LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 64
Page. 50 - 55
By: Rossana Acquasanta
Pictures: Carolina Aldao
SIERRA DE LOS PADRES
Barely a handful of irregular streets twisting up and down the steep slopes and nearly all of them have a name but no surname. Calle Arturo, calle Gabriel, calle Juan and so on. I presumed that this had something to do with the identities of the Jesuits - the first inhabitants. But as soon as I voiced my theory, a local denied there was any connection. He was, however, unable to come up with any other explanation. "Not the slightest idea", he said, and that was the end of that. Some 500 metres from National Route 226 and within the Reserva Integral de los Padres is the Museo Tradicionalista José Hernández. It occupies what was once part of the main house of the old Laguna de los Padres estancia, which dates from 1882 and formed part of the vast lands belonging to Eusebio Zubiaurre. Declared a property of national heritage interest by the Municipality of General Pueyrredón, the main house consists of three principal arms, set in a U shape, and with a double gallery (internal and external).
The permanent displays in the museum occupy eight rooms and the floors and decoration are all original. The only connection between the estancia and the author of the Martín Fierro is that he occasionally accompanied his father who sometimes did some works there.
It was all thanks to golf that the people of Mar del Plata decided to look to this haven of rural peace and tranquillity. The rugged scenery, the profitability of the fertile fields, the forest of pines and eucalyptus, the fresh water lakes seduced all those who came from the nearby city. After experiencing the neatness of the greens people began to rent a small house for the weekend, one here, one there, until finally many ended up staying there to live in the utter calm of the hills. A typical example is that of Enrique Guissani, a 49 year old accountant who came to Sierra de los Padres three years ago and now participates in the promotional activities of the Sierra de los Padres Apart Hotel and Spa, which opened in February last year. The hotel belongs to Osvaldo Lavia, another local proud to belong to this hilly retreat. Smiling, he strolls through the hotel dressed in bermudas, shoes and socks, with a cigar in his hand, greeting his guests as if he knew them all, making them feel very welcome in the friendly family atmosphere.
In the strictest sense the hotel does not have a spa. Why then does the word appear in the establishment's name? Its very simple, Osvaldo loves the fact that the initials of his hotel spell Spa! We must admit that we found it amusing. And although there is a swimming pool in the gardens, it is barely big enough and Osvaldo knows it. Meanwhile, the programme of outdoor activities organised by the hotel is really excellent. Walks in the hills, days spent in the countryside, a full range of pony-treks.
Hugo Gimenez, a resident of Mar del Plata, runs all these pursuits. Together with his wife, Silvina Rosenthal (a professional horse masseuse whose services are often called upon at the San Isidro racetrack) he breaks wild horses in the indigenous manner. That is to say by persuasion rather than by violent domination. Carolina and I checked this out for ourselves the day we arrived at Hugo and Silvina's house, a little rural retreat called El Benteveo. This little scrap of countryside is where the pleasant and restful programmes begin. Treks to the hills of the Paitití estancia or to Sierra San Jose, returning just in time for a delicious asado, cooked to perfection.
The pony treks are gentle; whether to the Laguna Brava for the day, or the nighttime option under a full moon ending with a gourmet cold supper and champagne on the banks of the Laguna de los Padres. You can also do this trek by leaving early in the morning and stopping at the La Esperanza estancia for an exquisite lunchtime asado followed by the required siesta. You can then try your hand at some typical rural games like bochas or taba and later on enjoy a guitarreada Sierra de los Padres has its own little zoo - El Paraíso - where you can spend the whole day with the children in the open air and where the diversity of the vegetation is also of interest. This micro-world also has a teahouse and restaurants and an excellent local beer made by Luis Alberto Ciantino in blond, red and black varieties. Top quality ingredients, pure spring water and endless time in the making, makes La Misión a noteworthy brewery. Amén.