We got to know the town of San Rafael quite well, and spent many afternoons in a local café called Nina’s using their free internet and trying everything on the menu. It is actually quite a nice town, which seems to be the next big thing after Mendoza. It offers a similar experience, without being too touristy or crowded. There is a feel of stepping back in time as the pace slows down, and the cars all look they are stuck in the 70s (some for the good, while others are literally taped together and should not be on the road!). The vineyards are equally old and beautiful, the wine is amazing, the local organic produce is delicious, the streets are lined with old trees that look particulalry stunning in Autumn, and the town is slowly being renovated to become more modern and tourist-friendly.
June 16, 2013
Farm Life in San Rafael
We really enjoyed our experience living on a farm for a month, and would recommend WOOFing (Working On Organic Farms) to any travellers interested in doing something a little different! It was a fantastic opportunity to relax and recover some energy after a few months of solid travel, practice Spanish and make new friends. All the people we met and worked with were lovely, and were genuinely interested in learning about us and where we come from.
We had heard that WOOFing is a bit of a gamble, but if the people hosting volunteers are reasonable with the amount of time you are expected to work, and the food that they provide, then it can be a win-win situation. We worked a few hours a day, doing mostly farm maintenance work, picking olives and feeding animals, which was actually really enjoyable. We got to help out with work that they otherwise would not have had time to do, and it was a nice change from working in an office staring at a computer all day! Living on the farm really gave us a taste of what it would be like to own property and animals, and while it all seems very romantic, it is a lot of hard work!
San Rafael is beautiful and we probably would have stayed longer if it wasn’t getting so cold. The farmhouse where we were staying was quaint, but lacked modern appliances. For example we had to light a fire outside underneath a hotwater tank in order to heat water for a shower, which was a novel experience. We did however enjoy drinking local wines and sitting by the fire to keep warm!
We also had plenty of animals to keep us company on the farm. There were lots of dogs, chooks, rabbits (who kept having babies) and a swarm of bees who apparently produced a lot of honey for export to Germany! It was nice to be surrounded by animals and nature, and forget about real life for awhile.
I do love olives, so I was quite interested in seeing the process of production. Turns out it is really easy, it just takes a long time! We picked several buckets of green olives which were then put into salt water that was changed regularly. This process can take several months before the olives are edible. They used a different technique for the black olives, which simply involved putting them into an air tight bag full of rock salt, with no water, and then just leaving them there for about a year. Seems like a lot of effort for something that is so cheap to buy, but they taste amazing!
While we were in town, we also had the opportunity to check out the surrounding area. We spent one day at Villa 25 de Mayo, which held a festival on Revolution Day (25th of May). It was a cute town with people dressed up for folk dancing, lots of Agentine music, asados and local foods to try. We also went to Valle Grande and El Nihuil to see the magnificent Atuel Canyon.
Overall, working on a farm in San Rafael was a great experience! We love Argentina and feel very lucky to have been able to spend as much time as we have here!