" I think the beauty of Ranquilco - an incredible community nestled in the Patagonian mountains, overlooking the Trocomon River - is that no matter how many testimonials you read, or pictures you look at, or questions you ask T.A., it remains a mystery. And then, suddenly, it becomes a home.
At Ranquilco, I learned the beauty of the unexpected, when the magic of a place - and its people - reveals itself again and again, everyday. I could try my hardest to explain the unmatched taste of fresh baked bread slathered in dulce de leche (affectionately known as DDL) or the incredible feeling of moving through the mountains on horseback (when only weeks before I felt nervous leading the horses on foot). I could try to bring Tom (our fearless Intern Coordinator) to life. But every experience, every moment, is worth so much more when you make it your own.
I learned to hesitate less - to dive right in: grab that cow’s leg, pick up the chainsaw, run the angle grinder. I learned how to cook over an open fire, fish with a can, and hammer red-hot metal straight out of the forge. I learned more than I could have ever anticipated, but most importantly, I learned the power in being surrounded by people who are kind, adventurous, creative, and authentic. Life at Ranquilco is about learning how to thrive off of each other, off of community: through collaboration, creativity, and making do with what we have. It turns out a horseshoe has many uses.
At Ranquilco, I learned that feeling small - dwarfed by beautiful mountains, fast rivers, and a blanket of stars - can be a magnificent feeling. I learned that I am constantly changing, constantly reimagining what my future will look like (and that is more than okay). Every day was filled with laughter - at our warped picnic table during lunch and dinner, around Tom’s maté fires, while making tortas fritas (a crucial part of any asado) or clearing a pasture by felling trees and dragging brush.
I brought home with me an ardent sense of adventure, a need to get back to the wilderness as soon as possible, a recipe for focaccia, a love of horses, lifelong friendships, and an understanding that going slow - taking our time to create something (like that fresh bread I mentioned earlier, or an adobe wall, or a knife) - is something we each could use a little bit more of in our daily lives.
This experience - the wilderness, the stars, the horses, the people - is incredible. Lean into the unknown, you won’t regret it."
Annie Lord, U.S.A., 2020 Intern
"When I think of Ranquilco I now think of three things: simplicity, beauty, and laughter. I think of cooking over an open fire, and fixing things with scrap materials. You cannot simply go and buy a replacement for something while at Ranquilco. You have to walk down to the old water shed and cut off a piece of old appliance and lug it up to Tom’s Shop to pull apart and explore for materials. And that makes the end result that much more satisfying. There is an incredible joy in returning to the way humans used to live, tending carefully to needs and making use with what you have around you.
I think of beauty because of the remarkable landscape and staff. You are surrounded by expansive cliffs, deep valleys, and dusty mountain tops. It took my breath away every single time. And you are surrounded by the masterful staff. There is a beauty in how much you LEARN at Ranquilco. The staff, who you eat, sleep, cook, and laugh with, are all masters in one way or another. And each one can teach you something new: about woodwork, blacksmithing, horses, Spanish, or most importantly-how to live a happy and meaningful life. The extent to which they love what they do, and are willing to teach you it, is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
Finally, laughter. You spend almost every waking moment with the rest of the staff. Maybe you’re at Tom’s shop, drinking mate and angle-grinding knives. You’re in a pasture, helping fell trees and clear branches. You’re up on horseback, learning how to yip at horses so that they move where you want them to. And the best part of it all is that everyone is so happy to be exactly where they are, that they are constantly joking and laughing. No one is worried about their phones or making plans with others. Everything they need is right where they are. At Ranquilco. The result of this? Joy and laughter. A deep contentment that I think you would be pressed to find anywhere else.
So if you’re considering interning at Ranquilco: DO IT! You won’t regret it."
Eliza Lord, U.S.A., 2020 Intern
"The internship at Estancia Ranquilco offers both a comprehensive learning program and a life changing experience. The breadth of skills to learn ranges from farming, smithing, horsemanship, construction, and many other projects, all guided by those that have tremendous amounts of knowledge. This creates an environment to apply your interests and learn from those at a mentor level.
The Estancia is preserved in nature, offering endless views that give consistent perspective. The sense of community makes Ranquilco a perfect learning, living, and working environment. I hope to return here again and enjoy Estancia Ranquilco in any way possible."
John Monastero, U.S.A., 2019 Intern
"I can’t think of a more unique, challenging, or rewarding experience - for me, it was life changing. I packed mules, made two knives, rounded up horses, tanned a goat hide, shared mate with real gauchos, rode into El Cholar for a weekend rodeo, and learned that the simple things in life are the most important. I came to Ranquilco to embark on a gap semester from college and was searching for an opportunity to work more with cattle, until I realized the incredible things horses are capable of. Whether it was hearing thundering hooves through clouds of dust, racing down the airstrip, or navigating daring trails, the horses at Ranquilco will enchant you. In addition to horses, the people I worked and lived with quickly felt like family to me and I learned from them in the most incredible ways. Whether it was their compassion from the minute I arrived or their unique backgrounds, the community at the ranch creates its soul.
A repeat volunteer Greg told me “Everyone here is a little weird, but in a good way” … words which are true. You have to be a little crazy to want to live off the grid, grow much of your own food, and build things from scratch. But that is what makes this place so special. You will leave Ranquilco with different beliefs, values, and a greater appreciation for nature than when you arrived. To intern here is not for the faint of heart - it takes bravery to enter a completely different lifestyle for a couple months, but you can’t beat it!
Some memories I’ll cherish forever are dodging the dairy cow’s persistent kicks and charges, bartering peanut butter and a bottle of wine for chocolate and some cigarettes, eating my weight in goat and tortas fritas, and having the Milky Way blanket over me every night in the untamed Patagonian wilderness. The ranch felt much like a home to me, and I left a piece of my heart there, but I know it’s only a matter of time before I make my return. Thank you Estancia Ranquilco."
Adam Bittner, U.S.A., 2019 Intern
"I spent two months somewhere in the middle of nothing, more concretely, in Patagonia, about 3 hours by horse from the last little village (El Huecú). One may ask now what the hell you do two months long in the middle of nothing.. Well, I tell you, I had an awesome time! At Ranquilco we are crazy and we are hardcore; round up, mountain rides, fire skills, shitteau constructions, asados with a lot of wine, fishing, mule packing, milking, the art of cooking great meals with only few ingredients, baking, gardening (in order to have food!) and of course a lot of socializing and sharing around the fire. It’s a community of nature lovers and maybe somewhat hippies that gives Ranquilco its soul.
What I took away from this experience? There is one thing I understood and learned to appreciate; complete authenticity. It’s a lifestyle, it’s a mentality.”
Isabelle Affolter, Switzerland, 2018 Intern
“Life at Ranquilco was one of the most incredibly unique, challenging, and life-changing experiences. It’s certainly not for everyone, but if the idea of very rustic community living appeals to you, then I can not think of a better place to spend two months. In just two months I learned the basics of organic gardening, blacksmithing, horseback riding, fire making and even cooking! Tom is an incredible wealth of knowledge and his hard-working nature is incredibly inspiring and motivating. Any question related to Ranquilco, gardening, blacksmithing, homesteading, or really any topic, Tom had an answer, and more importantly, the ability to communicate that answer clearly and in a fun way. Not only is the internship a great way to learn all these different skills, you also develop a better understanding of the local gaucho culture and history. The asados and fiestas in El Huecu are unlike anything you’ll have experienced in the U.S., and a great opportunity to practice Spanish and witness a completely different lifestyle.
So much of what makes Ranquilco special, however, is not all the information you learn and absorb but the people. Two months in an isolated community is a very intense experience, but it leads to the formation of incredibly strong bonds that I’m confident will last a lifetime. Some of my favorite memories are just the simple moments like sitting around the campfire after dinner, the daily lunches at the picnic table...and I know were it not for the unique atmosphere that Ranquilco creates I would not remember these moments with such happiness.”
Tyler Sakakeeny, U.S.A., 2017 Intern
“I didn’t really know what I was in for in the slightest when I decided to go to Ranquilco as an intern. No matter how many questions you ask, a chat with TA would never do the experience justice. If you haven’t been exposed to a self-sustainable, community oriented, “rugged” lifestyle, or even if you have, the minute you set foot on Ranquilco property, you will be in for a fun and engaging push out of your comfort zone that could very well change your life.
Life as an intern mainly involves following other community members around, which gives you both a taste of all the work done around Ranquilco and an opportunity to learn from a variety of people. I fondly remember falling off a horse many times under the aloof, but concerned gaze of a seemingly stern Danish horseman, catching up on gossip while helping out two amazing chefs by not tinkering too much with their creations, shoveling goat shit out of a rickety tractor for the garden, and of course following around Tom! Who is Tom? Well, he is an absolute sweetheart who is good at most all things Ranquilco, knows it, and is there to help you learn as much as possible. He is the forgemaster and also invariably serves as the intern’s Mama Duck, and whether you want to or not, you will learn to laugh as his bounty of jokes because you are around him all day, every day!
In all this, the people of Ranquilco are what make the experience special, and with all whom you meet, you will learn how to live as a member of a close knit community where everyone plays a vital role in the orchestration of the ranch. Community choices will be purposeful, but life and the land will feel free for you to explore. Whether dancing with a gaucho at an infamous asado, riding out on a pack trip, or milking a cow at 6 am, Ranquilco will surprise you. Of all the places I’ve been, Ranquilco is the one my mind wanders back to the most, and I know most who go there feel the same, wishing to return soon again.”
Ankita Sharma, U.S.A., 2017 Intern
“I came to Ranquilco really not knowing what to expect, but with an open head and heart, wanting to experience as much of the remote Gaucho lifestyle as possible, I sure wasn’t disappointed!
We arrived at Sky and Chano’s ranch, mounted our trusty Argentine criollos, and within a few hours we were at the gate of Casa Grande being greeted by everyone at the Estancia like we’d known each other for years.
What followed over the next few months I truly can’t put into one to two paragraphs. As an intern at Ranquilco, we really did get to experience EVERYTHING that comes with living in the remote Patagonian wilderness...fly fishing (the Gaucho way), riding out into the Andes, conducting the daily round up of the horses and mulas, swimming under waterfalls, cooking the Gaucho way - asado!- , working in the blacksmith forge, supporting the development of the ever expanding garden and the construction of the new greenhouse, helping out at a yerra (so much fun), sleeping under the stars, writing haiku’s...the list is endless.
I’ve travelled all over the world, and I’m yet to find a place that is as special in my memories as this one. Tom the internship coordinator really is an amazing human, and he ensured that we had a super fantastic time throughout. I went to Ranquilco not speaking a word of Spanish, uneducated to the Gaucho way of life, not knowing a bombillia from a bota, and left less of a gringo…so much so I’m now the only ‘serbador' (that i know of) in my home city of Stoke on Trent.
In the words of one of my favourite poems- listen to the wild it’s calling you!
Pass me my maté and boina and take me back!”
Stephen Summer, England, 2017 Intern
“In our first intern meeting I said my motive to come to Ranquilco was to learn and experience all the things that educational institutions would never teach you. And who would have thought how wise I was? Because that is exactly what Ranquilco gave me… the opportunity to learn about the planet, myself, and life in general. The gardens, the housing, the landscape, the river, the horses, the tools, the work… especially the people made the internship incredibly filled and exciting, yet the most peaceful three months of my life.
Some days Tom would drag you into a new fun project like knife making or mushroom planting, some days you’d do everyday work that had to be done, and some days you might have to ride out and find horses being completely hungover. But every single day was special in it’s own way and brought to your mind how precious your happy lifetime is.
Everything two-legged becomes a friend-family hybrid, everything four-legged your trustworthy, hardworking companion or once in a while your highly valued victim on the asado. Speaking of value… next to gardening, baking, cooking, riding, blacksmithing, spanish, english, milking etc., appreciating was probably the most significant skill I earned at Ranquilco. Appreciating the smallest things around you that contribute to your survival and happiness.
It was the absolute best decision to do the internship at Ranquilco. First time, Second time or 30th time… anytime again!”
Rosanna Stolberg, Germany, 2016 Intern
I must speak of Tom. You will struggle to meet a better guy, with more knowledge, more skills, more authenticity, more passion, and an ability to share all this with you, and teach you and encourage you. Without a doubt, he is one of the a biggest hearted and best men I know. You will learn by ‘doing’ - getting sucked in to all sorts of projects. Along the way, you will be laughing and forming close friendships and making memories that will never leave you.
If you are wanting to follow a structured course, or if you have a specific agenda to your learning, this may not be for you. But if you want to experience ranch life, learn horse skills, learn a range of homesteading and ranching skills (determined primarily by what needs doing), and learn to live in a remote and wild environment, this may well be the place."
Naomi Hughes, England, 2016 Intern
"I knew I needed a change in my life, and was looking into various places and projects trying to find the perfect experience for me. I am so happy I chose Ranquilco!
Getting from Norway to Ranquilco the first time I will never forget. After 2 days of traveling I finally had my first proper riding experience - I was hooked from day one! The feeling when crossing the river and seeing Casa Grande for the first time was so amazing.
The scenery, the people, the horses, the garden, the kitchen, the gauchos, the asados, the rides, the food, the river.. INCREDIBLE!
Every day when I use my gaucho knife in the kitchen or on a fishing trip, still using the can/gaucho way of fishing, I think of Ranquilco.
I was an intern in 2015, but went back for a month the next season. That's how much I missed the place.
Ranquilco made me tougher - and also made me appreciate the smaller things in life. Thank you for letting me be a part of your unique community. You will be in my heart forever. Especially my two amigas Naomi and Rosanna. Kisses from the third amiga. Hope to see you all again sometime."
Julia Marie Naglestad, Norway, 2016 Intern
"What I Learned at Ranquilco:
How to get stuff done with less stuff;
How to feel connected to energy usage, as in butchering a goat to eat to make energy to chop firewood to boil water to make a hot shower to clean up after butchering a goat;
How people lived in 'simpler', 'more primitive' times, the gaucho-puesto lifestyle (and much of how we live being completely in keeping with how most humans have lived throughout most of human history)- How to build stuff from wood, starting with cutting down the tree! Yeeee-haaaa! Milling is awesome!;
How to cook on a wood stove (yeah, you think it'll be easy, but you have no idea until you do it day in and day out, first it's a fun challenge, then it's a pain-in-the-ass, then it's. . .just what you do);
How to bake bread (when it is the ONLY bread you'll eat, which totally changes your relationship to it);
How to cook like a gaucho, asado and pucheros 24/7, never gets old, so many different tastes and textures from the same ingredients, always with total appreciation for the animal;
How to eat like a gaucho, as a group, taking your time, THIS is what life is all about;
How We Make Meat from Animals, a.k.a. participating in butchering, one of the coolest things I did at Ranquilco, changed my whole perspective about reality, really, and what it is to be alive and human, and how I want to eat and how I feel about society, and how I want to live.
How to "buscar la vuelta" -- find the solution, in relation to working with limited tools and resources with major creativity and incredible patience and mellow perseverance, calmly knowing that it can be done, and that it doesn't need to be done 'great' or 'right', but it's just gotta work for today, and maybe tomorrow if we're lucky, 'gaucho style';
and. . . How to cut the hole in that box of wine!"
Ethan Salwen, U.S.A., 2012