To make the trip, we recruited part-time photographer Paulo Sanchez and his smooth-cruising Land Rover Discovery called Matilda, which we stacked with food crates, bales of hay, rolls of wire (to reinforce the buildings), a chainsaw (for firewood) and the puppy (for company).
Around lunchtime, we arrived at Las Mellizas, a grassy clearing with just four small huts (only one of which is in use) and a wooden coral. Set back from a wide, shallow stream and surrounded by hills, it blended easily into the steppes, except for the two horses that were galloping up and down the wire fence. As we trundled through the gate, José came out to meet us. I don't know if it was because I expected someone gruff, hardened and slightly wild, but José surprised me. Slim with dark skin and a mop of black hair protruding from under his boina, he was wearing boots, baggy jeans and a blue jacket - not much given the biting mountain air. He smiled warmly, revealing a diagonally chipped front tooth, and invited us in to the main hut.
I have since discovered that Carol, my host, once spent 10 days living at Las Mellizas with her 20-day-old daughter. As such, should the opportunity arise, I will have a crack (albeit armed with a four-day supply of spinach empanadas and red wine). Needless to say, I have been watching recent asados and how to make a good fire with studied interest!