Estancia Life – Day 79 – 80 (14th/15th February)

As another couple of days ‘monging’ out in Natales after a hard week or so working our arses off, has come and gone, I find myself racking my brain for something to write about for the last 48 hours. I wasted a good few minutes considering basing the next few paragraphs solely on a deathly ice cream parlour that we strayed into that scarily reminded me of an evil butchers that secretly dissect and sell human bodies that have been stolen from the local graveyard. However, I don’t particularly fancy reliving that nightmare, so instead I’m going to write a short section that explains a bit more about estancias and particularly the ones we’ve been too, as I know I didn’t quite understand their role in Chilean society, and seeing as they have been involved heavily in our travels, and I need to hit the hay asap in preparation for the beginning of our next adventure, I think this little paragraph or two fits perfectly.

As far as I know, the word ‘estancia’ translates as farm in english, and on first impressions, the numerous farms we’ve been to have certainly resembled what us Cotswoldians would label as a farm, with livestock dotted about, a strong stench of some kind of animal waste, and often a beautiful farmhouse standing proud in the middle. However, as our trip has gone on, and we have visited, worked in, and stumbled upon more and more estancias, we have quickly come to learn that farming in Chile couldn’t be more different to the British version, despite the main elements that they have in common. The main focus of most of the estancias is livestock, as the unpredictable weather and extreme climates here make it near impossible to grow any crops, as demonstrated by exhibit A which is the Baguales estancia, which struggles to produce anything that could maybe be called grass, let alone anything edible. Unlike British farming, and especially in the Cotswolds, the farmers such as Kevin and Ian, mainly own sheep and lambs, and therefore focus mostly on selling wool and feeding the majority of Natales. This business plan means a holy fuck load of sheep are needed, and I believe the Maclean’s own around 5000, which makes transporting them around the place extremely hard, as we have well and truly had engrained into our heads, mouths, hands, and feet over the last month or so. The terrain and geography of Patagonia doesn’t particularly help either, but the transporting of sheep on trucks, boats and lorries is just the norm in this area, and is extremely successful, demonstrated by the title of Kings that have seemed to be forced upon Kevin and Ian. Cattle are also common on the estancias, but I’m glad to say an experience with cows can wait for another day.

The second element of a lot of the estancias in Patagonia is tourism, and this seems to be getting more and more common and sought after by farmers in the area and thousands of people are clearly interested in watching sheep being kept in a field, being herded in a circle, and being roasted on a stick. It doesn’t sound that great when I say it like that, but it really is an incredible experience, and the two Russian billionaires that came to visit La Peninsula when we were there probably thought the same before they flew off in their private jet. Nevertheless, the eco tourism in the area is absolutely flourishing, especially in the horse industry, which we have taken full advantage of by riding at three different estancias, up huge cliffs, along beaches, and around ancient burial grounds. The rise of tourism at the farms also means that if they didn’t before, the now look absolutely impeccable and create a fantastic modern twist on traditional farmhouses and buildings, not that we got to experience this a great deal in our caravan, but we got pretty close.

It’s truly been a major pleasure spending so much time at these wonderful estancias, and I hope my little weary attempt to paint a picture of them for you has helped your understanding and appreciation for them as well. Therefore, the estancias get the shoutout for the last two days and the last two and a half months, it’s just a shame our time in amongst the farms is basically over. I’ll be back for the cows though.

P.S We’re going off the radar for a week again, specifically the depths and darkness of Terra Del Fuego so don’t expect any entertainment from my direction anytime soon!

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