What if I told you that it’s possible to travel to all the places you want and learn skills you’ve always wanted to learn at the same time? What if I also told you it’s dirt cheap; as little as $400aud for 1 month? I would normally be sceptical and say that anything that sounds too good to be true usually is and has to be a scam. Well this isn’t!!!
Have you ever wanted to learn how to care for horses, how to be a famer and grow fruits and vegetables, run a hostel or campground, operate a boating business, learn or teach a language etc etc. Well it’s all possible with Workaway. All you need is a friendly helpful can do anything attitude, a plane ticket, and a dream.
First thing to do is write down your dream. One of ours was to live and learn to be a farmer on a finca in Mendoza. In case you don’t know, this is one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world!
Second is to work out when you’ll be there and contact the host, in advance is preferable to get the placement you want.
Finally go and live your dreams. This was ours…
After two months in Patagonia our travel savings were looking a bit worse for wear. Patagonia was much more expensive then anticipated and with Argentina’s currency massively inflated we had spent a lot more then we’d planned. The solution we decided was to do a workaway (www.workaway.info), so we set up a profile and contacted hosts in the Mendoza area of Argentina – the wine growing region. Doing a workaway here would mean we could live out our dream, save money and drink fine Argentine Malbec at the same time! Genius!
We received the thumbs up from one of the workaway hosts Orlando, a passionate Argentinian from a family of farmers producing grapes, garlic, maize and walnuts to name a few of the wonderful produce on his Finca (Spanish for Farm).
The farm was a 20 minute walk from the small town of Tupungato, an hour and a half by bus to the south of Mendoza city. The house was very basic – no hot water, no TV, and no wifi, but it had a well equipped kitchen with a very hot oven, an outdoor sink, and under cover eating area. Plus a farm full of fruits and vegetables at our disposal. December to March is a great time to be in this area as the harvests are bountiful and you will be eating juicy fruits straight from the tree. In the four weeks we stayed here we only spent about $400aud, and this was mainly on Argentinian wine 😉
During our workaway we also got to know some wonderful people; firstly the host Orlando and his wonderful family, secondly other workawayers, and thirdly many locals around the town. We spent the first week with a Swiss girl before a boy from Germany arrived. Towards the end of our stay a French couple with a two year old girl came as well. We also shared the finca with a family of dogs – the one eyed father “Pirate”, the mum and their two pups Nieve (snow) and Graso (fatty). There was also three hens and a beautiful yet territorial rooster that attackd us both numerous times. We had to resort to carrying around a stick in defense, and Orlando would put him into “prison” if he was too naughty.
Our mornings were spent helping on the farm, this included weeding using a hoe or machete, building climbing structures out of bamboo for the tomato and squash, driving the tractor, planting seeds, picking fruit, and spraying organic bug repellent. After four hours in the hot Andean sun, we would feast on the fresh produce and cook lunch with the staples that Orlando provided (flour, rice, pasta, and jars and jars of last year’s harvest of bottled tomato sauce and marmalades).
A siesta would follow, especially as the town of Tupungato took this very seriously and all shops would close from 1pm to 5pm each day. After 5pm, as the suns heat started to cool, we would make the 20 minute trek along a river lined with weeping willows to Tupungato town. The pandanaria always had fresh bread and we’d get a kilo for 15pesos, then to the supermarket for cheese, salami and of course wine. With our supplies we would walk to the centre of town to the most beautiful plaza to picnic and use the free wifi.
For such a small town there was also many many ice cream shops, which never closed. Even during siesta time, you could buy ice cream, even on public holidays and Christmas day, you could buy ice cream. Our favourite ice cream, as recommended by our German friend, was the Bon Bon Escoses from Grido Helado. At 10 pesos this treat is a bargain,
On our days off we also visited bodegas in the area, including:
Domain Bousquet – A relatively new organic winery. They do tours and tastings in English and Spanish and prices start from 80pesos for 3 wines – they are very generous with their tastings and the architecture of the winery is magnificent.
Mirador de Estrellas – The cellar door and shop is located in the town of Tupungato. They do a range of lovely wines as well as nuts, preserves and dried fruits. There is a beautiful garden to sit and taste the wines.
We also trekked into the Andes mountains from the small town of Manzano – 35km from Tupungato. If you can, get a ride to the guard station and then hike from there. This place is very scenic but much hotter to trek than southern Patagonia.
All in all we thoroughly enjoyed our first Workaway and would highly recommend this experience to anyone.