366 days of gratitude

October 4, 2016

There’s a huge element of luck in hosting an exchange student.

We struck the jackpot when we did it more than 20 years ago and he and his family have become ours.

He is Argentinean and we’ve just returned from nine wonderful days there.

We caught up with our exchangee, his family and friends in San Nicolas, Pergamino, Mendoza and Buenos Aires.

We ate a lot of meat, drank some wine and visited el Mercado de Liniers  – the Buenos Aires cattle market which was having a quiet day – only about 6,000 head of cattle, because of a strike.

We also travelled to Mendoza and drove up a mountain pass in the Andes; and returned to Buenos Aires to watch the All Blacks play the Pumas.

It was our ninth trip to Argentina and, like the previous ones, made us appreciate that country and its people and ours.

Today I’m grateful for happy holidays and safe homecomings.

I’m also grateful that I was out of the country when the clocks went forward. The start of daylight saving always makes me feel jet-lagged and I reckon if I’m going to feel that way it’s better to do so as the result of travel rather than mucking about with time.

Mercado de Liniers

January 19, 2013

One of the highlights of last September’s trip to Argentina was visiting Mercado de Liniers.

Seven fifteen is an early start when you’re on holiday, but the Buenos Aires cattle market opens for business at 7.30am.

We were picked up from our hotel by a driver and Maria, our guide who has made tours of the market her speciality.

Cattle arrive overnight from up to 500 kilometres away. They are checked by a vet and weighed by pen then walk seven blocks from the scales to the market which covers an area of 34 hectares.

It is criss-crossed by a series of raised walkways which enable buyers, brokers and visitors to get a good view of the stock below.

Our party included farmers and stock agents. They didn’t understand Spanish but recognised the nods, winks and other body language of the buyers which is universal.

They noted how quiet the cattle were and put this down to the fact they were worked with horses which needed little, if any, guidance from their riders.

The experienced New Zealand sale-goers were also very impressed by morning tea – large slabs of steak and chorizo, (spicy sausages) cooked on the asado, the wood-fired barbeque.

hp liniers

All cattle must be sold no later than the day after they arrive and on Fridays all stock must be sold because there’s no market at the weekends.

The day we were there 8,500 head of cattle went under the hammer. The most sold in the three years our guide had worked there was 31,000, well short of the market record for a day’s sale of 42,00o.

A bell ringing for about five minutes signals the start of an auction. Prices went from 8.5 to 10 pesos a kilo, liveweight. As each pen is sold cattle are taken by men on horse-back to be weighed – manually and electronically.  Both weights must agree because stock is sold by price per kilo.

Weights and prices are conveyed by fibre optic cable to a central computer and are available instantly on the market website so Liniers  sets the price around the country.

The broker gets 4% of the price and .04% of the price goes to the market which is jointly owned by 55 livestock broker agencies.

When stock is transported from the market the trucks are tracked by GPS as a security measure to ensure the driver doesn’t drop off any cattle en route.

The neighbourhood grew up on the back of the market which still supports 2,500 families.

Outside the market is a monument to a gaucho, the only one of dozens in the city which pays tribute to a worker.

Our guide, Maria, who speaks perfect English, has her own company Bespoke Tours.

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