Estancia El Ombú

Estancia El Ombú is located a short drive from San Antonio de Areco, in the epicenter of gaucho-land.  It’s named after a remarkable 200 year old ombú tree that grows by the house.  This is a working ranch, with over 300 head of cattle, making it a great place to see what a real Argentine estancia is like.

We were there recently in April, the day after a large rainstorm.  Luckily, although it was cold outside, there was no rain, and even a bit of sun from time to time.  We were here just for the day, and as is typical with most estancias, it starts off with a beverage and an empanada.   The empanada was delicious, it was too bad we only got one.  Nevertheless, lunch was in only two hours, so it was probably for the best.  For the beverage, there was pop, wine or beer.

We then had time to go horseback riding.  At El Ombú, a day trip gives you two opportunities to go horseback riding.  One before lunch and one after.  On this particular day, there as a huge group coming, so we wanted  to take advantage that they hadn’t yet arrived and go horseback riding right away.  This is one of the problems of the large, popular estancias near Buenos Aires.   Most weekend days, and even weekdays, they are overrun by large groups, or if not, lots of small groups of tourists.

The horseback riding was fantastic.  Although we were 10, we went walking through large fields.  The land owned by El Ombú seems endless, fields and fields of pastures.  These large fields allowed the more experienced/daring riders to go off on their own, as long as they stayed near the group.  This was perfect, as I don’t particularly enjoy the typical walk-in-a-straight line type of trailride.  So, keeping with the group, we’d canter ahead, turn around, trot for a while, walk, canter some more, and basically go wherever we felt like.  The horses were very obedient, and it was a really great experience.

By the time we returned, we heard a bell, and assumed it meant lunch was ready.  I was right, and people were already at the tables.  Usually, lunch is served outside, but as the weather wasn’t particularly comfortable, it was served in the old guesthouse, a quaint, brick building that looked like it must have 50 or even 100 years ago.

Lunch was a typical asado, where they started with chorizo and blood sausage and a few different salads.   This was followed by barbecued chicken, then bife de lomo, vacio and later asado de tira.  These are the most common cuts of meat served at a typical Argentine asado, and the quality was excellent.  We had never-ending wine, a cheap but acceptable option (malbec of course).  The meal was finished with an ice cream dessert, though dessert was nothing special.

After dinner, they did a gaucho show.  It was quite good – they showed a few gaucho skill contests, a gaucho trick to make the horse lie down, and a short game of pato.  It was very well down, and a great way for people to see a bit of the gaucho abilities.

After the show, we had the second option to go horseback riding.  This time we chose to go in sulky, the name they use for “carriage.”  Our driver was Oscar, a true gaucho – he grew up taming horses, and became well-known for his abilities (there was even an article about him in the paper, posted on the wall at El Ombú).  The carriage ride was nice, and gave us a great chance to relax and let our food digest.

In the late afternoon,  they served tea with sweets.  They were mediocre, just a plain, salted pastry.  I would have preferred if they had served some alfajors, pastafrola, and other typical Argentine treats.

Nevertheless, all in all this was a great experience.  I have been to other estancias, and this one was just as good as the others.  I would recommend it to anyone wanting to go to a traditional estancia, though keep in mind it could be overloaded with people.  Also, they don’t do any folk-dancing shows, as do some of the other popular estancias.

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