My return to Condor Valley was a great surprise for me, as I was not expecting to get to visit the ranch this year. I spent three months on the farm last year, from February to April 2013. After my first experience on the ranch I fell in love and when faced with the opportunity to go back down and the combination of a few slow weeks of work I couldn’t pass up another chance to visit Salta. With Hanks help and my Father’s permission to take off for 12 days, my brother and I planned, booked, and left for the trip within two weeks! We had lots of preparing to do with such a quickly planned trip. First I had to cram and finish a good deal of work, then get plane tickets, my brother had to get a new passport (urgently), I had to renew my ID, and we had to go shopping for Condor Valley goods/ presents, in addition to the organizing Hank did to get us down there and have someone pick us up Etc… Not to mention Condor Valley was seeing its highest number of Interns at one time during my brother and I’s stay. During our visit the interns included Johnny (Italy), Merlin (England), Ramen (USA), Maria (Germany), my brother (Edward) and myself (Leland). It was crazy! Seeing this many international people all together on the ranch working and learning and all on great adventures of their own!
2/19- My brother Edward and I ate wonderful Jalapeno calamari at a JFK airport, and then took a non-stop flight to Buenos Aires. (3:45)
2/20- (4:30) We landed in Buenos Aires and took the shuttle across town to switch airports. After switching planes we landed in Salta at 9:30 AM. Bruno picked us up and we stopped at the hosteria in Chicoana for lunch. We then went straight to Condor Valley.
20/21– Weeded the vegetable garden. Then Bruno took me to El Tipal…(If you read journal from my first visit to Condor Valley you can see I spent most of my time developing and working on that part of the land). So much progress has been made on the entire ranch in one year. On La Bodega everything is running smoothly but I liked being at El Tipal because it’s a little more rugged. But I literally saw El Tipal go from old over grown fields that had to be reclaimed with no way of watering to a huge reservoir, 2,800 nut trees, a rebuilt dam, and land cleared for further expansion. We returned to the hosteria in Chicoana, ate dinner and then played pool till two.
2/22- Went into Salta city and had lunch with Bruno, Dario, Edward, Ramen, Merlin, and Jonny. That night I drank a lot! We celebrated Carnival (Which is a beautiful sort of annual cultural parade), and hung out at the bar next to the Inn.
2/23- All of the kids walked around town, Sylvanna’s nephew Dario came over and we all watched a couple movies.
2/24- Everyone drove into the ranch at 7 AM. All of the interns were working in the vegetable garden for the day.
2/25- Again we continued working in the vegetable garden. Martin arrived with Maria. Another intern who is from Germany and is on a very cool adventure. She is on a world trip and has been quite a few places and does not plan to stop traveling for a while. That night we played games, drank whisky, and told stories.
2/26- Bruno brought Eddy and I to El Tipal to work. In the morning Bruno was on the tractor so, Eddy and I walked up the river and checked out the rebuilt dam. In the afternoon Bruno worked on the caterpillar while my brother and I with chainsaw and machete clearing more land. Then went back to La Bodega for dinner.
2/27- Martin and Tomas organized a horse outing for everyone and had seven horses lined up outside of the colonial house at eight AM. It was so great! I had so much fun riding that day. Martin, Eddy, Ramen, Jonny, Maria, Merlin, and myself all did excellent riding during the six hour ride out to the cascade and back. Everyone was in heaven riding through the valleys, canyons, and river beds of this beautiful land up to a sixty foot waterfall buried deep in canyons towering hundreds of feet up on either side. I slept great after that day full of riding and hiking.
2/28- Bruno brought Ramen and I out to El Tipal. We continued clearing land. At night the three of us went fishing off of the Dique Cabra Coral bridge. We drank and caught fish all night and then stopped at a club in Moldes on the way to the hosteria.
3/1- Dario brought us all to Salta City to walk around and do some shopping. Back at the Inn we had a slow night just playing pool, watching movies, and drinking Salta beer.
3/2- Sylvanna made a wonderful lunch. After lunch I walked around the plaza and down a few streets and packed my bags before saying goodbye to Chicoana and everyone there again. Bruno drove us to the airport and we took off at 5:45 and then left BA at 11:00.
3/3- (9:30) Arrived in New York and made it back to New Haven by 12:00. This trip was another great time and unique experience at Condor Valley. Unfortunately it was not a long trip but it was great, I got to see all the progress they’ve been making, help out a little bit for the time I was on the ranch, ride horses, and spend time in that beautiful northern Argentine farm. Condor Valley.
Working on Condor Valley has really planted a seed deep inside of me. It has opened my eyes to a style of work that has become very attractive to me. The idea of being isolated and working in very rural conditions, forcing you to be more creative and work with what you have, is much more difficult but also more exciting and interesting, to me. With limited resources because of Argentina’s current economy and lack of importation combined with the extreme size of the ranch, the extreme temperatures, and animals/ wildlife, and the fact that it is very rural all add to the challenges that one faces while running a massive ranch. Also trying to tame thousands of acres of land with anything less than an army is a magical feat in itself. But the crew working at Condor Valley does it! And makes the impossible, possible. In my eyes it is amazing to see what has developed on Condor Valley in just one years time. I arrived on the ranch a week shy of exactly a year since my first trip to the ranch. After spending most of my time on El Tipal (one of the farms on Condor Valley) during my stay, and spending endless weeks digging water ditches to the fields, weeding/ seeding, and clearing land, I admittedly felt overwhelmed and lost. I felt like the work and the cause were great but I couldn’t see the whole picture yet. After this return trip I could see it! The fields I cleared at El Tipal are all full of nut trees! 2,800 nut trees (I believe)! The water reservoir we built is fully functional! Successfully watering all these newly planted trees that stand about 2 to 3 meters tall and are green and healthy! This moment for me was unexplainable. The second day on the ranch I was brought out to El Tipal by Bruno because we had really bonded on El Tipal the year before and became brothers working side by side and Bruno knew I was dying to see the progress. Driving past the fields and talking about how much has happened in the 9 months since I left was magical! It is amazing how much work these guys accomplish way out in the mountains of Salta, Argentina. Between rebuilding the dam for the water reservoir to digging 2,800 holes and planting all of the nut trees to taking care of the horses, doing the feed lot for the cows, herding the sheep, growing vegetables, maintaining water ditches, and maintaining beautiful grape vineyards (not to mention constantly expanding), all without electricity, the crew that runs this farm, Martin and his boys, Bruno and Dario, do an unbelievable job and get quite an amazing amount DONE! The experiences I had on Condor Valley are endlessly on my mind and the highlight of most my conversations. I permanatly feel like I have a family and home there! And constantly entertaining the idea of dropping city life and the endless days of paper work for the modern gaucho life I have been blessed to witness at Condor Valley. I cannot wait to visit again and strongly encourage more people to ‘make an experience on Condor Valley’!