The Big Adventure Part 2 – Esquina to Buenos Aires

After just over a month on the road, we learned one important lesson: this journey is not a holiday. We have had some incredible highs and unique experiences, but they have been tempered with a few disappointments, a dollop of reality, and a spell of homesickness.

The run-up to Christmas was particularly hard. It is always a special time for us, from decorating the tree and visiting the Christmas Markets to silly jumpers and catching up with our friends; we love getting in the Christmas spirit. Being away has shown us that our “Dickensian” concept of Christmas is not universal, and the Argentines have a very different way of celebrating.

The girls getting into the spirit!

I will admit that in the UK, we start the build-up way too early and go a bit over the top, but in Argentina, it feels too far the other way. In this part of the world, the big day of celebration is Christmas Eve, when they exchange presents and start to eat a drink in the early evening and keep going until the small hours. Christmas day here is a day much like any other, except perhaps a little more hung over. Many shops are open as usual, and barely a decoration can be seen. Boxing Day is nonexistent. 

It is not all bad; Adrian firmly believes the biggest advantage of being in Patagonia for Christmas is that he made it all the way to the 25th before hearing “All I Want for Christmas Is You”.

You need a bit of tinsel and a few snowflakes on Christmas day!

It is fair to say the Spencer ‘Christmas spirit’ was distinctly lacking.  Despite the best efforts of our cheeky elf, who has somehow managed to find his way across the ocean to us, the festivities were a bit flat!  It is really hard to feel Christmassy in 30-degree heat!  Listening to ‘Let it snow’ while the sun blasts down doesn’t work.

We knew being away would present some challenges, although we did not expect Christmas to be one of them.

Oddly, a couple of strong Pisco Sours got us back in the mood!

Education – Home Schooling v’s World Schooling

As well as exploring and learning about the world, there is the ‘small’ task of continuing with the the girl’s education and we have found that our efforts broadly fall into two catagories.  

Firstly, there is the “real world” education. As we travel, they absorb so much about the world, geography, and cultures. From praticing their spanish to learning how the Andies were formed there is so much to take it.

Today, we are going to learn about erosion and chaos theory,

We are also finding ways to build maths into everyday life, for example, by working out currency conversion and journey times.  We have talked to them about budgets and why we can’t always do everything. They are starting to understand what it means to prioritise money after the essentials are paid for. Getting the girls involved in these decisions is helping them know about living within their means, saving for tomorrow, and prioritising what they need to do vs what they want to do.

Learning in the road.

We have also got the girls more responsibility for day-to-day jobs.  Whether keping things tidy and organised so things don’t get lost. preparing their bags for the day, washing up, making the pack ups or cooking the evening meal.  We want them to be forward-thinking and independent little travellers, and now we have more time and freedom, we are pushing a lot more. We are instilling in them to think for themselves.

Secondly, there is more structured learning. Sometimes called ‘world schooling’, it is a method of educating children less conventionally.  You let your surroundings guide your learning rather than a strict syllabus. We have covered several mini-projects as we have discovered places and questioned how or why something has been formed.  We have a long list on Google Keep of subjects we want to learn more about.

Glaciers were a great topic!

That said, with the intention of the girls heading back to mainstream education upon our return, we are keen that they do not fall behind on the building blocks of their school education.  This is particularly important for Georgia as she is due to start high school in September 2025. Maths and English are obviously key subjects that we are working hard to keep the girls at their expected levels. Their primary school was really helpful in guiding us in the right direction, and we have used the resources provided to help with this.

In the early days, their schoolwork was all over the place, but we were getting it done, just not in a very organised manner.  However, we do now have more of a structured routine.  We have discovered that maths is best done earlier in the day whilst their brains are fresh.  Their writing and English skills are being incorporated into journals and diaries which we slot in during other times of the day. Whilst their IT skills are being improved researching places we have visited and turning this information into presentations to send into school.

We are still a bit seat of our pants, but every day we are understanding better how to make it work for us and make the most of our new ‘normal’

Living Our Best Gaucho Life

Rollin Rollin Rollin, Rawhide!

Our last post finished as we sat on a five-hour bus journey to Estancia Don Joaquin for a surprise horse riding adventure for Eva’s 8th birthday.

The whole experience was a big hit.  We were met at the station by ‘Pony’, one of the warm and friendly Gauchos from the estancia – I can’t recall his proper name, but as nicknames go, this one was pretty apt and easy to remember! 

One thing that quickly became apparent was how important the estancia is in the local community. While it creates jobs and brings tourists into the area, it is much more than that. Pony seemed to know everybody we passed on the drive to the estancia; all the gaucho’s at Don Joaquin lived on-site or nearby, and many of them had been with Josefina and her family for many years. Some families had worked there for multiple generations. Pony’s dad was the head gaucho; now, his son had joined the Don Joaquin family. This deep connection to the land made the experience very sincere in the disposable age.

Yes, we were there as paying guests and were treated very well (a little too well – as our waistbands strained yet again!), but the horses, the cattle, the land and the wildlife were the heart of everything.

Georgia and Josephina

Every morning, we awoke to the sound of them bringing the horses down to the coral and tending to them, ready for the day ahead. After breakfast and the morning rides to check the cows were completed, the gauchos set to their day’s tasks.  Whilst sitting by the pool, watching the girls splash around, we could see the gauchos coming and going, caring for the animals. We witnessed horses being backed, hoof care and genuine lassoing in action. It was incredible to watch!

The riding itself was great.  It was totally different from the UK style of riding, and I’m not sure we ever totally got the hang of it – fortunately, the horses just followed on whilst vaguely listening to us. If we needed any help, the gauchos were there in a flash. 

One amusing time was whilst trying to arrange ourselves on horseback for a family photo, Adrian was failing to get his horse, Pocka into line. The gaucho just came up and rode into him to square him up. Voila! Perfect family photo!

They know how to cook a fantastic steak.

The girls were initially understandably apprehensive as their horses were huge compared to their little fat ponies back home.  After their first tentative steps at a ‘gallopar’ they were soon bombing along aside us and then ahead of us! It was the first time I had ever been out riding with the girls and could really relax.  The gauchos had everything under control!  

At one point, we accidentally rode too close to a hidden ostrich nest, and Mamma was not impressed. She screeched and flapped like crazy at us, scattering the horses in all directions. Before I realised what had startled the horses, the gauchos were by the girl’s side, ensuring they were safe. 

As a birthday treat for Eva, we went on a long ride with plenty of fast stretches along the open grassland, followed by a dip in a lagoon to cool off. Hopefully, it will go down as the birthday of her lifetime.  I’m not going to lie; it was a lot easier to let the Estancia take care of everything rather than the weeks of running around organising parties and baking cakes back home!

Although Eva had a fantastic birthday, she did say the only thing that didn’t make it perfect was that she didn’t have her friends and family there with her.  The distraction of the Estancia was great; the slight emptiness from home did seep in a bit.

Aside from immersing ourselves in horses for a few days (which was just what the doctor ordered), we were also fed the most delicious, authentic Argentine cuisine.  We had steaks as big as Georgia’s head, gaucho bread, fresh tortellini, empanadas and a choco torta cake.  Everything was fresh and handmade and then cooked right in front of you.  It was washed down with as excellent red wine as you wanted.

They really know how to cook a fantastic steak.

We dined and hung out with the other guests, swapping stories and experiences from the day.  ‘Uncle Marco’ made a particularly good impression on the girls.  Their secret handshake is still used now! We have already met since our stay at the Estancia in Buenos Aires and hope to meet again someday.

The ‘Big’ City

Sadly, our time at Don Joaquin’s ended too quickly. We will never forget our days riding over the plains as a family very fondly. 

Our next steps saw us embark on our first-night bus, which took us all the way to Buenos Aires.  We had one last hearty meal, sank plenty of excellent red wine and were dropped at the station, ready to tackle the overnight experience.

The buses were, as always, spacious, comfortable, slightly late, and with the world’s most belligerently aggressive air conditioning.  As it was already late in the evening, so we quickly settled down and tried to get some shut-eye.  Overall, it wasn’t a bad night’s sleep, and it got us to Buenos Aires early the next day. The girls say it was the worst night’s sleep ever.  While I agree it was a bit cold, every time we rolled over to look at them, they were sound asleep.  So it can’t have been all bad!

We arrived in Buenos Aires slightly bleary-eyed, and we had a plan! Unfortunately, reality had other ideas and it didn’t quite work out. We arrived at 8 am and had been told we could drop our bags at our apartment at 11 am. However, with two tired children and all our worldly goods on our backs in a big city, we decided to book some baggage storage.  We found one not too far from our flat and intended to ditch our bags and then spend the day in the beautiful Palermo Park.  We figured it would be easy in the afternoon to retrieve our bags and settle into our new digs.

Our first snag came when we arrived at the storage place to find it closed.  After a good 20 minutes of calling and having a bit of stress, we finally roused the guy.  He had obviously had a tad too much to drink and was having a bit of a lie-in!  It’s not very reassuring when you leave your belongings with him for the day.

By now, the girls were a bit cranky, and the day was shaping up to be a hot one.  We had clocked some familiar golden arches on our taxi ride in and thought the first McDonald’s breakfast of the trip would hit the spot right now. Wrong, it was rank! The McMuffins were cold and distinctly lacking the bacon, the girls’ pastries were tasteless; the orange juice was strangely luminous and worst of all, the coffee was weak.

Anyway, on with the plan – wrong again. While enduring the McDonald’s breakfast, we discovered that the famous San Telmo markets that sprawled over a mile of nearby streets were only open on Sundays. The day we arrived was the only Sunday we had in Buenos Aires, so we hopped back in a taxi most of the way back across the city.

Finally, things looked up! San Telmo was a buzz when we arrived, with stall holders frantically setting up, trying to grab their first sales of the day.  We were glad we were there nice and early, as by midday, it was crammed with people, and the sun was beating down.

The market is nearly a mile long!

There is something about a good dose of tourist tat to lift spirits!  The girls came away armed with a Harry Potter wand, a handmade bracelet, and a lovely personalised leather keyring that the young chap had made right before us (Thank you Auntie Becky for their Christmas spends!).

This buzz faded quite quickly as the heat and the tiredness took over.  We found a great, air-conditioned art cafe to have lunch! We savored our sandwiches for way too long and then spent a good half an hour admiring the funky artwork.

Fortunately, this took us to a time when we could check in. It had been a good day, but I think we were all ready to chill out in our apartment.  The bonus was that the apartment block had a pool, so the girls immediately headed up there for a splash! Suddenly, all the tiredness washed away.

The best way to cool off!

Having five nights in one place suits us a bit more.  It allows us some time to have some downtime, time to plan our next steps, and also to catch up on schooling and BKSR. 

We found a nice balance in Buenos Aires.  The pool was great for a wind-down in the afternoon, and we found a nice routine for our school work. The rest of our time in this big, sprawling city was spent exploring and discovering the history and things that make Argentina such a great country.

We visited one of the Recletta cemeteries and saw Eva Peron’s headstone. We heard her described as “Argentina’s Princess Diana”, and it was fascinating to learn about the huge impact she had and see how her life and work are still celebrated today.

Between cookery classes and dance lessons, art galleries and the world’s most incredible bookshop, we took a lot in.  We ventured all over the city and loved the mix of green spaces, modern apartment blocks, grand architectural heritage and colourful street art. Buenos Aires is a city with so much to offer.

On our last morning, we had a couple of hours before we needed to check out. We decided to walk through one of their beautiful local parks and got caught in an absolute downpour!  When it rains, it rains! It was quite refreshing and cooled the whole city down, which was a pleasant change until we saw that it also brought the mosquitos out in force! They descended on us like a pack of hungry wolves. Having not seen a single mosquito in our entire time in Buenos Aires, they were a bit of a shock. With the bug spray left at the apartment, we called it a day after swatting about twenty in two minutes. Lesson learned: Always keep bug spray in your day pack!

Sun cream and bug spray at all times!

Our time in Buenos Aires was great.  It’s such a lovely city with an incredible energy. We even had the “Could we move here?” conversation! Coming from country bumkins such as us, that is high praise!


It really is a bit special!

Next we head on to Patagonia! Our first stop is Bariloche which is the gateway to the Argenitine side of this wondrous part of the world.

We are all itching to reach it.  We loved our time in the northeastern part of Argentina, but we are ready for some hills.  The cities we saw were great, and we visited some amazing places.  We also stopped at some incredible rural places and had a quick countryside fix with plenty of wildlife.  But we have been on the road for over a month and have barely seen a green hill. Hills equal home for us.

So it’s onwards and southwards for us to a place that has been on Adrian’s and my bucket list for many years!

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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