LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 35
Page. 102- 105
Text and Pictures: Carolina Aldao
Towards the end of the last century, when Tres Arroyos was still resisiting the attacks of the Indian chieftain Cafulcurá, one Mr. Santamarina, of Spanish origin, decided to buy great tracts of land in the region. Years later, one of his grand daughters married Carlos del Solar Dorrego. This archetypal Argentine, educated in England, travelled to the south east of Buenos Aires Province, where the landscape of rivers, waterfalls, prairies, and incredible sunrises captivated him forever. He bought property on the Quequén Salado riverbank and, defying the adverse climate and barren Patagonian soil, was able to convert it into green, fertile land. Three famous landscape gardeners of the time Ezcurra, Botrich, and Thays were responsible for breathing life into the estancia's garden.
At first the house was built in a sober English style on the southern banks of the Quequén Salado river 15 kms. from the sea. Years later, as the family grew, a new, larger and more modern house was built. Today this is the main house on the estancia where del Solar Dorrego's grandson, Sr. Martinez del Campo and his wife Maria graciously receive their guests and visitors. A weekend in these surroundings offers some exquisite experiences. To begin with one sleeps almost to profoundly at Arual. The combination of fresh sea air, birdsong and wonderfully comfortable beds makes it difficult to get up in the morning. However, breakfast awaits in the dining room with assorted temptations: dulce de leche and fresh butter, both made from the milk of the Jersey cows bred on the estancia.
By ten o'clock in the morning the horses are tied to the hitching rail ready to start out and, after following the riverbank for four kms., we reach a small waterfall. No hydro-massage or jacuzzi is quite as invigorating as the natural rush of the waterfall! After a wonderful lunch a jeep and fishing rods were ready to take us to the sea. After driving on good dirt roads, sand dunes appeared, followed by Marisol, a small fishing village, thence to a wide and seemingly endless beach. This stunning beach and the infinite expanse of ocean conjured the same image that inspired the original cartographers to christen this unique spot "Pays du Diable" (The Devil's Country).
After crossing the switchback of the dunes by jeep, we arrived at the mouth of the Quequén Salado river where the scenery changes abruptly from high levees to classic estuary flatlands ideal for fishing and windsurfing.
The day flew by while we fished, swam and sunbathed lazily. We finally returned to the estancia where a delicious tea awaited us followed by a croquet game while the preparations for the evening "asado criollo" were well underway down by the river with an almost full moon in the sky.
The next day we headed downstream by canoe. To paddle these waters through a gully with walls 15 metres high is a magical experience. As we progressed the walls narrowed to create more of a ravine. Ducks and swans swam with us as we continued down the river. After an hour of paddling we tied our canoes to a rock and climbed the riverbank. A few feet further, turbulent rushing water announced the presence of a great waterfall concealed around a bend in the river. We looked awe-struck as the waterfall tumbled down to the lower levels. We could have dived in for a swim but preferred to lie in the grass and have a drink while we admired the landscape. Sadly we had no time to walk to the "Cueva del Tigre" waterfall or to follow the river by canoe to the sea, which would have taken several more hours. We finally returned to the estancia to a refreshing glass of crisp, dry, white wine and canapes.
During the final evening we each took advantage of the various activities available on the estancia. Some chose to go for a ride in the estancia's horse-drawn carriage, others strolled in the grounds and some simply opted to read on the porch. The bonfire on the beach would have to wait until our next visit.