentina and how people have to work so hard for a little plate of rice, etc. It freaked me right out and we were both contemplating just not showing up to meet this guy that we knew nothing about and had only emailed twice.
All our fears were alleviated very quickly. Fran was so nice and he seemed really legit from the beginning. Plus when we grabbed groceries in town before heading to his ranch it included many more things besides rice! His ranch is located in the beautiful Rio Azul valley in the Andes and he owns over 2000 hectares of land.
Fran bought the land with the intention of building an Ecolodge and creating a fully self-sustaining get-away for all types of people. He is/was the national motocross champion and he built his own track where he gives motocross workshops to all levels of riders. He also has plans to build a dome for yoga and other activities. For the past few years he has also been working on a hiking trail to the top of the mountain behind his house. The goal is that everything that is made or eaten be from the ranch so he has his own sawmill to cut the wood he needs to build the Lodge (which is almost finished and looks amazing). He currently has 66 sheep, 2 pigs, 8 piglets, 16 chickens and 500 rainbow trout; a couple greenhouses for vegetables and a ton of apple trees (2 types). We loved being part of his vision to create this self-sustaining environment that he was going to share with so many people.
We had our own little house that was heated with a wood stove. We had daily chores of releasing and rounding up the sheep, feeding the pigs and chickens, checking the outlet filter to the fish pond and maintaining the garden and streams he had made through his property. The rest of our days were filled with helping Fran cut wood to either sell to the town or for the lodge, putting pieces of wood in the fences to keep the sheep in, making new fence posts, building new piggie pens, making a new transplanting garden and digging this awfully thorny invasive plant called Mosketta. On the rainy days we had the tasks of de-shelling walnuts, making break or baking dutch apple pie – tough life we know.
All in all, we loved our time on the ranch and we felt right at home. We shared breakfast and lunch with Fran every day, except our day off, and it was always quite healthy and heavy on the veggies, which we had been lacking a bit up to that point. It was here that we got to try the most traditional Argentine food, such as giso (which is basically stew comprised of lamb, potatoes, squash, corn, etc.) and asado (their style of BBQ).
Some of my highlights were:
-Hanging out with the two dogs (Tito and Rocky) and two cats (Wesson and Smithy) – I am going to miss all of them so much!
-Learning how to make bread and pizza with Fran and his girlfriend, Agi. And just hanging out with them in general – it was nice to make some new friends.
-Hiking up the hill to see the view of the Rio Azul valley where we had been working for the last 6 weeks
-Seeing the mountain range with no snow when we arrived to the first snow fall on the mountain to a downward creeping white-topped snowline. It was neat to see the seasonal transition. I loved watching the sunset on this mountain every evening – so pink and beautiful, which is what we were looking for in Torres del Paine Park. This more than made up for it.
Some of Thomas’ highlights were:
-Watching the sun rise every morning over breakfast. There is just something so intrinsically peaceful about holding a hot cup of coffee and watching the black give way shades, then greys, then reds, golds, and blues.
-I also really enjoyed the daily chores. I enjoyed chasing the sheep from one side of the ranch to the other.
-Once one of the male sheeps broke out of the main ranch and lived on the side of the mountain for a week. Eventually, while hiking, Meredith and I found it. We then proceeded to chase the dumbest sheep I have ever seen down the mountain to the ranch below. It was a pain, but it brought a good sense of accomplishment.
-In the evenings, after the days chores we would sit next to the wood stove and drink beer, or tea, or coffee, and the warmth and silence and beverage always made for nice evenings.
-One last thing. Meredith watched Rambo-first blood. She didn’t like it much but, Im glad she at least crossed that life bridge.
Other than that, life just moved at a different rhythm, and that made the whole experience very refreshing. We would have stayed longer but we decided 2 months in Patagonia was long enough and we wanted to start our journey northward to escape the winter.
Miss you all!
Love, Meredith and Thomas