Dear Friend of La Estancia de Cafayate,
David Galland here. For those who don’t know me, I’m a partner in Casey Research, the international investment research firm serving over 200,000 customers around the world.
Today, however, I am writing you as a full time resident of La Estancia de Cafayate, the lifestyle and sporting estate that my business partner Doug Casey help found here in the scenic northwest of Argentina.
I do so in the hopes of helping you understand why Doug felt Argentina, of all the places in the world, was ideal for building his unique retreat for individuals looking to live life to its fullest.
And, hopefully, to convince you to make the journey to La Estancia for the Annual Harvest Celebration this March 25 -30. It could be a truly life-changing experience.
I’m not using the phrase, ‘life-changing’ frivolously – because living here has changed my life in all the right ways.
Give me just a minute or two of your time and I think you’ll understand how.
A Day in the Life
In just a moment I want to address some of the negative news items that so regularly appear in the Western media. But first I think it’s important to understand the context for La Estancia. And the best way I can think of doing so is to share a brief overview of the lifestyle here in the Argentine outback.
To that end, here’s a glimpse of daily life at La Estancia de Cafayate.
This morning I woke to yet another beautiful day. It’s the rainy season and so we had a brief storm last night making the fresh air of the high desert where Cafayate is located, especially crisp.
That’s one important thing to know about Cafayate: the weather certainly ranks among the best in the world for year-round living. I don’t have the specific number, but I believe there is on the order of 320 days of sunshine annually. Even in the middle of winter here, as is the case in places like Napa Valley, the sun shines most days and, on most evenings, you can still eat dinner al fresco on the town plaza.
There is a saying that goes “any place ideal for growing grapes, is ideal for humans to live”. As you’ll see when you visit, the quaint valley in which Cafayate is situated is covered by a blanket of vineyards.
After and a light breakfast, it was off for a round of golf on the Bob Cupp designed golf course, arguably the best in Argentina and certainly one of the best in South America. Today I played with one of my regular partners, Frank, a retired doctor and aviation company owner from Pittsburgh. (I won, but not by much.)
We had timed our game to end at the busy Clubhouse at La Estancia just in time for lunch with the family and another resident, a very interesting fellow who has worked as everything from a fur trapper to a (successful) wildcat prospector.
That’s another thing to understand about La Estancia – the community of owners, consisting of individuals from 33 countries from around the world – are some of the most interesting people you'll ever meet. There are nuclear engineers, cyber-security experts, authors, doctors, well known wine-makers, pilots (for some reason, quite a few of those), farmers, publishers, mining professionals, architects, even a former “Supreme Court” judge from South Africa). More importantly than their careers, however, is their shared outlook, an outlook that noticeably includes a love of freedom and a passion for living life to its fullest.
Back to lunch at the Jack Zehren designed Clubhouse, today Chef Matias’ daily special was a delicious dish of chicken in a wine based mushroom sauce served over rice. That, plus desert and drinks, came to all of $8.00. In a moment I'll discuss the cost of things a bit more, but let me say now that you´ll be shocked at how inexpensive life can down there.
After lunch, I drove my golf cart home and took the prerequisite daily siesta – a quick 30 minutes to recharge the batteries – then changed into jeans and boots and picked up my daughter and another student at the learning environment set up here at La Estancia. As I’m trying to keep this brief I won’t go into detail, but will say that I literally could not be happier our two children are out of the traditional school system back in the states – which as far as I can tell is little more than a training ground for bad habits - and here, working with a fantastic instructor who helps support and guide each of them in a personalized curriculum.
With the kids in tow, I headed down to the stable and polo grounds at La Estancia where we keep our three Criollo horses. While the region is known for the Paso Peruano breed – a particularly fine breed with a smooth gait reminiscent of the Tennessee Walking Horse – I have long been a fan of the hard working, tough little Criollos.
While today’s ride was primarily for pleasure, I am actually in training for a 150 kilometer, three day race that will pit me and one of my Criollos against the head of a local wine bodega and his prized Paso Peruano. It’s all in good fun, the challenge made one night after a bit of wine at a birthday fiesta.
That kind of thing happens around here all the time, underscoring about a key point about Argentina and Cafayate, in particular: the locals are extremely friendly and welcoming. While I can count the number of my good friends on two hands back in the town in the U.S. where I lived for over 20 years, after just two years down here I have a hard time keeping up with all the people I can now call friend. In fact, when I threw a party for my sixtieth birthday last October we had over 120 guests.
In any event, after saddling the horses using the traditional sheep skin covered saddles, we enjoyed a wonderful ride – La Estancia is 7 kilometers from the entrance to the sand dunes at the back of the property and is covered with great trails. There are two full time gauchos who work with the forty or so horses on the property and who are always available to show you around.
And now I’m home, writing you to you. Outside the sun is beginning to fade, presenting a new aspect to the ever changing landscape of the surrounding mountains – like Sedona, Arizona, mountains formed out of multi-colored rock, noticeably including the famous ‘red stripe’ cutting across the entrance of the world famous quebrada. That's the Grand Canyon like valley you’ll drive through to arrive at Cafayate from Salta City, the nearest large city. (It’s a 3 hour drive. Did I mention that Cafayate is a remote setting? That remoteness is a big factor in why it has been so well preserved and why it was chosen for Doug Casey’s retreat).
This evening is the weekly Pizza night at the beautiful Grace Cafayate Hotel & Villas which was recently completed on the property at La Estancia, but tonight we’ll probably just stay home and grill a beautiful steak, asado style, washed down with one of the many fine local Malbec wines.
Then there’s tomorrow…
Not to go on, but tomorrow I will be enjoying an outdoor breakfast at Café de Sol on the quintessentially quaint plaza, followed by a workout and maybe a massage at La Estancia’s world-class Athletic Club and Spa.
Then it’s back to the stables to exercise Corazon, the horse I’ll be riding in the ‘big race’. After lunch and a siesta, I’ll be joining up with a group of residents for the inaugural meeting of a weekly investment club. (As there are some very smart investors in residence here – many of them Casey Research subscribers – I expect this to be a valuable exercise.)
Speaking of clubs, there are also regularly scheduled circuit training classes, stretching classes, a dance class, a golf group, a craft group and a writing club… plus weekly volley ball games, squash club and more – all run by residents.
Friday morning it’s golf again, then (after lunch and a siesta) a meeting of residents working on the Harvest Celebration, followed by a special Valentine's Day dinner at the Club.
Saturday I’ll do some work around the house, then the rest of the day will be spent with a horse consultant who will help me hone my training regime. Not sure what we’ll be doing for dinner, but there is always something going on, so maybe it will be a dinner on the plaza at El Terruno, one of my favorite restaurants (there are at least six fine dining restaurants in Cafayate, thanks to the tourist trade who travel here to visit the wine bodegas and to experience the stunning drive through the Quebrada.
And then town goes crazy, but in a good way, with the onset of the 40th Annual Serenata Folk Music festival. If I had time to say more on that topic, I would – but you’ll probably get the picture when I tell you that this little town of about 13,000 people is flooded with another 30,000 folk music aficionados from all over Argentina. It is one heck of a party.
I could go on, but as this is already going longer than I intended, I’ll sum up the lifestyle here as extremely active and engaged. In addition to everything going on at La Estancia and the town (which is only five minutes from the front gate), the immediate area offers an almost limitless array of things to do and see… great hiking and mountain biking, archaeological digs, trips to towns founded by conquistadors, Inca trails, horse back rides to nearby estancias followed by traditional Argentine asados, waterfalls and much, much more.
The people, the culture, the food, the wine, the weather, the scenery – that and more will bring even the most jaded individual back to life.
Though my friends back in the frozen north are fascinated by our move down here last year, invariably the question of Argentina – or, more specifically, the misguided government of Argentina – comes up.
Understandable because, for whatever reason, it seems that every misstep the Argentine government makes ends up in the headlines of Western media. Granted, some of the missteps are epic – and yet, this is a country accustomed to economic crisis and so most Argentines shrug it off and get on with their lives.
Have there been flare ups of social discontent? Sure. But only in the large cities, especially Buenos Aires. Yet here in the scenic northwest, the pace of life goes on with hardly a blip. Families stay connected and everyone knows each other. In addition, the town is very successful – meaning everyone that wants a job has one.
Importantly, the cost of the basics of life is relatively inexpensive, even for an Argentine. And it is almost ridiculously cheap for dollar and euro based individuals for whom the inflation, though unfortunate, actually works to our advantage. In fact, I built our very high quality house (it will be standing for 100 years) for less than US$ 150 per Sq. Ft.
But as far as the temper of the local society, it’s important to note that personal debt is almost unknown here and so most families outright own the roof over their heads. And, because Salta is primarily an agricultural region, food is abundant and, as noted, very inexpensive. (My high quality steak tonight will cost, maybe, $1.50 a pound.) Furthermore, the town’s power come´s from a well-run hydroelectric facility about two hours from here, providing inexpensive and reliable energy. That, and the weather, means no one has big power bills to deal with and no one is going to freeze come winter.
Still on the topic of the generally high quality of life, it is hard to overstate how much of a change it is to be able to readily afford domestic help. In our home, we have a wonderful maid who comes in five days a week and does all the cleaning, all the dishes and all the laundry – for just $250 a month. Never again have to wash a dish, or make a bed, or do the laundry, for $250 a month? The cost would be ten times that, back in the US or Europe.
Returning to the question of Argentina, there is a lot of misinformation about the country. It is, despite poor government, a generally successful country, boasting the second largest economy in South America and the highest per capita GDP in the region (outstripping even Chile). As ace money manager Claudio Maulhardt pointed out in a recent article in the Casey Daily Dispatch, last year the Argentine stock market gained 64% while overall Latin American markets lost 16%.
That’s because, while there is no question the economy is headed towards a wall, the poor election showing of the current government, and the speed of the recent peso decline, are such that smart investors are beginning to invest ahead of an expected rebound. And, if history is any guide, the rebound should be a stunner.
In other words, the country is a lot closer to the end of its troubles than the big Western money printers whose troubles are only beginning.
Again, it’s important to stress: this is a country that is blessed with amazing natural wealth. Energy, minerals, massive agricultural lands, a generally well-educated population (the vast majority still close to their European roots) and a homogenous culture. In fact, it has everything it needs to once again resume its position as one of the world’s most robust economies (just after WWI it was the sixth largest economy in the world).
Pretty much the only thing standing in its way is the government, and that’s about to change.
For understandable reasons, most people fall into ruts and let life pass them by. I cannot stress enough how dramatically our move down here has changed our lives – and entirely for the better. Starting with the health benefits.
When arriving down here from a spell in the U.S. I almost immediately drop 10 pounds thanks to a combination of a far healthier, more natural diet, and a much more active lifestyle.
And I am the rule not the exception. My golf buddy Frank figures living here will add 10 years to his life. Another resident arrived here three years ago overweight and stressed – today he could rate an article in a fitness magazine.
As importantly, there is the intellectual challenge of moving to a new culture. When I arrived my Spanish was pretty minimal. Today, with a bit of study and through steady interaction with my Spanish speaking friends, I can enjoy a conversation about most things, entirely in Spanish. They say that keeping your mind active is important to stave off the mental decline associated with growing older, and I’m a believer.
But let me, finally, get to the point. If you feel in the slightest stuck in a rut, living in a less than ideal climate, under a government seemingly determined to chip away at your freedoms, watching your financial resources drained away by high costs, then do yourself a big favor and make plans today to attend the Annual Harvest Celebration here at La Estancia, March, 25 – 30.
It’s one of the nicest times of the year here, and the town is alive with the annual grape harvest. More importantly, it’s a wonderful time to meet with owners and with like-minded individuals who share a passion for living life to the fullest.
Simply put, the only way to even begin
to understand what’s going on down here at La Estancia de Cafayate is to visit.
Both Doug Casey and I will be here, along with about another 100 owners and guests I can guarantee you’ll enjoy meeting. But time is running short, so don’t put off registering.
To get started, and for more information on the Harvest Celebration, drop La Estancia an email today to: VIP@LaEst.com.
It’s quite a journey to get here, but once you’re here you’re here, and the benefits of visiting could end up lasting the rest of a long and rich life time. Regardless, you are in for the holiday of a lifetime.
Hope to see you here!