Recently a group of twelve students joined the arranged pre-course tour to the argentine pampas countryside surrounding the city of Buenos Aires. Being one of the most fertil grassland plains in the world, the humid pampas are home to around 50 million cows, all looked after by the argentine cowboys called gauchos. Not to mention the spectacular birdlife with southern screemers, flamingos, hawks, southern lapwings and the big birds called rheas, ñandu in Spanish, a distantly related to the ostrich and emu. Of animals there are grey foxes, smelly skunks, wildcats and wild rabbits, ferrets, otters, wild guinea pigs, the rodents called viscachas in the Chinchillidae family, and armadillos (beltedyr på norsk). At night, when the stars come out so clearly in the Southern Hemisphere, the grass get moisty by the humidity, and hundreds of fireflies start flashing light signals to flirt inbetween them. The name pampa comes from Quechua meaning “flat surface”, and covers an area from the Atlantic coast in the east to the foothills of the Andean mountains in the west – to Patagonia in south and Gran Chaco in the north.
In the educational school center of Quinta Esencia, some 400 km south of the city, everyone got to eat vegetarian food made of a chatty cook, learn about sustainability and organic gardening. We all made a little nursury of small baby trees, made fires outside at night with songs, drums and gitars, did a day of horse riding through the endless grasslands to a lake, and had yoga classes with a yoga teacher every morning. The students who had signed up for Spanish classes had classes in the woods, full of pink azucenas florwers sourronding them for the occation. Others helped making a stone terraze on one side of the house, the rest painted a yellow cal mixture, or hydrated lime, on a house made of straw blocks and clay. One night everyone went to the 200 years old gaucho bar to celebrate a birthday and try lamb prepared on the fire with the argentine grilling technice called “a la cruz”.
The showers are placed out in the wild, and one day, when fastly moving grey clouds and heavly wind came upon us, the view from the “bathroom” really turned panoramic with lightning coming closer and closer. The summers are hot with mostly balmy winds in the pampas, but being so perfectly flat the winds often picks up not having any resistance like hills or mountians to stop it. The weather fenomen pamperos happen when the cool winds from the south meets warm tropical air from the north, and this place turned into a exploting lightening show with heavy rain. The days before, temperature had been uptil 38 degrees, and the cooling weather made temperature very plesant the day after.
The pampas experience is intense and beautiful in every way. The last day when heading back home, we past by a gaucho shop in the closest town Coronel Vidal, for those who wanted to go all in gaucho. The gaucho shoes “alpargatas” are the big inspiration for the TOMS shoes, while the beautiful gaucho hat “boina” somehow looks like the French “beret” hat. While two cars with students went directly to Buenos Aires after, one car escaped one hour south to the coastline and the beaches. For many this was the first real swim in warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.