Early in our trip, we headed out of Buenos Aires and into the pampa humeda, five of us cramped into our guide's Honda Civic. We drove the two hours out of the city to San Antonio de Acero.
San Antonio is a small, peaceful town with a strong artisan presence and a history deeply connected to the Argentine image of a gaucho. It is the town closest to La Porteña, the home of Argentine writer and poet, Ricardo Guiraldes.
Though our guide had done his homework, calling a couple times in the morning to make sure we could make it up the dirt road to the estancia in his Civic, when we tried, the little car just sank. Pushing the car only succeeded in providing mud facials. During the failed attempt to push, a small truck came by and dropped off two people. At first, I thought they were there to help; nope, it turns out they were employees of the ranch, and the truck they were in couldn't make it up the road either. So all of us waited until a truck rolled in from the gas station, and despite the fact that it seemed unlikely, managed to pull the Civic out of the mud and back onto the paved road. After our guide parked the car along the side of the road, we all piled in the bed of the gas station pickup to bounce and slip and slurp through the sticky mud up to the ranch.
Guiraldes is most famous for Don Segundo Sombra, a novel that crystallizes the mythical figure of the gaucho. I have not yet read this book, but after seeing how powerfully the image of gaucho resides in Argentine culture, I know I must read it soon.
I could tell you what we ate here, the name of the horse I rode, how old the cedar tree at the end of the parkway was, and even how the folk songs sounded as they rang against the parilla, but none of that would capture what a day spent at La Porteña feels like.
It wasn't just the mud that made leaving difficult.