On our way back from Montevideo to Colonia del Sacramento we stopped off and spent a few days on an estancia, a horse farm in the middle of the countryside, called El Galope. We stayed with Miguel and Monica who introduced us to rural Uruguayan life. We stayed in a converted stable, with views out of our window of rolling green fields and, of course, lots of horses.
The day we arrived we decided to go on an afternoon walk around the local area of Colonia Valdense, and Monica explained where we could go and the local sights we could see. This comically included a goat farm which no longer had any goats and a cheese maker that no longer made cheese. Let’s just say there wasn’t much to see or to do in terms of attractions, but we had spent the last month or so in big cities, surrounded by lots of people and tall buildings, so a walk through the fields where the most exciting things to see were cows was actually really nice. The weather was beautiful, and although it stayed a little crisp, we walked for hours without a coat in the sunshine, which was a nice novelty.
That evening Monica made us a delicious fondue dinner, and explained that it was made with local Swiss cheese, reflecting the village’s Swiss colonial history. Needless to say it was delicious, Monica was an excellent cook. We spent the evening sitting by the fire reading our books, enjoying some winding down time after lots of tiring traveling around.
After an excellent nights sleep we had a yummy breakfast (again, thanks Monica) and Miguel gave us a lesson in South American style horse riding. Over half of their horses were pregnant, and two were fit to burst, so we were unsure at first if the horses would be okay to ride. After reassurances from Miguel, our lesson began. I had a male horse, so no worries about waters breaking and the arrival of foals for me, but Toby’s horse was heavily pregnant and, understandably, a little slow.
“She’s lazy, your one” Miguel said to Toby as he handed him a whip, “Hit her with this.” Toby was very reluctant to hit his pregnant horse, and Miguel wanted us to ride side by side, so we both went fairly slowly. This was nice and relaxing, except when my horse decided he fancied wandering off somewhere else, and Miguel shouted at me that I needed to show the horse who was boss. We had a great two hour lesson and ride around their land and Miguel was a very patient teacher, and an excellent rider.
“My father said I learned to ride before I could walk, but then again he was a liar.”
With sore bums we dismounted, helped Miguel with the equipment and spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden and eventually watching the sun go down. We then spent another peaceful evening by the fire, enjoying our second and last evening in the peace and quiet.
The next morning we got a bus from the village back to Colonia and then the ferry back to the buzz of Buenos Aires. Our time with Miguel and Monica was a wonderful getaway and I would’ve happily stayed longer. I would recommend staying at El Galope (or any estancia in the Uruguayan countryside) to anyone visiting Uruguay from Buenos Aires. It was less than an hour from the ferry port in Colonia, so not a huge detour at all, but you felt worlds away from the bustle of both Montevideo and Buenos Aires. It was a perfect escape to the country.