|Alyce with the children of Ignacio y Mariana|
|Alyce in Estancialand!|
When we first decided to invite volunteers to work on La Margarita in return for full board and lodgings I was a little nervous for two reasons. One was I wasn’t sure anyone would apply and secondly I was unsure if it would work for us. The truth is I needn’t have worried at all. It has worked great for us and we have lots of people who have applied to work here and it is true to say that each and every volunteer who has worked here has brought something extra to La Margarita. For that I thank each and everyone one of you. Our latest volunteer Alyce has truly followed in that tradition. She has been fantastic and we will be very sad when her too short a stay is over next week. As always I invite our departing volunteer to write about their experience on La Margarita. Here’s what she has to say :
A DAY IN THE LIFE AT ESTANCIA LA MARGARITA
Hi, I’m Alyce, from Australia, and I’m the current volunteer at Estancia La Margarita.
Having backpacked extensively around Central & South America on previous trips, this time I wanted to spend longer in each place, and so some different things.
I found the Estancia on www.workaway.info (a veritable gold-mine for would-be volunteers), and as I have experience with both horses and customer-relations - and a passable grasp of Spanish - it sounded like the right place for me. After a Skype interview conducted entirely Spanish (which I managed to scrape through!) I was offered the position from late December to late January.
Upon arrival, I quickly discovered that core activities for guests are: Rest – Ride – Eat – Drink – Sleep – Swim – Relax! If you’re staff, or the volunteer, of course there’s a bit more involved than that!
Somewhat foolishly, I hadn’t considered that Christmas and New Year would be the busiest time of year, and I was surprised to discover we were all run off our feet for a couple of weeks. Averaging some 12-16 guests, I rapidly found myself “Estancia Coordinator Extraordinaire” – not only consulting twice a day with the guests to coordinate morning & evening rides, but also fielding all manner of requests: Do you have a wall-plug adaptor? / Can we go into town? / Could we have our bill now? / We need some fly-spray! / We want to reserve bus tickets to Buenos Aires / Do you have any cold beer? (etc)… all of which were dutifully conveyed to the relevant person and resolved. Obviously, outside peak holiday periods it’s nowhere near as hectic, but there’s still quite a bit to do.
While David is the Estancia’s owner & Susana the General Manager, daily operations are run by husband & wife team Ignacio & Mariana, helped by their three energetic children – Igñaki (4), Francisca (7) and Isabella (9). Ignacio cares for the horses & maintains the property, while Mariana mans the kitchen and oversees the cleaning.
Both of them are amazing at making sure the guests feel comfortable and at home. Ignacio chats easily in English or Spanish on rides – cracking jokes and pointing out wildlife - while Mariana works ceaselessly in the kitchen to provide everyone with an ample breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea (cake, anyone? More cake?) and dinner.
The horses are excellent – well trained and well cared for – and in my opinion some of the best in Latin America. You want to stop? They stop! You want to canter? They canter! Regardless of what the other horses are doing, and even with beginners on-board! For people with demonstrable experience, there are a couple of super-fun horses to ride, although they’re usually reserved for Ignacio and his helper/s. The saddles here are quite different, but very comfortable – not even the beginners end up with sore backsides!
Would-be volunteers considering a stint at the Estancia should consider the following:
· You need to be friendly, patient and well organised to interact with, and organise, the guests
· You need to be an experienced rider, and be prepared to ride at, and supervise, all levels of ability. Sometimes you’ll be sitting alongside a nervous beginner, giving them instruction and encouragement, and other times you’ll be trying to rein-in over confident hoons who insist on galloping everywhere. Personally, my favourite rides were with the beginners. Every ride I helped them improve a little more, until they were cantering with confidence – perhaps not with much grace, but loving every minute of it!
· If you’re a vegetarian, you need to be prepared to be surrounded by meat. This is meat-loving Argentina after all, and here at the Estancia they raise, kill & cook their own beef & lamb. All this meat is offset with a surprising array of salads – in fact I don’t think I’ve seen as many vegetables served anywhere else in Argentina as at the Estancia! If the kitchen is quiet, you can prepare your own meals, but when it’s busy you pretty much eat whatever the guests are eating (plus or minus the meat).
· A typical summer day begins at about 7.45am, saddling the horses. Then you’ll escort one or two 1-hour rides - depending on guest numbers - at 8.30am and 9.30am. After unsaddling, I’m off to skim bugs & leaves out of the swimming pool, and sweep leaves from the patios. Around midday, I speak to the guests to see who wants to take the optional evening ride, and make a list of the guests & horses for Ignacio. Around 1pm to 4pm is siesta time – something which takes a bit of getting used to, but soon becomes a welcome break in the day, and a great way to escape the afternoon heat. If guests have nominated an evening ride, we saddle up again around 5.45pm, and head off at 6.30pm. Upon return, the plants need watering, and I check to see who wants to ride tomorrow morning and which horses they’d prefer, and pass the list onto Ignacio. Then finally it’s time to relax before heading to bed, in readiness for another day on Estancia La Margarita!
Ok there you have it. If you fancy being a part of the estancia team I think Alyce gives a great idea of what you will find here
This is David Cummings alias The English Gaucho hasta pronto