Panagea Estancia. Peering through the childhood window.

10 Feb

When I was child, I lived next-door to my nonno and nonna, in little known, sleepy, Hope Valley, Western Australia. My grandparents cleared their land themselves and built their house by hand – remember, this was circa 60 years ago and there was very little machinery back then. It was not a commercial farm with 1000 hectares like Juan’s is, but it was big enough to house a fair few cows, many many goats, chickens, ducks, and the occasional couple of sheep. There were trees for climbing, trees for peaches, figs, locusts, lemons, even a pecan tree, to complement a vegetable garden filled with every delicious morsel you can think of – lettuce, chicory, carrot, onion, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, strawberries – you name it, it grew there and I ate it. My grandparents lived simply and happily; they lived off the produce from their animals and the land, only needing the supermarket to buy the occasional bit of flour, salt, sugar and staples for every Italian household – balsamic vinegar & EVOO. They made their own sausages, tomato sauce and cheese. And, of course, my nonna was a fabulous cook.

At the end of their paddocks was my Aunty Viola’s property. They had horse stables – many of their own, and many that other people kept on their property.

I spent my childhood darting between the two places – getting up at 5am to help my nonno feed the goats, collecting the eggs (with my nonno’s accent, not to be confused with ‘axe’) from the chicken coup, climbing up the ladder to the top of the duck shed to eat the figs from the tree, jumping in cow patties with my gumboots, and my cousin Kate teaching me everything she knows about riding – from saddling up, to riding a pony bareback (falling off every time), learning to jump, getting bucked off, racing Kate’s horses (one was an ex-race horse) and scaring ourselves to death when they bolted.

Daring adventures and dirty fingernails. This was my childhood.

I tell you all this because it is through these eyes I looked, as we stayed on the estancia, and the reason why I loved it so much. Being part of this simple life was like peering through the window to my childhood. Thank you to my family for giving me such happy memories, and thank you to Juan and Susann for making us a part of your home, showing us true gaucho, Uruguayan life and the opportunity for me to experience those happy memories all over again.

Now, if you’ve been bowled over by my nostalgic trip back in time, and think life is a peach on the estancia, you may be surprised. You’re expected to contribute and pull your weight, so if you are to survive your stay on this ranch, here’s a couple of tips:


  • Remember to put the saddle on before you tie the girth. Learnt after MC found his horse trying to bite (unusual for Rebellion, despite his name) when he tightened the first girth (note: the whole point of this first girth is to keep the saddle on). Am sure, Bilinga, patient cattle-ranch hand, was rolling his eyes when he revealed MC’s error. Perhaps I should have guessed fom the terrifed look on his face…

  • Either go to the toilet less, or learn how to work the well! Seems I was perhaps the only one to learn the trick as every time it was my turn for the bathroom, there was an empty bucket or two, awaiting me to venture outside for refill.
  • Draw on your experiences of racing horses as a child with your cousin when you have to drive Gala – apparently, “the Ferrari” of the horse fleet. Short reins, heels down, and be ready – she likes to launch over the streams (ok fine, maybe that was just me). And you’ll need to choose a hat with a chinstrap from the selection. Note the sign on the top right. Translated reads: Blokes, piss in the garden (see following point).

  • (Gentlemen), if you’re not originally a rural lad, do get used to peeing outside with Panagea’s outdoor urinal. When you’re ok with this process, you may like to progress to using a tree.

  • Pass the rainy mornings improving your Spanish by reading Dharma’s book for children. Hombre de Pan de Jengibre (The Gingerbread Man) is a personal favourite.
  • Read the estancia’s signs and listen to Juan’s instructions.

  • Assist Juan to make the fire. MC believes Juan was grateful for a few extra pointers…
  • Wear a helmet, but be consistent, unless you want Juan to tease you. ‘Hey Kelly, why has the Jackaroo decided to wear a helmet today?’


  • Do what the horse wants, unless of course you want to spend the day in the stable. (See previous point about reading the signs).

  • Complain about the dirt or mud. You’re in the country, toughen up princess!
  • Be afraid of the large buzzing sound you hear while you’re having breakfast. That’s the humming bird gobbling out of the feeder.

  • Be too scared of the snakes. They are there, but they aren’t aggressive. Not even 5 yr old Everest was scared when we spotted one being shooed out of the house by Juan & Susann.
  • Fear falling off. Juan says, “You must learn to fall off. Dharma already has twice.” (Dharma is 3 yrs old…).
  • Over-analyse the horse’s behaviour. ‘Kelly, stop, you sound like a German.’
  • Wear anything aside from black (or perhaps poo brown) inside The Egg, if you want to wear it again.
  • Offer to help Susann make dinner if you’re only going to slice off half your finger 3 minutes later.
  • Waste water. It’s very precious here. To the Peruvian guide staying there on the last day, I’ll have you know sir, that MC and I both had a shower while you were still going on yours! Tsk tsk, I hope Juan put you in The Egg as punishment.
  • Forget to bring your sense of humour and an open-mind. You’ll learn so much about farm life and Uruguay but also most importantly, yourself.

Family, friends, I hope you get the opportunity to visit here. It is truly a wonderful place.

xx kel

8 Responses to “Panagea Estancia. Peering through the childhood window.”

  1. Father Bear February 20, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I enjoyed reading your little missive Kelly, especially the bit about speedy showers. I wonder whether this life still will still be with you when you get back to Blighty.—only kidding!

    • wordsfromtheview March 9, 2012 at 1:14 am #

      My dear Ian, life is a journey I’m told. I have learnt many a thing. Cold showers (therefore brief) seem to be ‘in’ thing in South America, so I expect you to turn off the hot water upon my return. In fact, lets get an egg timer. At the rate I’m going I think I may have showered, washed the hair, and be sat in the sun room with the second chocolate wrapper already at my feet, by the time its done. 😉 x k

  2. Royston February 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Matts hair looks similar in style to that of the saddle in the top picture… Classy!!!!…. Trip continues to sound like an amazing adventure… Specially next to the 60 hour week I just signed off on!!! Keep enjoying… x Roy & Nicks

  3. Hilarie Chester February 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    Loved reading Kelly’s description of Hope Valley – very sweet! Infact I really enjoy reading about all of your travels. On the subject of showers and hot water – solar panels have now been especially installed in Bramles in anticipation of your return!

    Take care and keep on having lots of fun

    Love Hilarie x

    • wordsfromtheview March 9, 2012 at 1:22 am #

      Hilarie, so lovely to hear from you. Solar panels, ahh, if only the Brazilians could utilise these just little! You’d be amazed at how fast you can operate when the only temperatures of showers are freezing, cold and luke warm. These days if we find ourselves in a hostel with luke-warm, I clap my hands with glee! Funny. Take care, x kel

  4. Wendy March 8, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Wow Kel didn’t know that you lived in little known, sleepy, Hope Valley, – and there’s me thinking that you’ve lived in Bibra Lake all your life!!! Was great to read about your ‘young’ years though.
    Peter and I are taking up horse riding (he being better than I) I’ve had to have my horse blind folded (oh the shame) because I’ve been so frightened on the horse and they know you know (that I’m scared that is). However, after reading about you and Matt and the horse riding that is involved you’ve made me determined to conquer my fear. (I say that now I won’t be on Sunday – I’ll want to give up again!!!).
    Keep safe

    • wordsfromtheview March 9, 2012 at 1:34 am #

      Wendy, oh no! Cant believe, I never filled you in on these things over the never ending cups of tea!? Well next time I see you, I’ll give you a full run down on my cow pat splatter experiences (think duck poo but worse). Good luck with the horse riding – you amaze me, always doing something different! Be confident! Say hi and give my love to all the hp’s for me – pop me a FB msg sometime with all the new goss! lots of love xx kel

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