“Pare, pare.” I pull back on Kaiser’s reins and he stops. I’m well into my day’s work herding cattle. Four cows have wandered away from the main herd and they now stare moodily at me through dull eyes, chewing noisily.

Using Kaiser’s reins, I turn him to face the cattle. “Vamos,” I bark, digging my heels into Kaiser’s ribs. We advance on the cattle and they slowly turn, with more than a hint of insubordination, and begin meandering back to the herd. I move up on the right flank to direct them and then back behind them to hurry them up. I’ve got this gaucho thing sussed.

We’ve brought about 150 cattle in from a paddock at the top of the ranch and the vaccination pen is now within sight. At the narrow gate, it’s gridlock; cattle jostling and bucking and butting heads. Slowly, they squeeze through, one-by-one, into a narrow run, where they’re jabbed and then hurried on.

All that’s left is to take the horses back to the ranch and unsaddle them. Huan warns this is the most dangerous time, because the horses are excited to be heading home.

“You have been riding for a day – but you still know nothing about horses,” Huan booms. The bubble bursts.

Maybe I shouldn’t ask for a job after all.

All Griller no Filler
In the background, an old bloke works a giant parrilla, with six different tiers, all stacked with meat and vegetables, flames like dragons’ tongues licking up through the grills.

I order and, before long, my plate arrives. My eyes widen as I prepare to dig deep. It’s like three steaks pinned together. 

“Una cerveza, por favor, grande,” I say, gesturing to the beers in the fridge. I only have enough Spanish to drink and flirt clumsily – very clumsily. The guy behind the bar, white shirtsleeves rolled up, tinged black with parrilla smoke, points to the giant steak, back to the beer, rubs his tummy and laughs at me.

I laugh along amiably, but can’t help but wonder whether he’ll still be laughing when he has to carry me out.