Cabalgatas y Asado. Mendoza Day Three

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How could you not LOVE this face?? On Sunday we did what we do on any trip that is anywhere close to nature, we went horseback riding!

Like many girls, I have had a love affair with horse riding since an early age. When I was younger, even though she couldn’t really afford it, my mom made sure I fulfilled a dream and got me horseback riding lessons. Each week she drove me an hour out to the stables and waited for me during my lesson. And I had a blast. I loved it so much that at the young age of 10, I saved up $200 from my $5 a week allowance so I could go to a two week long horseback riding camp that summer. (Good lesson for me too I think, learning to budget and sacrificing so you can do something you really want to do…)

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This is our guide and the owner of Rancho Viejo, César. Though he was born in Chile, he has been in Argentina for many many years and is an Argentine gaucho through and through. The gaucho is the equivalent to the American cowboy, just with different attire. There is a very long and strong tradition of gauchos here that still continues to this day, though with a little more technology mainly in the smart phone and camera arena. Most everything else is old school style.

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The recado is the whole saddle set up used by gauchos. It has several layers of padding and/or blankets and is topped with the leather saddle, which is a supple thick saddle with leather tubes in the front and back but with no wooden support unlike the english or western style saddles. To be honest, of all the styles of saddles I have used (which is actually just the english and western), this is my favorite. You can really connect with the horse and react to and move with its movements. It’s also much more comfortable, which makes sense as the gauchos who use them are on horseback for hours upon hours.

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A saddle bag I think would do very well with the US hipster population. Make this bike ready and you’ve made $1000 in your first day. Truth be told, I really like it and kind of want one myself. 🙂

Bringing the horses in for feed

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Just before we left, César rounded up the horses for breakfast in true gaucho style.

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A little colt!

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Bootylicious!

Relaxing ride through the vineyards and olive groves

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We started out casually riding through Maipú, through fields of grapes and the olive and quince trees the area is known for.

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Olive trees

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The horses got to snack on some of the quinces. They were quite happy with this. I imagine César has some kind of arrangement with the owner of the land, but really who knows?

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Heading off the beaten path

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Jesse’s horse was a slow poke and, as you’ll see, he’s always a bit behind us.

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A dam construction several years ago dried up this river that was once teeming with life. Now it is just mud, rocks, and some bushes. I bet some people in the states would pay hundreds of dollars for this mud if you put “organic” on it. ha ha

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Crossing the river bed.

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All that’s left of the river.

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Shutterbugs.

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Here comes Jesse up the hill! We got to ride up and down some pretty steep hills even jumping with the horses up and down a couple pretty large steps. It was really really fun. 🙂

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My hoodie, which I had removed at this point, got stuck on the thick and pokey brush. I didn’t even notice for a couple minutes, too engrossed in getting through the grass and up a hill, but luckily it was still there when we returned.

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Beautiful views on our way up the mountain

Asado on the mountain

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He could be a model!

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Our guys taking a well-deserved break.

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César making a fire almost entirely old school. Some logs, twigs and brambles we gathered, newspaper, and a match or two.

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He brought a couple bottles of wine, bottled straight from the barrel at his neighbors bodega in Maipú. We enjoyed the wine and some great conversation while the fire heated up and the meat cooked.

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A very scary looking visitor who really liked the wine. He didn’t bother us.

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Fire is ready to go! Heating up the grill.

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The asado gets expertly seasoned with just some salt.

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Asado is the word for both the cut of the ribs and the grilling event. Someone could order an asado at a restaurant or could go to an asado on the weekend.

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Before

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After

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Simple, but amazing. This is the best morcilla I’ve ever had. Also, I love our utensils. I felt bad ass. It was about this time I was told to put my camera away and just enjoy the food. I should probably remember that more often.

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The trip back was a bit more difficult with our bellies full of wine and meat.

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We took a shorter route and got back to the ranch more quickly. Once we got off the unstable and hilly paths, I got a chance to pick up the speed a little. My horse was really happy to gallop along until I tried to turn him around, away from home and water and hay. He was not having any of that.

We had such a great time that day and it was such a memorable experience. César is a really great guide and fun to talk with. If you’re ever in Mendoza and like horses, I highly highly recommend the trip. It’s really an experience of a lifetime.

A night in the city

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We spent the evening in the city enjoying some wine and dinner.

The Vines – Wine bar and Vinoteca 

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Located in the Park Hyatt Mendoza, the Vines was a nice little pre-dinner stop, though I expected to have more options for wines by the glass. I had heard you can try hundreds of wines. I’m thinking that maybe we didn’t go to the right place and maybe needed to go to the Tasting Room? Not sure… But it was nice nevertheless.

Azafran

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After the heavy meal of the afternoon, we needed to lighten things up and decided against traditional Argentine food for dinner. This place gained popularity with Americans after a New York Times travel article talked it up and because of this I wasn’t too keen on going there. Originally, I was really hoping to try out a puerta cerrada I had heard about in the city, but unfortunately they were closed that evening.

I don’t know what it is that makes me reticent to go someplace that FULL of tourists. Maybe it feels less authentic. Maybe I don’t want to be labeled a “tourist”, though I am. Maybe it’s just my inner hipster wanting to find the most “real” thing that nobody else knows about (which is a bunch of bologna, plus it’s not like we were going for “authentic” Argentine food anyway). Maybe I was just nervous that with all the publicity, the quality would inevitably suffer. Whatever it was that was holding me back, I was wrong. The restaurant was delightful, the food delicious and not overly pretentious and the prices, while not cheap, were reasonable.

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amuse-bouche (My favourite course because amuse means, well, amuse and bouche is french for mouth. You’re amusing your mouth. Fun!) Butternut squash, creme fraiche, and panchetta (aka BACON!)

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Salad with pan fried kidneys

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Salmon tartar with corn and guacamole

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Yummy raspberry cheesecake

Tomorrow, our final day in Mendoza – adventures motorbiking through the Andes.

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