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2015 Argentina Calling

Argentina calling....  We will fly. At the beginning of January 2015 for 3 months and ride through Argentina from south to north. We have no idea how far we will get, but we will buy horses in El Calafate and ride them north along the Andes. We are currently in the middle of preparing for the 3000 km tour. Horses and saddles, equipment and route planning.... everything needs to be planned and prepared. It won't be uncomplicated, but it will be adventurous and exciting. Learn Spanish quickly and then we can set off....

Thanks to Caro, we have made contact with Gerardo and his friends in El Calafate. We will select and saddle 3 horses on an estancia there. They have never been shod.... So let's see if we can manage that. And they haven't really seen cars either, at least not in a town. It's going to be an adventure.... We have organized saddles. We'll send one, we'll get two there. Hopefully... Everything else we have to buy locally... Reins, blankets etc. Let's see where we can buy something.



26.11.

In the meantime, Garmin and military maps have arrived. These are 1:500 k and at least 30 - 40 years old, but there is hardly anything else. The Garmin map once again gives me cause for annoyance. But at www.gps.com.ar I was finally able to download a usable digital topo map. Paper maps are organized and the food and equipment are test-packed. One western saddle is coming with us, the others we will buy on site. The horses will get an ear tag (or similar), a blood test for anemia and an AKU have been arranged. Also the sales papers documented by a justice of the peace. Caro Wolfer and the Long Riders have provided us with helpful contacts and Jose, a long-distance rider who lives in El Calafate, will select the horses for us. A Swiss friend who runs a riding business in Bariloche is also supporting our project with valuable tips and information. We have planned a route of 3000 km, but expect to cover around 2000 km in the 3 months. All in all, the equipment weighs 23 kg plus 10 kg of food. This will be transported on the packhorse. As I don't have a western saddle, I had to think of an alternative for the gaucho saddle. My front panniers are now on the packhorse and my rear ones on my gaucho saddle. The banana is also transported by the packhorse. Last week I made three knotted halters and organized the presents (pocket knife and 4 kg of chocolate).




6.12.

Here are our horses. They will be shod and the next project will be to get them used to the electric fence. They should be familiar with hobbles and halters. We will have to start slowly and build up slowly, as they are not used to being out for many days in a row. Also traffic, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, will still pose challenges. They cost about 1000 USD but the costs for vet and lab test, farrier, sales papers (certified by the justice of the peace) and transportation to El Calafate add another 600 USD. The horses are actually named according to their coat colors and markings (Gateado, Colorado Malacara and Colorado Pampa, and are also given a call name.



Rubio, Gateado, Nice Daniletto, Colorado Malacara, Cacique, Colorado Pampa

Horse, good withers, back, eleven years, looks good 8 years, certainly also a at the age of ten, the whole. Mestizzo with calf's blood go well


The horses will be brought from 300 km south to El Calafate and put up at a ranch where we will also be staying. It is just outside El Calafate near the airport and we will first work with the horses on arrival. Then we will complete our equipment, adjust saddles, get blankets, reins, tethers, ropes and pack ropes and then go on a first 4-day tour to the glacier. Then we'll return to El Calafate and add more equipment or send stuff home. That's the plan, let's see how it really turns out. 




6.12.

Jose Argento Jose explained to me that you can only get into the Moreno National Park with a permit. The prices for overnight stays at the haciendas vary from 11 to 750 USD and it will be exciting. 





2.1.

On January 2 in the evening we fly to Heathrow and from there at 10 pm to Buenos Aires. After a 14-hour flight, we have time to fly on to El Calafate by 3.30 p.m. locally.

At the airport we meet Levi, who wants to ride as a novice in order to learn as quickly as possible. In the evening at 6 pm, Gerardo takes us to the Hacienda Bon Accord. We are happy to have arrived.

The plan: we ride 2500 km north through Patagonia on Criollo crossbreeds to Bariloche. We have 3 months to get to know the country and its people. We, that's Pat and I, plus Levi Turk from Hungary.



4.1. 

On Sunday, we drive 300 km south to the Hacienda Vangurdia, where our horses are stabled. So far we have only chosen them on the basis of pictures and have relied on the fact that the local long rider, Vanina and Roberto Beheran have recommended them to us as trustworthy. In the evening we have the usual assado and spend the night so that we can have the papers signed and notarized the next morning.

Roberto and Vanina only breed horses as a hobby, as there are only 120 horses, and live mainly from their 1000 cows, 12000 sheep and 300 pigs. The Pampa is tanned, although it is only early summer, and the sun burns lips and face in no time at all.

The three Criollo cold blood mixes are super friendly and pleasant to ride by Argentinian standards. They are about 150 cm tall and strongly built with good hooves and good backs. Rubio, the light-colored one with an eel line, is the most timid and turns his right hind hoof when he walks. Kachice, the bay, is very quiet and calm and Daniletto is a sly dog, both are about 6 years old. The gray Pinochio was intended as a replacement horse and is now ridden by Levi.




 

6.1. 

Gerardo takes us shopping and we spend the whole day in El Calafate.

The small town, which now has 20k inhabitants, has grown by 400% since 2005 and is a real tourist stronghold. In addition to the groceries, we need a saddle with a tree for me, ropes and gas cartridges as well as front gear for the packhorse. I buy a new Chilean saddle for 450 USD. Food prices are comparable to Switzerland, only meat is very cheap. The days are incredibly long, as the sun rises at 5.30 am and doesn't set again until 10 pm. The pace is very slow, you wait patiently at the checkout for 5 minutes for your credit card to clear. And you can hardly get anything in your stomach before 11pm. It's usually grilled lamb and salad or grilled beef steak, so you go to bed with a heavy stomach.





7.1. Porito Moreno Gletscher

The next morning we set off for the Perito Moreno Glacier, which is about 80 km away. The first day's stage is only about 25 km inland to the town of El Calafate. We learn that the horses can easily climb over barbed wire fences that are simply laid on the ground and we also learn that the wind blows differently here in Patagonia. We would call this hurricane gusts, but here it is just normal wind. (Mui Lindo) We ride along the road until we find an open gate and then ride along the mountains. On the way, Levi loses his cell phone, so we spend about 2 hours looking for it. We find it again and ride to Roberto Beheran's brother's hacienda. Shortly before our destination, we are slowed down by a deep ravine and it takes us about an hour to ride around it. It was not marked on the map. We will probably experience similar surprises. At the ranch, we are greeted by a pack of yapping dogs and the owner's nephew. We are allowed to stay and let our horses out to pasture. Soon the food is cooked and we crawl into our sleeping bags.




8.1. Rio Mitri

A horse neighs at 5 o'clock. But I pay no attention to it. When I get up at 6 o'clock, the horses have gone. I wake Pat and follow the tracks, but they soon get lost because there are too many horses around. So I walk across the grounds towards the fence where we came from yesterday. The horses are either there or they have climbed up the hill in search of better grass. After I can't find any tracks at the eastern fence, I call Pat and tell her to look for the horses above the stables. An hour later I'm back and just manage to catch Pat leading the horses down the hill. Lucky me. We have breakfast and then ride west on the gravel road towards the glacier. Pat tells us that her Rubio is starting on the hard track, so we switch to the bumpy grass track next to the road. It seems to go better here. We reach the Rio Centinella and have to cross a wooden bridge, which Danielito and Cechique refuse to cross. On both sides of the bridge, cars block the road and wait patiently until we have the horses across. I lead the first two, and later Pat takes Danielito, the packhorse.

10 km further on, the lead rope of the packhorse gets under Rubio's tail and he panics. While Pat is still trying to pull the rope out, Rubio darts off, bucking, and Pat takes the saddle with him on the involuntary descent. Now it's finally too much and Rubio runs and bucks until he has got rid of all his luggage and only the saddle is still hanging under his belly. He jumps up the embankment, comes face to face with the fence and decides to jump over it. He tears his chest on the barbed wire, but gets over without any problems. Now it's off to the other side and while I tie up the other horses and look for the lost luggage, Rubio finally gets rid of the saddle. Pat gets unhurt and I get hold of Rubio at the fence. With a broken saddle but otherwise complete again, we lead the horses to the nearby Estanzia Anita, where we call Estavan from Rio Mitri, where we wanted to spend the night. He comes to meet us by car and we can load the luggage into the car and Pat rides the packhorse down to Rio Mitri. After dinner, we lay down on the grass next to the horses to sleep around midnight.



9.1. 

In the morning, Pat drives to Glaciar Perito Moreno with a German couple. Levi wants to drive the horses up with the gauchos and I repair the saddle and the other damaged parts from yesterday. Later, Levi and I want to go up the valley to see the glacier from above. After the morning's ride, Levi explains that he has just lost 2000 USD off-road. So much for our ride. Levi spends the rest of the day searching the 10 km2 pasture. I help him for 3 hours, but it's not until 8pm in the evening that he's another 2000 USD richer. We look at the photos of the glacier and enjoy the Assado. The people here are really nice. I spend the day studying the maps that Dominik sent me. Unfortunately, I can't take the 8 kg of paper maps with me, so they have to go back.



10.1 Rio Centinella

We have a hearty breakfast with cake and dolche leche (caramel cream). We saddle up and put on warmer clothes because it's getting noticeably colder. We ride southeast and it starts to sleet and snow. We try to pick up the pace and trot for several hours on the softening ground. We find an abandoned puesto (farmhouse of an estancia covering an area of 25x25 km), but decide to ride on in the hope of finding an inhabited puesto further up. Towards evening we find it and the two gauchos invite us to stay and enjoy an assado with them. We gladly accept.



11.1. 

The next morning initially promises drier weather, but it is only just above zero and there is snow 100 m higher up. The path marked on the map doesn't exist, so we simply take the next valley up the mountain. It gets very narrow and we have to zigzag up the hill. The horses willingly climb up behind us, but Rubio seems to be really lame now. At the top we are greeted by a 30 km long plateau and a full-blown snowstorm.

Pat decides to lead the way and after 2 hours in the snowstorm the sun suddenly breaks through. We see 100s of guanacos (a type of llama) and a subspecies of ostrich (nandus) as well as wild herds of horses. We reach the end of the valley around 7 p.m. and find an abandoned puesto on top of Buen Kabe mountain, which at least promises protection from the icy wind. The horses are hobbled and tied to stakes for free grazing. We crawl into our sleeping bags after dinner in minus 4 degrees. The horses defy the weather with stoic calm.





 

12.1. back to Bon Accord

At 8.30 we are on the road and follow the course of the river to the east. After 10 km we turn north to reach the valley that leads us down to Bon Accord. A few herds of guanaco seem to follow us curiously, while the herds of horses take off as soon as they spot us. Only one black stallion gallops towards us, demonstrates his power and then darts off again with thundering hooves. We ride the 20 km to the north and then reach the road that leads back down into the valley with the connecting road. Pat walks most of the way, I take over from her from time to time. Around lunchtime we meet Andree, the gaucho from Bon Accord who is bringing a herd of cows up the mountains. Gerardo's uncle has a misunderstanding about the shortest route and we take another 3 km wrong before finally arriving at Bon Accord, tired and exhausted. Gerardo isn't there, but his mother kindly takes care of us. Now we have to take care of the lame Rubio before we can continue. The first 200 km of Patagonia are done. I have underestimated the cold and the wind and am going to buy a gaucho poncho.



18.1 Lago Argenino

6 days later Rubio is fit, we have bought food and extra clothing and optimized our luggage so that we can venture out. We start early in the morning and ride to the lake, along which we will later reach our trail. Levi rides along with uins, but as he hardly knows anything about riding, there are always incidents and Pat is not amused.




20.1. two days in the desert at thirty degrees, we do just under 90 km. The jog of the horses is wonderful to sit on. And at just under 9 km/h we make good progress. The horses haven't lost any weight yet, even though their diet is extremely lean. It's unbelievable how frugal the horses are. After just under 50 km, we have had enough of country road 40 (Routa Quaranta), which we follow. We put down the fence and ride down to the river. The horses are hungry and tired. So are we. We have to cross barbed wire again and then about 500 m further on there is a small meadow opposite a puesto that I found on the map. We hitch up the horses there and cook dinner. The puesto is uninhabited and we sleep next to the hut.

 



21.1. Rio Leana

Breakfast at 6.30 a.m. We want to saddle the horses before the tingling midges eat them. But it's too late, they're already all over us. We take a break at Rio Lena and then continue until 4pm. We see a campsite and decide to stay here. The leg of rump that Gerardo gave us goes into the oven and we enjoy the cool beer at the campsite. The 2 kg of meat is enough for 4 meals.





22.1. 

We have breakfast with coffee and cake and pay USD 5 for a 5dl beer, overnight stay with shower and breakfast 35. The sky is cloudless and it's going to be very hot and very dry today. We stop for lunch in the shade of some trees and by 7pm we are at the estancia we have been told about. 35 km today, another 75 to El Chalten. I'm burnt out from the 30+ degrees and the scorching sun. At the estancia, the heavily pregnant woman is not authorized to make decisions. Her husband is fishing for dinner and will be back in an hour. We unsaddle and put our luggage in the stables. The horses are hobbled and I lie on our luggage in the stable and write my blog. Little Colli sleeps next to me.




23.1 Estanzia Margarita

Today we set off at 5.30 am to escape the heat. We were on the road until 8am, but the horses were hungry. They spurned the green stuff in their paddock. So off to the water for a drink and 30 minutes of nibbling spiky bushes. We have to cross 5 new fences, but the 3 mestizos know the drill. We alternate between trotting and jogging and at first Danielitto runs along well. But after two hours he realizes that I have no chance if he stops or falls into walk. I struggle until late in the afternoon until I can convince Pat to lead the packhorse while I drive from behind. We find good grass along the road and let the horses eat extensively. We pass an estancia where sheep are being shorn in the Accord. The don recognizes Levi by his long hair, El Blonde, and knows that he has lost and found 2000 USD. We manage 45 km and are able to spend the night in a little house on an outpost of Estanzia Margarita. The horses have a great pasture and we even have a proper bed. Only it is not yet clear who will sleep in it.



24.1. El Chalten

We are in El Chaltén and the 4 of us are together again. The horses are doing great. We have covered the 150 km in 3 1/2 days. Today we have a half day break and tomorrow we continue to Lago Desertio and then over the mountains to Estanzia Condor on Lago San Martin. The horses behave quite decently, although they are not used to the traffic. The big trucks and buses are particularly frightening. Rubio has the most problems with them. The other two are more relaxed. We find Levi and Pinocchio at a campsite by the river and stake our horses nearby




25.1 Caming Bonanza

After a long day on the gravel road with some nervous horses, especially Rubio, who gave Pat a hard time. On the way we met Victor, an engineer from Buenos Aires who lives here in a vacation home. He invited us for empanadas, which we gladly accepted. His granddaughter was also a guest with her band and they sang us a few dance ballads. After a champagne farewell, we rode or led the horses to Lago Diesierto. After 37 km, we were all pretty tired, but there was a great pasture for the horses at a campsite. I had to rebuild the pack, as Cacique had broken in on a bridge and some rivets had come undone when he was freed from his awkward position.



26.1 Lago Desierto

We forded the river that flows out of the Desierto, where the camp warden showed us, and promptly took the wrong path. All the horses' luggage slipped down the steep mountainside and had to be lashed down again. We finally found the right path, which we now followed along the right side of the lake. A beautiful mountain hiking trail along the lake brought us to a border guard station of the Argentinian border police, where we spent the night.



27.1.

The Argentinian police give us hope for the 4 km ride through Chile. So we give it a try. 8 km on forest paths to the border, then 15 km on a gravel road to the border station. We receive a friendly welcome, but are not even allowed to walk the 4 km without horses. We can only continue by boat, everything else is forbidden. After some heated discussions, with the threat of imprisonment for me and a 5-week quarantine for the horses, we realize that we can't go any further and turn back. A beautiful day trip to Lago San Martin in Chile.




 

28.1.

The map shows a pass leading from Lago Diserto over to Lago San Martin. We say goodbye to the commander of the Argentinian border police, who has generously provided us with oats and spare irons, and try to maneuver the packhorse through the forest along the pass. When the path ends at a clearing, we decide to turn back. In 3 hours we have only just covered 3 km. We return to El Chalten and try to reach one of the two gauchos living in the village. We need new horseshoes nailed on.

 



29.1.

We are not allowed to call until 9.30 am, otherwise we run the risk of kicking the gauchos (farriers) out of bed. Around 1 pm we finally reach one of them and he even has the necessary shoes and nails. And 5 hours later, the 4 horses are re-shod for the equivalent of around 30 euros per horse including 4 horseshoes. Argentina's manana, manana takes some getting used to. But who wants to complain about the prices?




30.1.

We ride back to Puesto Christina, where we spent the night on the way there.




31.1.

Then we head up over 3 passes to Estanzia Maipu. As the path is not marked on the map or in the terrain, we lose some time on the way, so after 9 hours we decide to spend the night on the descent.




1.2. 

We had a wonderful view of the valley, but it was very cold. We descend further and reach the plain of Maipu around 12 noon. We ride along the lake and reach the Estanzia St. Anita, where we can spend the night. The estancia belongs to a couple from Buenos Aires who have their vacation home here. The cows and sheep are looked after by the gaucho. Unfortunately, they have to return to Buenos Aires with their children, so the assado is canceled.



2.2. 

I finally have wifi again today. So I can get in touch again. We've circumnavigated Lake San Mattin and are finally heading north. We'll spend the night here at Estanzia Sierra Nevada before heading back into the mountains tomorrow. Jesus slaughters a sheep for us and I get bitten by one of the dogs. When Jesus catches me tending to the wound, he wants to know what has happened. When I tell him that one of the dogs had bitten me, he goes and punishes the culprit and puts him away. However, he doesn't understand that I didn't want this. I make empanadas while Levi grills the liver and heart of the lamb.




3.2. 

We say goodbye to Jesus and Gordo and ride along the road beside the lake. Soon a path goes off to the right, but Levi is sure that the path we are looking for will only branch off further down. At least that's how he understood Jesus. He was wrong. Information is a problem in general. People want to please you and confirm things they don't even know. Others simply say no conosco (don't know) without really being interested. They all point to the big autostradas, the Routa quaranta, the national roads, which are made up of sand tracks and the big ones of gravel tracks. We can't find the turn-off we're looking for and ride up the valley along the fence. The terrain becomes increasingly difficult and we decide to climb up to the road above. We climb 50 meters up the river wall, then there is a fence and while I move the fence so that the horses can climb over it, Levi goes further up the mountain to look for the road. He finds it and Pat leads his horse up over the fence when their Rubio suddenly shoots forward and Pat lands awkwardly in the spiky bushes, the name of the town "Calafate". It takes a while for her to get her breath back and she needs painkillers before she can continue. The road leads us further and further up over 15 km of alpine pasture and just after midday we reach the Puesto we are looking for. Here we should ask for directions, but the gaucho only knows the first 10 km of the route and can only tell us: "no conosco". We spend the next two days climbing over gorges and mountain ridges in an area called the Sierra Muerto. Again and again we have to climb up side valleys because sticky gypsum morass prevents us from making any progress. The riding time was given to us as 9 hours, there should be several parallel paths in addition to the non-existent road, we need 8 hours once in the desert scree and another 12 hours the next day before we finally reach the Estanzia El Carbon we are looking for at 8pm.



5.2. 

We sleep until 7 and then ride on across a huge plateau. We miss the Estanzia Tucku Tucku as it is marked 12 km too late on both the Russian topo and the Garmin. Around 6 p.m. in the evening, we take a turn-off that leads towards the mountain and the river. After 3 km, we see the roof of an estancia in the distance and meet Juan Carlos, who looks after his owner's 7,000 sheep. We are given pasture for the horses, two bedsteads without mattresses, but still, and bread and a complete front leg of a sheep. In the morning, the horses all lie in the pasture and doze. When we come back for them after a second attempt, we find a sheep tangled up in barbed wire. We



6.2. 

We talked to Juan Carlos for a long time about the possible route, but he thinks we should follow Route 40. In the morning, we follow the suggested route until we are told at Estanzia los Faldeos that the route via the national park is feasible on horseback. We have a kroki drawn for us and follow his advice to spend the night at Las Vegas. We give the horses a breather and can finally wash our clothes, air out our sleeping bags, charge our batteries and grill our meat before lying down to sleep on sheepskins on wooden planks.




7.2. 

We ride through Patagonia just as I imagined it. Endless expanses, deserted without fences, just wild horses and guanacos. We ride at a trot for the first hour and then let the horses graze for 10 minutes. Depending on the terrain, we manage 8-11 km per hour. Sometimes, however, it takes an hour to cross a river bed with 2 km of scree. Then we ride in a jog for another 4-5 hours at a time and manage around 40 km in an 8-10 hour day. Today we arrive at the planned estancia at 4 pm, but no one is there. We let the horses graze for half an hour and then ride 8 km further to Estanzia Melinek. There is a 20 m iron bridge over the Rio Belgrano in front of the estancia and I have to lead the horses over it one by one. When we arrive, we are already expected and Alberto doesn't say much, but asks me to follow him. We are led to a dormitory where we unload our luggage. The horses are taken to the 4 hectare paddock and we are invited into the gaucho's house, where we are first given a round of mate.



8.2.

It's Sunday. 8.2.15 and we have 950 km behind us. A good distance that we have covered in three weeks. Today is a break, for us and the horses. They are out in the pasture while I sip mate in the gaucho's house and write my blog. It's 8pm and Alberto is at the slaughterhouse with the two girls, 6 and 8, to slaughter one of the sheep kept at the house for this purpose. Mate is not only the Argentinian national drink, but drinking mate is a ceremony. Firstly, the water must not have boiled, then only the host may refill the water in the gourd and serve it to the guests in turn. If, as is customary in Europe, you say thank you for passing the tea, it means you don't want any more tea. The tea itself is called jerba, it is drunk from a gourd called a calabasse, and the drinking tube, the bombilla, is fitted with a sieve at the bottom. A French woman is on vacation at the estancia with her children, whose father was the deceased gaucho on the Melinek. She tells us that the children spend three months of the summer here and are taught by their mother. When they return to France, however, they cannot tell anyone what they have experienced. They are simply not believed.




9.2 Passo Agilar

We say goodbye and ride up to the Adler Pass. The route in the valley is around 8 km, then it's a steep climb in the middle of the mountain to the summit, from where you have an incredible view. We can see for about 100 km and there are only two estancias to be seen. Past the lake, we continue on to the next pass and after a 15 km descent into the valley, we climb up for the third time and are really glad to finally reach a puesto after 40+ km. Great grass for the horses and a stove and place to sleep for us.



10.2 Estanzia Posados

We ride up another pass and in front of us is a long serpentine path that leads down to Lago Posados. At the top of the pass we find fossilized shells. We follow the lakeshore and arrive at Estanzia Posadados.



11.2 Break day

In the morning, the hosts take us shopping in the village. We buy a bottle of red wine for the hosts, grenola, salami, cheese, bread, powdered drinks, biscuits and a cold beer. We return to our hosts at Estanzia Posadas and make ourselves comfortable in the gaucho house. In the evening we are invited to an assado and while the boys start their party with tons of wine, bread and meat, we go to sleep. In the morning they are still partying and give us two loaves of bread and a kilo of beef when we say goodbye. There is a statue of Aime F. Tschiffely in the village. His horses were taken 3000 km from Rio Sanguer to El Cardal near Buenos Aires before he set off with them to New York. A gaucho was on the road for 3 months with 20 horses. The foundation of the Criollo studbook by Dr. Emilio Solanet.



12.2 Estanzia Sol des Mayo

We have cold mutton for lunch and warm mutton with noodles and broth for dinner and Pat can hardly see it anymore. But she will have to endure the two days until Los Antigos. Yesterday's storm has calmed down a bit, but today it's a bit colder. We make good progress and by 3 o'clock we are back on the 41. An hour later we have covered the 40 km and turn onto the next estancia. It is the Sol de Mayo. It is beautifully situated at the end of the valley with a view of the emerald green lake. It is 1.5 km from the gate to the house of the head gaucho and the fenced estancia must have 80 hectares. 11,000 sheep, 300 cows and 3 gauchos live here in quarters designed for 12 people.




13.2. We have breakfast with the gauchos of the Sol de Maya and are on the road by 7.30 am. The wind has died down and we have clear skies and pleasant temperatures. We take the recommended shortcut and reach Routa 41 after 30 minutes. The horses run willingly and we make good progress. We have an approx. 90 km long mountain pass ahead of us and should cover about 50 of it. The gravel road leads up to 1530 m, it looks like 2500 m in Europe. But the untouched nature in these dimensions is impressive. We have to bypass 3-4 cow grids and reach the puesto at two o'clock, which I had planned as an emergency stop if we couldn't manage the pace today. We walk the next 10 km and find enough grass and a place to bivouac in a small valley. Mate is prepared on the fire and later dinner. I lie on the pad of the packhorse under the lean-to and enjoy the view of the valley.




14.2. 

We are in the internet café in Los Antigos. The second day was exhausting because it was very hot and dry. Over 30 km without water or food for the horses. When we reach the village, the Giovanni principle kicks in. Everyone helps and sends you on to Giovanni, who is supposed to help you. The riding stables to the guesthouse, which also takes in horses. There: No, no horses, but my husband has alfalfa, go to the campsite, no, no way, horses, go to the gendarmeria, yes, no, boss says no. After 11 km into the village and back out again, I'm a bit exasperated when I finally meet Cesar, who organizes the neighbouring property for me privately and agrees that we can stay with him. We are driven to the shops and in the evening we have the usual assado. He brings us a king-size mattress and we set up the tarp. Breakfast with mate gives us many new insights into Argentina's relationship with Chile and we pick up alfalfa for the horses. Then we go shopping in the village. Tomorrow we go over to Chile to collect money and send a parcel home.





15.2.

Today we went to Chile to get some money and I bought a replacement camera because my display broke. The horses ate 180 kg of oat straw and alfalfa in two days. And we bought oats for the following stages. We have about 300 km of pampas ahead of us and hope to find a good route. The problem is the mountains, which are difficult to estimate. If the trees in the forest are still young, we won't get through, if there is a lot of bushes and buffalo grass or deep sand, we won't make any progress. So we have to rely on the gauchos being able to communicate their local knowledge to us and on us being able to correctly assess and understand the information. Their idea of difficult sometimes differs considerably from ours. The horses are bored in their paddock and we will ride through the town tomorrow morning to get to the planned route.



18.2.

Today was hot and exhausting. We can still see Lago Buenos Aires and at the beginning it's going quite well on the sandy track. But from 12 the air is out with our four-legged friends, who don't like to sweat. We ride 5 km cross-country to get to water as quickly as possible. We finally reach the Rio Fenix at 3 p.m. and decide to stay on the nearby Ea. We hope that it will be less hot tomorrow so that it will be easier for all of us. When we reach the Puesto after 46 km, we are pretty exhausted. I have to fetch water from the draw well






19.2 Maipu

Another two days have passed and 77 km have been gained. We actually only rode around Lago Buenos Aires, which is about 4 times the size of Lake Constance. At midday we got back on the road, which we followed until around 4pm. As the horses were no longer in the mood and we had no energy to continue, we rode down a driveway with promising terrain. There were 3 cars, a caravan and two tents, but not a soul in sight. We let the horses graze for a while and wait to see if anyone comes along who we can ask for permission. As we pass by, I knock on the door of the caravan and, to my surprise, someone is there 5 minutes later. It's Alexander, the owner of the site, and of course we and the horses are allowed to spend the night here. Later we get to know the rest of the clan and it becomes a cozy evening with fresh bread and caramel cream, tomatoes, bread and beef steak and chilled melon for dessert. We spend the night under our tarp while Alexander and his clan drive home.


20.2.

Today we first follow the lakeside path, which eventually just ends. We fight our way through the dunes until we find a gate. The sandy track is the planned red one and we finally make faster progress again. For an hour, the three of us run at a speed of 13 km/h and at around 5 p.m. we find an estancia, but unfortunately no one is there. We make ourselves comfortable in the dining room and tie up a horse so that the others don't disappear while grazing. Instead of assado, we have mashed potatoes with leek and ham and mate.


21.2.

Today was hot and exhausting. We can still see Lago Buenos Aires and at first it goes quite well on the sandy track. But from 12 the air is out with our four-legged friends, who don't like sweating. We ride 5 km across country to get to water as quickly as possible. We finally reach the Rio Fenix at 3 p.m. and decide to stay at the nearby estancia. We hope that it will be less hot tomorrow so that it will be easier for all of us.


22.2.

We had a wonderful view of the valley but it was very cold. We descend further and reach the plain of Maipu around 12. We ride along the lake and reach the Estancia St. Anita, where we can spend the night. St. Anita belongs to a couple from Buenos Aires who only spend their vacations here. The estancia is run by a gaucho, and there are still sheep and a few cows. Unfortunately, the couple and their children have to return home the next morning, so there is no time for an assado. But Pat gets salad and is once again happy with it.


23.2.

Course north at last. There seemed to be no end to it, this lake haunted us for 3 days. Now we are in the valley near the Chilean border, which leads north. There is good grass and water here. In contrast to the valley to the west, where even now in summer they have to feed the horses hay. The head gaucho was quite solicitous this morning, seemed to have had a sub-optimal day yesterday when we arrived. We had to hitch up the horses in front of the estancia down by the river and there was no hay either. Instead there was a free-roaming calf and a huge sow. We saw how the gauchos make rawhide straps and how the youngest of the gauchos slaughtered his first sheep. It took him 3 hours and we only had something to eat after midnight.


24.2.

We tether the horses in a small valley by a stream and set up camp for the night. It gets dark noticeably earlier and when Danielito pulls his stake out of the ground and then runs off in a panic because the wooden stake is stubbornly following him, Rubio accompanies him a little way up the mountain out of sympathy. I wake up and try to follow the two horses, which is not without its problems in the dark. Fortunately, Danielito calms down and I can bring him back. In the meantime, Pat has caught Rubio and we decide to pick up Danielito too, leaving only Casique tied up. During the night it rains heavily for the first time and the firewood is too wet to make breakfast with. So the gas burner has to go out and two hours later we are on the road again. We ride up to the Chilean border to find out whether the route to the north marked on the map exists. Negative. We ride back east on the newly gravelled track in a light drizzle and around midday we reach the Estanzia Humueles (deer farm) when Rubio loses an iron. We decide to ask right there if they can help us and are immediately invited to lunch. In the afternoon we shoe the horses, and this time it's Danielito who's bitching, while Rubio doesn't cause any major problems. We spend the evening with the family and decide to make tortas fritas in the morning, the fat-fried bread of the gauchos.


25.2.

We ride to Lago Blanco where we stock up on supplies. Then we cross the dry lake to Routa 51, which we follow to Estanzia Luisita. On the way we meet Anguel, who picks up his broken motorcycle by car. We follow the car to the estancia, which is supposedly only 2 km away. The 2 km turn into 5 km, but as we were able to leave the luggage in the car, we can even trot properly and I get 4 canter jumps from Casiche as a gift. Unbelievable. At the estancia, Anguel heats the bath water by feeding a stove with wood. Then he shows us around the estancia. Here, electricity is even generated using solar energy and stored in batteries. We can shower at his place and he makes an assado for us. I watch him deboning the sheep and it is incredible how quickly and skillfully he separates the individual bones. In response to my question, he explains that he slaughters 8-12 sheep a day and therefore has some experience. The horses are given mineral salt and a huge portion of oats, which they happily eat from the tin tub. Anguel is very tidy and everything is in top condition. There is even solar energy and batteries.


26.2.

We enjoy an assado together and it gets late. By the time we have saddled up after our morning mate and want to say goodbye, Anguel has already left. We give him our regards and ride north on the 51. We should reach Rio Senguer in 3 days. After 40 km we find an estancia and Ismael accompanies us to the neighboring estancia, where he cooks for us and the horses have good food.


27.2.

Pampa is the order of the day today. Steppe without end and dead straight gravel and dirt roads. The only interruption is the fence gates that want to be opened and closed. After 45 hot and dry kilometers we find an abandoned estancia in the middle of the wasteland with the heroic name "New Hope". There we fetch water from the draw well and find good alfalfa in the barn. We leave a business card and 100 pesos for the two bales. We should reach Sanguer tomorrow. The gaucho arrives at 10 o'clock in the evening and invites us for mate and assado. He finds it perfectly acceptable that we have fed his alfalfa to our horses.


28.2.

After two weeks on the pampas, we've had enough. We receive a warm welcome at the Estancia Arroyo Verde at 8 p.m. after a long siesta at Laguna Zorro. The next morning, a car was supposed to take us to the town of Senguer, but either the driver or the car had gone missing. In any case, we saddled up the horses at 9am to get the 20 km of pampas behind us. We found a truck in Senguer and it drove us 250 km north across the pampas to the mountains near Rio Pico. Where we will ride on to Bariloche. The horses are tired and we want to reduce the distances a little if necessary.


1.3.

We are in Rio Pico and heading north. Mountains lie ahead of us and there should be more water and grass. At last the pampas are behind us. We still have a good three weeks to go. In Rio Pico we spend the night in the community park. Officially. Internet is available in the coffee shop and we have brought hay from Senguer. In Rio Senguer there is a monument to Mancha and Gato and we wonder how the horses got from down here to Buenos Aires.

Our driver, who wanted around 480 USD for the 250 km, has stomach pains and we meet him again in the Internet coffee shop after he has had a free check-up at the hospital. We had enjoyed an assado together, which probably had no effect on us. We want to buy a beer, but we don't have an empty bottle. So there is no beer, because deposits are not charged in the small stores here. So we have to make a solemn promise to return the empty bottle the next day. In the evening, we cook something like ravioli on the park ranger's stove and I plug my charger into a parking lamp, as the farm workers have installed a provisional socket there for the construction site in the park.

2.3.

It was 5 a.m. today. At 7 we were on our way to Lago General Vintter. At last the mountains offer a change of scenery again and the break was good for the horses. We largely follow the road and make good progress. It is a little cooler because we are at an altitude of 800 m and there is a cooling wind from the mountains. We take another long lunch break and at 5 p.m. we have reached 50 km and our estancia. I meet Segundo in the pasture where he is driving the cows home. I ask him if we can spend the night at his place and of course we can. Maria, his wife, helps to butcher the sheep and later makes pata fritas, the gaucho bread fried in sheep fat. We ask about the Sentiero through the Cordilleras and both explain the way to us. Tomorrow we'll get off the road.


3.3.

We follow the road northwards and soon the road becomes a cow path. We follow this path incessantly through ancient forest stands and over scrubby pastureland until we come across a gorge that the owner of the estancia at Lag Vintter had told us about. The original inhabitants, the Indians of Argentina, lived in this valley and left their traces behind. We follow the path further through the gorge and come to the valley where we will cross the mountains. Here at the end of the gorge is a dilapidated puesto and a new barn, which we will use for the night. After a while, we find the pasture for the horses and let them graze there until nightfall. While I'm still studying the map, two hikers come along the path, one of whom speaks some English and we don't hear anything good from him about the path ahead of us. He recommends going down the other valley to a puesto, where we should ask the gaucho for the exact route. After I explain to him that I have heard from three people that it is possible to get to Careleufu via this route, he simply says, ok, then that's the way it will be.


4.3.

When we get up, it's drizzling outside and the horses are hungry. We saddle up and take the wet path under our feet. It soon branches off and we follow one of the paths on the right-hand side of the valley until the path gets worse and worse. I leave Pat and the horses and turn back to look for a continuation of the path on the other side of the valley. About 3 km back, I find a ford through the river and a path that continues in a gully on the other side of the mountain. Ok, I put everything back and continue on the path I found, which leads further and further up. The whole distance from yesterday and today to the pass is only 35 km as the crow flies, today only 10 km, but it takes us until 2 o'clock in the afternoon to finally reach the foot of the pass. Then there are only 600 meters of altitude to overcome and we can start our descent. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon we are at an altitude of 1700 m and climb down the other side. Here there is finally some grass for the horses and we take a 30-minute break. The path leads back into old forests and we lead the horses for another 3 hours, always on the lookout for enough food for the night. But we find nothing. The areas that would be free are completely gnawed away by the cows that graze here and where there is grass, there is deep, treacherous swamp. After 12 hours of walking, we set up camp on a clearing and hitch up the horses. After a freeze-dried meal, we lie down exhausted on our mats.


5.3.

The weather has changed again and it is pleasantly cool and dry. We follow the cow paths up the valley and although we find a corral, there is nowhere really to feed the horses until we finally come across a marshy meadow around midday, which is reasonably dry on the slope so that the horses can graze there with impunity. We are now very close to the Chilean border and the path runs right along it. We eat our lunch, consisting of salami (very fatty and riddled with paprica), cheese (completely tasteless) and nuts and dried fruit, as well as mantecol, a peanut butter paste popularized by a Greek in Argentina. When we come across a puesto just before Careleufu, Rubio suddenly has colic without breaking a sweat, but he throws himself down to counteract his pain. We unsaddle him and Pat gives him her pellets. An hour later, the spook is over and Rubio is up and grazing again. Obviously, in his greed, he has eaten something at the swamp pasture that he shouldn't have. We saddle up again and continue on our way, and not much later we meet an older man who we ask if we could spend the night with him. He is the brother of the gaucho we met at Lago Vintter. He tells us that it would cost something, but he makes a friendly impression and we agree without asking about the exact costs.


6.3.

Just as we are about to pay, we are almost struck by the fact that the good woman wants 100 euros per person. Louis, her husband, stands in the background, ashamed, and I'm not in the mood for a long argument, because we've managed to get through extremely cheaply so far. We would advise anyone who comes to Carenleufu not to spend the night in the Etablissement Patagonica. We cross the village and come to the shortcut and the Corcovado River, where we actually want to take a break, but there is no food for the horses. So we carried on, and when we finally found something to eat, the boys didn't want any more either and sat dozing in the sun while we looked for a shady spot. It is hot and very dusty. Towards evening we ride through a Mapuche village and when we finally reach the lake we had been told about, there is no access. We continue along the road and find a gate after all.

7.3.

So we ride onto the terrain and after about 10 minutes we hear a dog. There are people there, says Pat, and as we ride up to the puesto, Levi and another Argentinian rider come towards us. The second is Quentin, a Frenchman who started last year, trained his own horses and had to leave them behind at the end of his stage and never found them again. Now he has trained two new ones and continued his journey, and met Levi. We eat together and celebrate the reunion with whisky and Mantekol. Levi and Quentin want to ride on in the full moon. Around 9 o'clock in the evening, the gaucho arrives and asks where we are going and wishes us a successful tour. We sleep in the pale light of the full moon and at 1 a.m. Levi and Quentin set off.


8.3.

We set off at 4 a.m. to escape the heat of the day, but instead of the hoped-for full moon, it hides behind the clouds. So we ride further and further east on the gravel road in pitch darkness and as it slowly gets lighter, we can finally take in the landscape around us again. There are brown bushes and only in the valley below do we see a few green trees from time to time. We follow the gravel road and at some point we must have overtaken the other two, because after a long, tiring ride we reach the wide valley in which Trevelin lies and where we want to take a break. We urgently need to change money and do some shopping and the horses also need some rest. I leave Pat and the horses in the shade of some trees and set off in search of accommodation for the horses. The owner of a garage offers that his friend could help us at 9 pm, but that's too late for me. It's now four and I want the horses to be looked after. A truck driver had told us on the way that the police had a corral for horses, so I ask the nearest gendarme I come across. He says it's possible, but when he asks his boss, I can already tell from the policeman's voice and facial expressions that it won't work. But he refers me to a George who lives just 2.5 quadras (blocks) down the road and who has horses himself. So back to the entrance to the village, and where Geoge lives, there are vacation apartments for rent in a beautiful park. So I marched to the office and knocked on the door. His wife opens the door and I explain to her in my 5 sentences of Italian with a Spanish accent that we are traveling with horses from Calafate to Bariloche, that they are tired and hungry and that we need a place for the horses to spend the night. She calls her George and the businessman takes care of us. We can store the luggage in his stable and are given a pasture and enough alfalfa for the horses. Later he drives us to the village and buys oats for us and in the evening I can use his internet to call Dominik Marty in Bariloche via Skype.


9.3.

George changes us USD into Arg pesos at an exchange rate 50% better than the bank and we go shopping. We need eraduras, irons, which are available in different sizes in sets of four, 2 round at the front and 2 oval at the back, plus the appropriate nails, which are counted. Then we need to stock up on supplies as we will be out and about in the national park for the next few days. We say goodbye to George and his wife, who were both very helpful. Dominik has organized some contacts for us, and we don't leave until 2 o'clock today, reaching our destination after 3 hours and 20 km, where Adriano Munoz is already waiting for us by the road. Someone had called him and told him we were coming now. He supplies the horses with hay, makes us a fire and we sit in the pasture and drink mate. Today we grill the meat we brought with us and sleep on the veranda of a caravan without seeing Adriano again.


10.3.

In the morning it rains for the first time. We saddle the horses anyway, as the weather here usually changes very quickly. Unfortunately, the road to the park is paved, with a sandy shoulder every now and then. We can get into the park without any problems, and the rain stops in the afternoon. We wander through the park in search of the farm Dominik told us about. The area is reminiscent of Switzerland, when everything was still forested. Dry lakes and huge beech trees and swamp horsetail bushes 5 meters high. The campsites are all bare or in the forest, so we can't find any food for the horses. So we move on until Christian, the rancher, stops and recommends a camp. After a long day we look forward to hay, steak and a beer.


11.3.

We ride out of the park and into a wide river plain. It is the Rio Careleufu, which we have already forded in the mountains. Now it is a lazily meandering stream. We find a pasture, but the gate is locked with a huge lock. We ride on and look down on a green valley. Finally, food for the horses again. After 47 km in the heat, we are exhausted and Jonathan, who lives in the first house in the village, must have seen us. He invites us to stay for a few days. We gratefully accept. He is 26 years old, engaged, has a 1-month-old baby and has built a great house together with his father and siblings. We also stay the next day and use the time to re-shoe the horses, which is now more or less easy for all of them. When asked whether he would like to do something with his skills as a house builder, he says: "No, I want to be a gaucho and work with my horses. I offer trail rides during the season and my wife will work as a nurse again when we are married. But I want to have my freedom as a gaucho. We buy 2 chickens and beer and I am surprised when I see that they weigh almost 6 kg together. The chickens are grilled in the house fireplace and we sit down to dinner with Johnathan's relatives. As we say goodbye, we give the young mother a little something and she almost howls with joy.


12.3.

Jonathan and his wife get up to say goodbye to us and we head north on Route 71. It's only 25 km, so we arrive in Cholila shortly before midday. We ask the first man, who is a bit of a gaucho, and after a short phone call with his friend, he leads us to his puesto, nicely shaded by some tall trees. The horses have 6 hectares of mown pasture and swamp and are well looked after. We have lunch and go to bed. By 4 o'clock it has cooled down to a bearable 25 degrees and we explore the village. As there was a forest fire four weeks ago in which 50-80,000 hectares were burnt, helicopters fly every five minutes on a control tour. The village has two restaurants, a church, a tourist information office and 3 kiosks (mercados) where you can buy groceries for daily consumption. There is also a tire repair service, 2 boutiques and DIY stores as well as a tiny furniture store. We enjoy two beers for 13 dollars in one of the restaurants and use the Internet. For dinner we have grilled breaded schnitzel with mashed potatoes, peppers with cheese and tomato salad. A nectarine for dessert. We sleep outside under the trees. As it cools down and fog rises from the valley, we can smell foul sewage.


13.3.

The gaucho arrives early to close his puesto again and we ride comfortably north on the shoulder of Route 40. The jog of our mestizos is easy to sit on and after almost three months, I appreciate the up to 6 layers of padding on the gaucho saddles, although I manage with 4. We reach an average speed of 8.5 km/h, so a day's ride takes just under 3 hours. By midday, the sun is already blazing down from the cloudless sky, so the Estanzia Agua Pura sounds just too tempting. So we turn off onto the sand track, which initially continues parallel to R 40. Soon a path turns off, but this leads around the hill to the south again. Nevertheless, we ride on, as the valley promises green grass and water. After 3 km we find an abandoned farm with good grass and decide to stay here. Later, we hear noise at the neighbor's, I go over and meet Lorenzo, who just says, "claro, no problema," when I ask if we can stay with his neighbor. We let the horses graze, take a siesta and eat pea stew while we wait for the owner of the puesto. He should be coming to feed his pigs and the dog. I go to bed at 9, 30 minutes later he comes trotting off with his horse and dog. So I put my pants back on and after a brief introduction, he is also happy to accommodate us for the night and trots off into the night again. I don't know whether he fed the pigs. In any case, the farm dog has disappeared.


14.3.

Yesterday we rode straight through to El Bolson on the Routa 40 and met Sebastian El Moro there with his horse-riding company. He almost went out of his way to help us. The horses stand on 10 hectares of pastureland together with Sebastian's 8 Criollis and Arabians. We spend the night in his accommodation, but first have to make room for our mats and sweep up the dried dog poo. In the afternoon we go shopping and then we drink mate together at Martin the paraglider and as the cab we ordered doesn't show up, we walk the 8 km back again at 8 o'clock in the evening. Finally we find a restaurant where we can eat.


15.3.

Today Sebastian brings his 60-year-old van down to his parking space, but his steering rods are no longer there and he has to get out every 5 meters and move the wheels in the desired direction on foot. We go shopping and there is a market that we visit. For lunch we have half a liter of fresh blueberry juice and a steak sandwich. Then it's off to the hairdresser at 4, who trims my hair and beard for USD 5. The vet, who has to look after one of the horses, takes us shopping for pads and oats. In the late afternoon, Levi comes trotting up with Pinocchio and we are happy to see him again. He met a girl at a disco who lives here in Bolson and he will be staying with her for the next few days. In the evening we are invited to an assado with friends of Sebastian.

16.3. break day


17.3.

Yesterday was the 2nd break day. The horses weren't saddled until 2 o'clock and after 8 km we were off again. The horses didn't believe us at first, but when they saw green grass, their doubts were dispelled. We were on the property of Martin the paraglider, a friend of Sebastian's, who had spontaneously offered to ride with us the day before. I cooked dinner for the family and his staff.


18.3.

I overslept today, the breaks make me tired. We leave Martin and El Bolson heading north and soon get back on the R40. Martin couldn't ride with us after all, because his wife has to go into town and has put the children on his back. The horses no longer have any problems with the heavy traffic, only when Cacique has to cross a bridge in front of the other horses, he still makes a circus of himself. This led to a heated discussion yesterday, after which he voluntarily crossed the bridge today. We arrive in Questa del Ternero at 2 pm and ask at the puesto if we can spend the night here. We are immediately welcomed. We wait here for Domonik and his wife, who want to ride back to Bariloche with us. They arrive at around 7 p.m. and together with the Puesto couple we enjoy the first pieces of the 1.4 m long fillet that Dominik has had delivered. The horses are hitched up and Dominik pitches his tent while we spend the night in a shed.


19.3.

I n the morning the horses are gone. Not all of them. Just ours. And as they are completely fenced in and planed, I don't worry too much, but wait until it gets light. An hour later we find them on the mountain, above the pasture. We have breakfast and set off at around 10am. We have 60 km of mountain ahead of us and Dominik is our guide. We trot up the Rio Tenguer on sandy paths and the area becomes drier and drier and the mitchay bushes (nasty thorn bushes with extremely sharp spines) completely replace the grass. Only after about 6 hours do we find some grass. We leave the path at a puesto and cross a low pass. The descent on the other side is steep and dusty. The Las Horquettas river flows down in the valley, where we rinse the dust from our faces and throats. Dominik announces 3 more hours of jogging, then we'll be where there's good grass for the horses. The path is wide and sandy, so we make good progress. Suddenly I hear Tammy (Dominik's wife) calling and Dominik turns around on the spot and gallops back. When I return, Pat is lying dazed on the ground and takes a while to regain consciousness. Nobody knows exactly what happened, but apart from the fact that her shoulder and a few ribs hurt, she seems to be fine. An hour later we are at Don Pablo's deer farm, enjoying 600 gr of the finest beef fillet.

20.3.

Today we only ride for 5 hours, Dominik announces, and we take a break for lunch with friends. After a second round of mate, we leave at half past ten. The trail leads along a river again. It is the Rio Chibut, the river that gives the province its name. After an hour we reach the Estanzia Miranda and are greeted warmly by Dona Blanco and her sons. Mate is served, followed by bread straight from the oven and beer. The horses are given alfalfa and one of Dominik's horses is re-shod. We ride further north along the Chubut and meet some gauchos on the way who are driving cattle home. They have gone over the pass to the neighbor's pasture and mingled with his herd. Towards evening we set up camp in a forest just before a puesto and let the horses graze hobbled and tethered.


19.3.

We leave the Chubut and ride northwest to Dominik's summer pasture. The horses will stay there for the winter. After 2370 km and 53000 meters of altitude, our dream has come to an end. Patagonia and the Andes on horseback. We crossed the Cordillera 4 times and arrived without any major injuries. The horses also put up a good fight and, apart from a few bruises, coped amazingly well with the exertions and, above all, the climbing sections in the mountains. We have arrived in Bariloche and are enjoying the luxury of civilization. The horses have impressively confirmed the efficiency of the Criollos. They are now in their usual pasture and can recover. Friends will bring them south again next spring. Levi will bring his Pinocchio here and then return to Europe. Argentina is worth a trip. Definitely. Great people, vast landscapes and great horses... It was worth it....

The gauchos show off their riding skills at the fiestos, and this is what it looks like.... Every house has a calendar with photos of spectacular rides, distributed by Argentina's vets....

Riding in the wilds of Argentina Argentina Calling - Experienced long-distance riders Peter van de Gugten and Pat spend three months riding along the Andes of Patagonia. Through their three Criollos, the Swiss rider experiences nature and the people in this dry, hot region in a unique and fascinating way. We have been riding for days in the scorching heat of the pampas, keeping an eye out for trees on the horizon. Where there are trees, there is water. And water is vital in the prevailing temperatures. We are on the road in the northern part of the province of Santa Cruz. We have just stocked up on provisions in a small village and hope to find food for the horses somewhere this evening. We cross the dried-up lake basin at a walking pace. Fine dust swirls up and stains my boots white. We reach the gravel path, which is marked as Routa 51. It's four o'clock in the afternoon and the horses are tired after 40 kilometers of jogging. We soon come to a rusty iron gate which, as usual, is not locked. We cross the hill and in front of us is a wooded area with a few orange roofs shining out of it. A dog barks in the distance and we come to the scattered buildings of Estanzia Lago Blanca, which are no longer in the best condition. There are sheep skins hanging from the fences and we work our way to an area where there is good grass and a small stream running through the grounds. We unsaddle the horses and put our luggage on the table in one of the open kitchen-dining rooms. The horses are hobbled and left to graze while I light a fire in the open fireplace of the hut to make water for mate (South American tea made from the leaves of the mate bush). The water slowly warms up on the small grill over the fire and we enjoy the mate tea in the absolute silence of the place. We reminisce about the past.

On the road with three criollos Pat and I flew to Buenos Aires and on to El Calafate (Argentina) with 69 kilos of luggage at the beginning of December after three months of planning. 300 kilometers further south we bought three Criollo-Mestizos and rode them north along the Andes. There are two Criollo Friesians and one Criollo Arabian, who was very shy towards me at first. We already have six weeks and the first 1400 kilometers behind us and we are now a well-rehearsed team. We want to arrive in Bariloche at the end of March, a distance of almost 2400 kilometers lies ahead of us. The plan was to ride along the Andes. However, this turns out to be a little more difficult than expected, as the border with Chile here in the north does not run along the mountain ranges of the Cordilleras, but extends far into the pampas, forcing us to leave the cool mountains with their clear water and green pastures and make our way through the shimmering heat of the pampas, always along gravel roads leading north. No gaucho on the estancia? Pat hands me the calabash with the mate and pulls me out of my thoughts. I fill up with water and take a long pull with the metal pipe. Maybe I should go and see if I can find a gaucho where a dog was barking before. I take my hat, stand up and explore the estancia. First I look in a corral adjacent to a stable where sheep can be penned for shearing. But it is currently empty. I go into a small building, probably the slaughterhouse, then into the main house, which is locked and bolted. Then, about two kilometers away on the other side of the small stream, I find the gauchos' quarters and the dogs tied up in the shade of the trees. There are pieces of clothing and cigarettes on the bed, so one of them must live here too. I return to our sleeping hut and explain to Pat that we will probably get a visit from the gaucho tonight. I prepare dinner on the small fire while Pat spreads out our sleeping mats and sacks on the floor. After dinner, we fetch the horses and stake Danielito on the green fields to let him graze there for the night. The other two remain hobbled, but are allowed to move freely.

 

 

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