One thing I did whilst I was out in El Calafate was to visit an estancia (farm). You can take these trips from most cities in Argentina (I’ve seen them running out of Buenos Aires but dismissed them as ‘too touristy’). However since I was nearing the end of my time in Argentina I thought I would do it anyway.
You can go and stay on estancias, and many of these are actually out in the country, however the one I visited was barely seven kilometres out of El Calafate.
Yes it was a bit touristy (although the majority were domestic tourists) but it made a pleasant little evening out.
First we sat around the campfire, shared a cup of mate and listened to the guy talk about life on the estancia. He spoke in Spanish but could also speak English and French if you had questions.
Mate, if you haven’t tried it, is a somewhat bitter, hot drink made from the yerba plant. It is a mild stimulant (like caffeine) and is often passed around at social gatherings and shared (like a joint).
I don’t like it. I have perfected the art of putting the straw to my mouth and pretending to drink, making an appreciative noise and then passing it on. Mate sets are a very popular souvenir for tourists to take back as presents. I’m not sure what all the mate set recipients will be doing with their gifts though.
Then we watched as they round up the sheep and put them in the little pen. This is obviously a scenario that has been played out twice a day every day for the benefit of tourists for quite some time. These sheep were so used to it they would probably have gotten into the pen by themselves.
Then we watched him hand-shear a sheep.
Then after a little tour of the estancia they served an enormous meal, followed by 20 minute show of folklore dancing.