“Hi. Have you picked another tour as yet? We are looking at this Life on the Ranch – Gaucho Day tour. It looks interesting.” Our Canadian pals greeted us at the tour desk
“That’s a coincidence. We booked that one last night. We are here to find out about rental cars as we want to drive around the countryside before going hone.” I answered.
“OK. We will book the Gaucho tour too. That should be fun.”
Highlights of the tour were fishing with baby alligators, horseback riding, watching and learning about mechanical milking of cows, a ride across the vast ranch and a fabulous barbecue lunch at a Gaucho camp. Bert was ecstatic with the fishing. I was skeptical. After all if there are baby alligators then where are the mamas and the papas? I posed said question to the tour representative who laughed. In my mind I am thinking, he who laughs last laughs best.
It is going to be another long day but we are up for it. Our guide tells us that we will be taking a scenic route to our base camp and he will point out areas of interests while the driver will give us opportunities at designated areas for photos. We settled into our seats. Drinks were distributed. On the outskirts of the city we started a sing-a-long.
The drive was scenic. We had started out at 8 a.m. and were parking at the base camp just before 10.a.m. The camp was a very large covered area which included the kitchen, a large dining area, lots of easy chairs and woven hammocks hanging from the uprights. Gosh, they looked really comfortable. My Goan pal and I immediately grabbed two side by side and deposited our paraphernalia in them. We both had brought books as we were not into fishing, especially with baby alligators.
Two aluminium boats with outboard motors were on the shore of the lagoon. Nearby were four handsome Venezuelan Gauchos each leading two horses. The plan: half go fishing, half go horseback riding and then a switch so everyone had a chance at the activities. Eight opted for fishing, six for horseback riding and my pal and I settled into our hammocks with our books. We were offered a tall mixed alcoholic drink by the cook who told us refills were always available or we could ask for something else. She was mixing up a sauce which smelled so very good. Ahhh, life is good!
Not one hour later there was a commotion on the shore. I said: “Oh my God, I hope they did not disturb a mama or papa alligator.” We left our hammocks and were met by swearing, wet, mud covered men and women. Bert blurted out the story. The boat in front had engine trouble and his boat went to their aid. Fishing lines still trailing one look down saw an alligator which was definitely a parent not a child. She screamed, another stood up in the boat which tipped it dangerously, another uttered some choice words which were not ‘Gadzooks’ or ‘Zounds’ or even ‘Jumping Jehosaphat’.
Afraid the boat would tip everyone else shouted at the boatman and guide to leave the stranded boat, take them back to shore and come back for the dead boat. No doubt uppermost in mind was self preservation. Fortunately, in the melee, attaching a tow line to the sick boat was accomplished and both came back without fish, without a few lines, without two sunhats, one pair of sun glasses but with fingers and toes intact, bruised egos, wet clothes, muddied feet and shoes and a stray weed or two here and there.
As the fishless fishermen tried to come back to a semblance of normality (the tall dinks and beer helped) we heard horse hoofs coming. “I hope they got a good ride and are coming back happier than our men.”
A woman was the first off her horse and she rushed to her fisherman husband and almost in tears said: “Please get the damn ticks off me”! The kitchen help got busy with tall drinks and beer. They also provided cotton and what smelled like kerosene with the advice to: “Just put a bit where they are and they will drop off.” Even my pal and I and our fishermen husbands were employed to help though the ticks were sometimes in places best administered to by a spouse or very close companion.
My Pal and I could not look at each other. We were being very solicitous until Bert said: “You two got the best of this deal, no alligators, no ticks, just getting drunk, reading and sleeping.” We laughed, and could not stop. We were not the most popular persons.
Lunch saved the day. It was a fantastic barbecue and it seemed they expected us to eat like a Gaucho after a day herding cattle. Good food can be a panacea. The grumbles were few, the drinks flowed, the chatter increased. When it was suggested that it was time to switch activities there was a loud, collective and heartfelt; “NO!” Instead, we had a fine siesta. Most had to be shaken awake to go for the ride on the ranch that would end with the milking of cows.
Yes, the ranch was huge. Yes, it was a bumpy ride but a scenic one and yes, we all looked on in awe as a huge herd of cows were milked all at the same time. We were as placid as the cows as we got back into our minivans for the long ride home. It was a shorter ride as the highway driving though dull, was so much faster than the scenic route of the morning. As we dropped off the first group of four the tour guide apologised and said she would ask her company for some kind of restitution for the aborted activities.
“Nah, don’t worry. I bet by the time we get home everyone would have caught a big fish, saw a ten-foot alligator and ridden across the fields like a real Gaucho. Right guys?” Everyone agreed.
The Meander: What I did not tell you? Both my Goan pal and I had not been to the bathroom all day. Why? When we asked for the key to the main lodge which was designated for our use, the cook added: “Please walk in the centre of the path, as there are sometimes a few small snakes around and their bites though not bad can hurt a bit.” I finally found something else in common with my Goan pal. We both have snakes phobias. “Snakes, did she say snakes?” We handed back the key. We no longer wanted the bathroom and the mind is so mighty we never did want it again the rest of the long day. We just NEEDED to go. At our drop off we left the social niceties to our knowing husbands and high tailed it to the bathroom. How do you spell relief?