San Antonio de Areco is a small colonial town 90 minutes outside Buenos Aires. This is the birthplace of "el gaucho"—the stoic, quiet cowboy who once tended herds on the Argentine pampas. There are still a few left who work at outlying plantations like the historic Estancia La Bamba. The beautifully restored home and horse farm welcomes overnight visitors, which supplements income the estate earns by breeding polo ponies.
Gauchos in traditional dress first welcome you with local malbec wine and homemade bread. Then guests are invited to hear the cowboys play guitar and sing traditional ballads. During that time, the house chef is busy preparing the traditional "asado" meal, grilling 7-8 different pork and beef meats over an outdoor charcoal firepit.
More wine is served until the lady of the house rings the big bell on the porch. The delicious lunch is served on an embroidered tablecloth over a farm table situated on the grand lawn between the house and the stables.
We got up for a break to watch a traditional horsemanship game called "carrera de sortijas." Two at a time, gauchos race their horses toward a tiny ring suspended in the air that they try to pierce with their small knives. The original purpose of this "ring race" was designed to impress the local ladies by demonstrating composure astride a horse at full gallop.
We all took turns trying the same thing, but at full speed it’s pretty much impossible for a gringo to nail the ring other than out of sheer luck.