Widgets Polo Day! Tony makes a fool of himself on a horse [October 2, 2010) - A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care

Polo Day! Tony makes a fool of himself on a horse [October 2, 2010)

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I don't think we can say enough good things about the South American Explorer's Club. Lonely Planet's South America on a Shoestring recommends them so frequently that I had initially assumed there were kickbacks involved. The accolades are well-deserved, however, and I wish we'd joined earlier. They have offices in Quito, Lima, Cuzco and Buenos Aires. Members can have mail delivered to the SAE offices and held for them. But most importantly, the SAE staff provide a wealth of local knowledge and organize events with other travelers.

It was through SAE that we ended up driving into a Buenos Aires suburb in order to watch a practice polo match, with the expectation that we could give it a try ourselves. Polo days are a common tourist activity in Buenos Aires, but they're quite pricey, and SAE managed to book the excursion at a significant discount (albeit without the heart-attack inducing asado as a post-game meal).

How did we make out?

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Posted at the polo club

As a spectator sport, there's a lot to be said for polo. We were seated at the centerline of the field, and when the action's close, it's almost too close. Perhap my ancestors were pikemen: thousands of pounds of horse trampling its way towards me in a controlled charge triggers an instinctive unease. But those moments pass quickly, and the line makes its way towards a goal a binocular's view away. In all, beer, choripan, and the spectacle of ten horses beating their way down the field is a great way to spend a day.

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We watched several "chukkas" (roughly, ten minute periods, after which the horses are changed), and then our host offered to show us the ropes. None of us were really naturals, although if we could have combined a few of our party into a single horseman, we would have made a fine polo player. Two women were already experienced on horses, and could get them to gallop. I, on the other hand, was convinced that kicking the horse's ribs too hard would break them, and never managed anything above a canter. However, my long arms gave me an advantage in actually hitting the ball. This lead to a lengthy competition of slow-motion polo, in which various faster horses would try to steal the ball from me, but miss, followed by my horse waddling up and me thwacking the ball in some more-or-less controlled direction.

I got lucky: my allergies to horses didn't act up. All in all, a great day, made better by meeting members of the polo club and the South American Explorers. Two of the latter were a couple also making their way around the world on a very lengthy honeymoon.

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Hurray for more-or-less controlled thwacking! Sounds like a fine day out altogether.

You mean to tell me you could have ridden an elephant or a horse to your wedding?

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