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What the People said and think about Ignacio “Nacho” Zaballa?


Friday, February 10, 2012

I remember years ago when I purchased La Margarita I had to look for a caretaker for the estancia. Gomez who had worked for the previous owners had decided that, at aged 72, it was time for him to retire and I agreed – it’s takes a lot of energy looking after an estancia. I put the word around the town that I needed a caretaker and since it was a time of crises here still I was inundated with offers from people who wanted to caretake La Margarita. They arrived on foot, on bike, in cars (that looked like  they should have been scrapped years ago)  and by horse. In the end I decided to hire Genco . He was an ex policeman and said that he wanted to live the country life and was very able to look after La Margarita. I liked him so I hired him. He worked for me on the understanding that at sometime in the future I would be looking for couple so that the caretaker’s wife could look after the house. Genko was great and he was as good as his word and really looked after La Margarita during his watch. I do remember however, he had one problem in that he had vertigo, a fear of heights so bad that a few rungs up a ladder were enough to bring it on. It meant that I had to do all the shimming up the windmill when there was a problem with it – a small price to pay. When his watch came to an end we left on great terns – he had found a girlfriend and he needed to spend more time in town. Along came Lalo with  Lettie his wife who  stayed for nearly five years. When his watch came to an end he certainly left La Margarita a much better place than he found it. He was a genius at fixing things – only when Lalo couldn’t fix it was it thrown away. It was a sad day when his watch was over and they both had to move to the next town to look after Letties father.  We placed an ad  for a new caretaker and hey pesto  we found Ignacio and Mariana. It takes time to get used to a new regime as you can imagine. It was the same when Genko left and Lalo started. Ignacio and Mariana have been with us now for around nine months and I have to say it is a pleasure to have them working on La Margarita. Ignacio is a genius with horses and they have never looked better, he works great with guest and always has a smile for them. Mariana works like a Trojan in the house looking after guests and making sure everything works how it should do plus making sure her three children are taken care of. Both Ignacio and Mariana speak English, which is a great bonus for guest when they come and can’t speak Spanish.  Their children Isabella. Francesca and Inaki are a delight and are definite bonus for the estancia. For me it is a pleasure to have this lovely couple working here on La Margarita. They have created a great ambience here, which is great – long may it continue. If you come to La Margarita I am sure you will feel the same way when you meet them.

This is David Cummings alias The English Gaucho hasta la vista
Posted by The English Gaucho at 2:44 PM

Friday, January 20, 2012

Alice in Estancialand

When we first decided to invite volunteers to work on La Margarita in return for full board and lodgings I was a little nervous for two reasons. One was I wasn’t sure anyone would apply and secondly I was unsure if it would work for us. The truth is I needn’t have worried at all. It has worked great for us and we have lots of people who have applied to work here and it is true to say that each and every volunteer who has worked here has brought something extra to La Margarita. For that I thank each and everyone one of you. Our latest volunteer Alyce has truly followed in that tradition. She has been fantastic and we will be very sad when her too short a stay is over next week. As always I invite our departing volunteer to write about their experience on La Margarita. Here’s what she has to say :

Hi, I’m Alyce, from Australia, and I’m the current volunteer at Estancia La Margarita.
Having backpacked extensively around Central & South America on previous trips, this time I wanted to spend longer in each place, and so some different things.
I found the Estancia on www.workaway.info (a veritable gold-mine for would-be volunteers), and as I have experience with both horses and customer-relations – and a passable grasp of Spanish – it sounded like the right place for me. After a Skype interview conducted entirely Spanish (which I managed to scrape through!) I was offered the position from late December to late January.
Upon arrival, I quickly discovered that core activities for guests are: Rest – Ride – Eat – Drink – Sleep – Swim – Relax! If you’re staff, or the volunteer, of course there’s a bit more involved than that!
Somewhat foolishly, I hadn’t considered that Christmas and New Year would be the busiest time of year, and I was surprised to discover we were all run off our feet for a couple of weeks. Averaging some 12-16 guests, I rapidly found myself “Estancia Coordinator Extraordinaire” – not only consulting twice a day with the guests to coordinate morning & evening rides, but also fielding all manner of requests: Do you have a wall-plug adaptor? / Can we go into town? / Could we have our bill now? / We need some fly-spray! / We want to reserve bus tickets to Buenos Aires / Do you have any cold beer? (etc)…  all of which were dutifully conveyed to the relevant person and resolved. Obviously, outside peak holiday periods it’s nowhere near as hectic, but there’s still quite a bit to do.
While David is the Estancia’s owner & Susana the General Manager, daily operations are run by husband & wife team Ignacio & Mariana, helped by their three energetic children – Igñaki (4), Francisca (7) and Isabella (9). Ignacio cares for the horses & maintains the property, while Mariana mans the kitchen and oversees the cleaning.
Both of them are amazing at making sure the guests feel comfortable and at home. Ignacio chats easily in English or Spanish on rides – cracking jokes and pointing out wildlife – while Mariana works ceaselessly in the kitchen to provide everyone with an ample breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea (cake, anyone? More cake?) and dinner.
The horses are excellent – well trained and well cared for – and in my opinion some of the best in Latin America. You want to stop? They stop! You want to canter? They canter! Regardless of what the other horses are doing, and even with beginners on-board! For people with demonstrable experience, there are a couple of super-fun horses to ride, although they’re usually reserved for Ignacio and his helper/s. The saddles here are quite different, but very comfortable – not even the beginners end up with sore backsides!
Would-be volunteers considering a stint at the Estancia should consider the following:
·       You need to be friendly, patient and well organised to interact with, and organise, the guests
·       You need to be an experienced rider, and be prepared to ride at, and supervise, all levels of ability. Sometimes you’ll be sitting alongside a nervous beginner, giving them instruction and encouragement, and other times you’ll be trying to rein-in over confident hoons who insist on galloping everywhere. Personally, my favourite rides were with the beginners. Every ride I helped them improve a little more, until they were cantering with confidence – perhaps not with much grace, but loving every minute of it!
·       If you’re a vegetarian, you need to be prepared to be surrounded by meat. This is meat-loving Argentina after all, and here at the Estancia they raise, kill & cook their own beef & lamb. All this meat is offset with a surprising array of salads – in fact I don’t think I’ve seen as many vegetables served anywhere else in Argentina as at the Estancia! If the kitchen is quiet, you can prepare your own meals, but when it’s busy you pretty much eat whatever the guests are eating (plus or minus the meat).
·       A typical summer day begins at about 7.45am, saddling the horses. Then you’ll escort one or two 1-hour rides – depending on guest numbers – at 8.30am and 9.30am. After unsaddling, I’m off to skim bugs & leaves out of the swimming pool, and sweep leaves from the patios. Around midday, I speak to the guests to see who wants to take the optional evening ride, and make a list of the guests & horses for Ignacio. Around 1pm to 4pm is siesta time – something which takes a bit of getting used to, but soon becomes a welcome break in the day, and a great way to escape the afternoon heat. If guests have nominated an evening ride, we saddle up again around 5.45pm, and head off at 6.30pm. Upon return, the plants need watering, and I check to see who wants to ride tomorrow morning and which horses they’d prefer, and pass the list onto Ignacio. Then finally it’s time to relax before heading to bed, in readiness for another day on Estancia La Margarita!
Ok there you have it. If you fancy being a part of the estancia team I think Alyce gives a great idea of what you will find here
This is David Cummings alias The English Gaucho hasta pronto
Posted by The English Gaucho at 6:48 AM 
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Antonio R
Lisbon, Portugal
1 review
4 of 5 starsReviewed March 11, 2013

We had the opportunity to discover slowly La Margarita and all their beauties surrounding.
Between Summer and Autumn we hosted many interesting guests! It was a great pleasure and entertainment! Drinking mate, argentinian wine and warming up at the fireplace!

Shared horseriding experiences, relaxed with sounds of nature and played cancha de bochas,
We felt immediately at home, cooled down in the swimming pool and we never felt alone with La Margarita friendly animals: chickens, dogs, cats, horses, sheeps, ñandus and lovely cows.

A warmth thanks to David and Susana for choosing us!
And Zaballa familt for their company, team work and friendship!

We have fallen in love for La Margarita and want to visit again!

Were unforgettable moments in the pampas!

António and Virgínia

Room Tip: Self service rooms are quite good but we prefered the rooms for the main house! All of them have li…

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  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 starsValue
    • 4 of 5 starsLocation
    • 5 of 5 starsSleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 starsRooms
    • 4 of 5 starsCleanliness
    • 4 of 5 starsService
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Heather F
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

3 reviews 3 reviews

Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 starsReviewed March 11, 2012

We went for the riding and weren’t disappointed. The horses at La Margarita were the most well trained and responsive horses we rode in the whole of Argentina (we have visited 5 estancias in total), and possibly best I have ridden in the world! Ignacio, the gaucho has a true gift with horses. They are happy and healthy and beautifully sensitive to ride. These are not horses tired of a life being ridden by numerous different tourists day after day.
We dithered about staying in the house or the self catering accomodation as we were on a fairly tight budget but would thoroughly recommend staying in the house if you can. The room was superb, large with en suite bathroom and doors onto the gardens. We were fed four amazing meals each day of mostly home grown produce, milk and meat. Marianna the cook should have 4 Michellin stars for her cakes alone.
Angela the English volunteer looked after us and made us feel very at home. Juan our gaucho guide showed us the local wildlife, even catching Armadillos for us to see.
When it was hot we lazed around the pool trying to evade the Rheas who tried to steal our sunglasses and eating exotic fruits straight from the tree.
Our stay at La Margarita was very special.If you are looking for a real estancia with wonderful staff and fantastic riding this is the place. We will never forget our stay.

  • Stayed February 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 starsValue
    • 5 of 5 starsLocation
    • 5 of 5 starsSleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 starsRooms
    • 5 of 5 starsCleanliness
    • 5 of 5 starsService
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Marion M
Bath, United Kingdom
1 review
5 of 5 starsReviewed January 15, 2012

‘Estancia la Margarita is the perfect place to while away several happy days in Argentina. It’s a working Estancia, which means from the moment you arrive you feel involved in the day-to-day life of the ranch. Everyone is welcoming, the other guests were all friendly and fun, and David and Suzana run the establishment like their own home – which it is. You don’t feel like a paying guest, but more like a family friend, dropping in to the Pampas for a magical few days. It’s a beautiful setting and close enough to Buenos Aires to be accessible, but far enough away to deter day-trippers. The self-catering rooms are midway between the main house and the stables, so perfectly placed for people like us who wanted to ride every day. Self catering is a terrific budget option: the rooms are relaxed and low key, set in beautiful gardens with a gorgeous terrace, with the option at any time of taking meals in the main house – or eating a tasty Argentine ‘asado’ of La Margarita home-reared beef – if cooking for yourself wears thin. We loved Ignacio and Mariana, the couple who run the riding and the kitchen. Ignacio is a true gaucho and a wonderful horseman, and their three children are gorgeous. The Estancia’s system of having an in situ volunteer for a month or so at a time to help with the riding and the fun is such a good idea. We loved Alys from Melbourne who made us feel so at home. Add to that soaking up the sun by the pool during the day and guitar music, stargazing and card games in the evening, and you have all the ingredients for a great holiday. All in all 5 stars – a terrific place to stay. Thank you – we’ll be back! Marion, Richard, Isabella & Alexander.’

  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 starsValue
    • 5 of 5 starsLocation
    • 4 of 5 starsSleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 starsRooms
    • 4 of 5 starsCleanliness
    • 5 of 5 starsService
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Chatham, New Jersey

17 reviews 17 reviews

 11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
5 of 5 starsReviewed October 12, 2011

I can’t even begin to say enough good things about this estancia. Our experience here was absolutely incredible.

We arrived by rental car from Buenos Aires. After struggling with Spanish for two weeks prior, we were excited to find the owners and staff spoke fluent English. The greeted us the moment we got out of our car and immediately took us on a tour of the grounds. Two dogs (Fido and Ronatta) followed us around as well as one of the gaucho’s son. We felt like we were being welcomed by family.

We rode for about three hours a day and saw armadillo, jack rabbits, cattle, sheep, birds and horses. We spent our rides chatting with the staff and gauchos and learning about the area and the estancia. The horses are extremely well-mannered. There are no lessons (at least they weren’t offered to us since we were intermediate-level riders) but we were very comfortable.

Later one day we were asked if we wanted to milk a cow. We’d never done so before and had a good time! The guests are free to wander the grounds so long as gates are closed behind. One night, a wine and appetizer happy-hour was arranged so we could mingle with the guests in the main house.

Our room was a self-cook room supplied with a full kitchen away (but close to) the main house. If I had to repeat the trip, I’d definitely stay in the main house. It looked much more warm and inviting, we heard each room had a fireplace and the food was to be excellent.

By the time we left I was truly sad. I really loved the people and this was the highlight of my entire time spent in South America. The people are SO kind and really felt like family. I loved it here! Thank you to Geraldina, Susanna, Ignacio and Cecilio.

You can see our video of stay here: http://vimeo.com/30335744

Room Tip: I suggest staying in the main house to take advantage of the home-cooked meals and the in-room firep…

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  • Stayed September 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 starsValue
    • 5 of 5 starsLocation
    • 5 of 5 starsSleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 starsRooms
    • 5 of 5 starsCleanliness
    • 5 of 5 starsService
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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