Part of the real charm of Mendoza is its authentic rural vibe. You just need to get out of the city a bit to enjoy the real beauty of gaucho(cowboy) life: the air, the mountains and feel the wind on your spurs!
Before you get ready for a gaucho weekend, you need to get the right togs. Hi-tail it to Las Heras street where you’ll find a couple different tourist shops (try Las Vinas, Las Heras 399) that sell llama jumpers, thick ponchos, leather hats and heavy boots as well as a handful of tackier tourist souvenirs.
In the middle of the city you won’t get the complete real deal but you can ease into your new drover persona by going to the city’s only ‘pulperia’. Styled as a traditional Argentine spit-n-sawdust bar, El Palenque may be located on the hippest street in town but it serves food that any cowboy would be proud of: slabs of meat covered in eggs and cheese, hearty meat pies and the wine is served in a traditional ceramic penguin.
No cowboy sleeps in late, no matter how late the peña (party) went on from the night before. Fortunately modern cowboys do get picked up by truck from whichever hay bail they slept on… Your guide from Estancia La Alejandra will take you to the traditional cowboy ranch passing through small rural towns and finishing on the undeveloped farm land of Uco Valley, right in front of snowcapped Tupungato volcano. As you drink the traditional Argentine herb drink, mate, which is shared in a communal pot and eat freshly made tortitas (bread) you’ll learn a bit about gaucho culture from the locals.
If you want to live with the elements and be part of a true gaucho family, you need to know how to keep yourselves well fed and watered! Argentinean cooking is all about fire – in a clay oven, on a BBQ grill, with a huge ‘disco’ (wok style pan) over a flame and stretching meat over an open fire. Spend a couple hours learning the cooking techniques and putting together some local ingredients for traditional recipes ofempanadas (meat filled pies), matambre (flank steak) and a proper gaucho asado (BBQ) with blood sausage and different cuts of meat. After a couple hours, you’ll know exactly how to wield your knife like a true gaucho! A bit of local Malbec never goes a miss either.
Dance and music is a big part of popular culture. When you are riding for hours on end you need a good song to help you pick up your pace and if there are ladies around then you certainly need to know how to throw a hankerchief artfully in the air! An hour of dancing, music and learning how to kick your own boots in the air is a good intro into the world of Argentine folklore.