A castle in Uruguay, you might ask? Well yes. Just over the hill from La Salamora lies a stone castle built in 1928 by an eccentric lottery winner. Why he decided to build a castle amid the rolling grasslands of Uruguay surrounded by cattle is why I am labeling him eccentric. It is really interesting to see it in the distance (it looks like it comes out of nowhere) and ride around it. The castle itself looks far older than the 1920's to me. It's still privately owned but at this point in need of some repairs. The views from its high point are stunning and I thought that the castle would make for a very cool boutique hotel- only if it is environmentally friendly though, in keeping with everything else that is around here.
Leaving the castle, we rode through herds of cattle under a beautiful blue sky decorated with puffy white clouds. We did a bit of trotting to make up time and that's when I realized that my stirrups were a little too long for me, as I felt a little off balance. I told Alicia, I would need to raise them a bit when we stopped. There's no posting in the saddle here. They ride more like American cowboys, and I have found that how well I ride here does depend on the smoothness of my Criollo horse. I've had a couple of bouncy ones and a couple of smooth so far and definitely some that like to go fast!
One of the great things about riding with people when you travel is that you do chit chat as you ride. I was curious to know more about what life was like for people in Uruguay, so as we rode, Alicia filled me in. Uruguay is a small country, with only a little less than 3.5 million people. Many of these people live in Montevideo, the capitol. Alicia explained that one reason that so many people live in Montevideo is because of the schools. If you want to attend high school, many times you have to move to the city because you can't get that level of education everywhere in the countryside. Another reason is that the university in Montevideo is free to anyone in Uruguay, a definite perk.
Back at the ranch the sun was setting. We set our horses free for the night and Alicia and I walked back towards the ranch. As we climbed over one of her fences to avoid having to walk anymore than we had to, we encountered an armadillo. Armadillos are so random. I have seen them in the most unlikely places, like Cumberland Island, Georgia, so I was both surprised and not to see one slinking across Alicia's fields. There are also ostrich's on the farm.
After taking a shower in my wind powered shower with surprisingly good water pressure, we all settled down at Alicia's table for a dinner of abundant grilled meats. Life in Uruguay is good.