Why get stuck in? Well Panagea ranch is a real working ranch. If you visit here you're going to be learning to ride and joining the gauchos as they go about their daily routine. And it's one heck of a routine.
Remember when you were little and you had something physical to do? There was always someone who said, "Come on! Put a bit of elbow grease into it!" So you'd work a bit harder and see that, yes, that extra bit of effort really paid off. Well a visit to Panagea ranch is all about the elbow grease and how willing you are to get stuck in and try gaucho life on for size. If you're willing to do that, you're going to have a fantastic time here.
Well first of all, even if you've never ridden before (I hadn't), you'll be learning how to catch, saddle up, and ride your horse at Panagea ranch. Juan was our teacher, and his patience as he showed us everything we needed to do was great. It really is a step by step process and he makes you feel really at ease with the whole thing... which amazed me considering how nervous I was at the start. Even if you're an experienced rider there will be things to learn here as those with us found out. For starters, you don't hold the reigns with both hands. This is a one-handed discipline.
And you won't ride the same horse twice. That's part of the rule. To build confidence you'll handle a different horse every day.
Ah. This is where the real work begins. After your first session with the horses, and once Juan feels everything is ok, you'll be set to work with him and Bilinga, a local gaucho, in the fields. The exact work will depend on what time of year you visit and what needs to be done during your stay. But one thing's certain, there'll be plenty to do.
In our case, our first job was to bring in some extra horses that were needed from the field. And we made a right mess of it! We got there in the end but we learned a lot along the way about the need to show personality with animals if you want them to follow your will.
And then it was on to herding cows. Nearly 500 of them, which may sound a lot, but was actually much easier than trying to gather 8 horses! Other activities included separating the cows from the calves and then castrating the males, dealing with infections, and branding new animals. Then the cows had to take a dip in the anti-tick bath to keep them healthy. Another day we worked with sheep and this time we were giving anti-worm medication (called drenching if you want the technical term), and again looking for any infections or maggots.
What will you do if you visit Panagea ranch? Like I said, it will depend on the time of year you visit and what needs to be done. It is a working ranch so you don't get to choose the activity, you just have to go with flow and get stuck in.
Our visit to Panagea ranch was definitely a highlight for us. If you're into active adventure travel like we are, this experience is hard to beat. If you're interested to know more, we've put together a how to get to Panagea ranch page, a what's the accommodation like at Panagea page, and some more pictures of what we got up to while we were working on the farm.
I guess any work around animals has the potential for accidents. And we were well aware there was a risk involved to learning to ride and sharing the life of a gaucho if we chose this kind of working ranch vacation. That was our choice. You can't have the experience if you're not willing to take the risk so it really depends on how strongly you want to do this. Us? One of the reasons we came to Uruguay was to give this a go.
But you can reduce the risk of giving it a go by following a couple of pointers. First of all, listen to Juan. He gives very clear and easy to follow directions. And he knows what he's doing. If you follow his advice you minimize the risk of things going wrong.
And on the more mundane side of things, make sure your travel insurance covers you for this kind of active adventure travel. You may need to pay extra to include this kind of activity in your coverage, but should the worst come to the worst, you'll be able to claim on your insurance. You will sign a waiver release with Panagea Ranch before you start any activities which means that you take full responsibility for the decision to participate.
Ultimately it's your call. And if you decide, "Yes, we're going to do it," then you're going to need to know how long to stay.
The maximum number of days that Juan allows people to stay at Panagea is 5 nights which is exactly what we did. Was it the right amount of time? Yes. Actually I'd love to have stayed longer although I think Stuart was gauchoed out by the time we left. If you're not sure, try 1 or 2 nights and hopefully you'll be able to extend your stay (if Juan has room) if you decide you like it.
You'll also need to book this in advance as Panagea ranch has no electricity and no internet. There is a generator which means you'll have electric light for about 2 - 3 hours in the evening but after that it's candle time. Because of this, Juan needs time to make the arrangements for you to stay so you should be thinking about this a couple of months before you travel if you want to avoid disappointment.
Beyond booking in advance, the only thing you really need to make the most of a stay at Panagea ranch, is the right attitude. Like I said at the beginning, if you're willing to get stuck in and try gaucho life on for size, this is a fantastic experience.============================
Have you stayed at Panagea? Do you have a story to share? We'd love to hear from you about your own experiences here.
Or maybe you have a question or need help booking your stay. We'll help you if we can.