Week 45-2018. Amersfoort (November 04-11). Argentina on horseback. 1999. November 04-10.

 

01 Reclame Lichtenberg wonen Durable living.

Sunday, 4th November 2018. Amersfoort. Today is a special day in church. We are memorising the people who are no longer with us. Candles are lit for the deceased and a white rose can be taken as a memorial. I take a rose for Hessel. After the service, I am sleepy and go home. I sleep an hour and have lunch. After that I go to my friend in Hollandse Rading and then to my family in Eemnes. I stay with the family for dinner. Back in Amersfoort, people approach me regarding the low temperature of the central heating. I can’t help them. I go to bed early.

02 Herfst op de Utrechtseweg Autumn.
Monday. At half past three I am wide awake and I feel good, so I get up and go to work on my laptop. At half past four I get sleepy again. It was a bit of a surprise to hear people moving around in the building. I don’t know what is going on, but lately the fire alarm goes off too often. That is extremely annoying, but I never go see why the alarm sounds. I have never seen a real alarming fire in the building.
Tuesday. Today I managed to force myself to go out for a walk. I hope to be able to do this again every day, no matter the weather. Back in the house, I met the man who is often here but who lives officially in Hungary. We enjoyed coffee together and he told me of his latest adventures. He had been to Moscow.
I set the alarm for tomorrow morning.

03-01 Station Den Bosch ‘s Hertogenbosch railway station.
Wednesday. I am up early and take my time for a quiet start of the day. I walk to the bus stop. At the railway station, I take an early train and travel, by train, via Utrecht to ‘s-Hertogenbosch. At midday I meet my friend at the railway station of ‘s Hertogenbosch. We walk to the town centre. My friend told me about his time at the technical high-school here.

03-02 Den Bosch stadswandeling Canalised Dommel.

After having covered the most interesting part of the centre, we find ourselves a nice terrace in a pedestrian area. We have lunch there, while commenting on the people passing us. After lunch we walk around again. There is enough to see, interesting and old buildings and structures, also shops of a different kind from the usual. At the market we drink coffee, looking at the traders packing in their businesses. We finish the day here, with a meal at a Vietnamese restaurant. After that we each take our train back home: my friend via Breda to Rotterdam and I via Utrecht to Amersfoort. It was a pleasant day, always satisfying and leading to an early night.

03-03 Den Bosch stadswandeling Market view.
Thursday. Today is a day of writing. My friend Hanke came with her dog Toets. She ate her lunch here. For a Chinese young woman, I did some research to find her a company to work on her thesis. She plans to become a master in logistics management, at the Erasmus university. For dinner I made myself a tasty salad.

04-01 Terrein Zon en Schild Ancient.
Friday. The only memorable event is, the soccer game between the national women teams of Holland and Switzerland. The Dutch women won with 3-0.
Saturday, 10th November 2018. Earlier this week I thought that the amount of fungi was very low this year. I assumed the draught to have caused this. Today, I walked around in the area and saw enough of them, but mostly only a few specific ones. Autumn is definitely here now.

04-02 Terrein Zon en Schild Natural variety.

Argentina on horseback. 1999. November 04-10.
Week 44. When I am ready with that, I go asleep and that works perfectly well. It is not cold in this stone building: it accumulated sufficient heat from the daylight and it is sheltered from the wind.

xx2-web wk 45 San Juan Leaving San Juan province.
Week 45. Thursday, 4th November 1999. The 129th travel day. It is not really early in the morning when I get up. I am having breakfast when my host arrives to replace his horse. When I get my luggage from the canteen, he makes hot water for my maté. After that he disappears to go to work as municipal civil servant. During the summer, he works here at the camping, full 24 hours service because then there are always guests. It is totally unclear how large the camping is, because there is no ground plan. A forcefully flowing brook runs through it, there are many trees, a lot of grass and many ditches where one can get rather wet feet. There are concrete tables with benches everywhere, some covered and fitted with electricity, all of them with a stone facility for a barbecue fire, the national pass-time. I have a place protected from the sun, where I can pack my horses. I ride Jil again. Soon after leaving town, we come to a branch without sign posts. I chose to go left, but the first living soul I meet, I ask directions and he tells me to go right. Road works are again going on here. To the left there is a nice large lake from where a saltwater river flows into the direction of S.J. de Jachal. The water in the river is clear with a greenish glow. The road is going up, to a pass across a mountain range. I have that pass in sight already for some time: completely bare, sharp and rough, fascinating formed. It is rather hot here. Jil is very willing to go, but behind us they make trouble, causing very slow progress. Jil is not functioning now, so after a tiring period I change to Nora. The trouble behind us is not stopping, so I conclude that Jut is the one who is causing the problem: going, blocking, annoying the others. It goes on all day at that high road with to the left a steep slope down to the riverbed. Sometime I feel an urge to chase Jut down that slope and leave him. I am not sure, but maybe he suffers from his heavy body on this altitude. Halfway we are stopped by a police patrol. A bit bossy types but after a short chat, they wish me a well meant ‘good journey’. There are no references here, to measure my progress, so as soon as I see buildings to the left and people at the bridge across the river, I stop relieved. The bridge serves only the waterworks because there is a weir. Two guys are busy with structural work. They are ‘producing’ a curve in a plastic tube with a diameter of 75mm, by heating the plastic above a fire of gasoline and bending the heated part across a little wall. The produced bend is half wrinkled. The plastic will be weakened for ever and the tube will not last long like this, not very durable. The basin holds large amounts of large frogs. The water (dirty) in the basin is used to produce some sort of concrete. The men tell me, it is 17:30, that San José de Jachal is another 10 kilometres to go, so I carry on rapidly and now my horses have stopped protesting; they go again properly. 04-11 eindelijk wat te eten Something to eat, at last.    I assume that the altitude in combination with the temperature, caused them to protest, because we descended quite a bit and there is vegetation again. The two workers at the dam where right, fortunately: we enter S.J. de Jachal around 20:00. On the way, we met quite a lot of sporting cyclists. One of them stays with us. He tells to be employed by the local radio station and promises me to come tomorrow for an interview. That is fine with me, but if he is right and there is no internet in Jachal, I may travel to San Juan tomorrow or even already tonight. Not much later another cyclist, older and fatter, approaches. He asks me if I am Dutch. He appears to be the commanding officer of the 25th squadron of the gendarmerie in Jachal.  05-11 Jachal plattegrond I tell him my needs for the coming days and he immediately starts organising. I ride to the back of the gendarmerie, where I am awaited by gendarmes. No questions about ‘documents’, they act. I must go through the centre of town, via the central park. I get a lot of attention from the population. I go to the living quarters behind the church at a corner of the park. It is a very pleasant location, old, tumbledown and dusty, but pleasant.  The buildings enclose a large court with a large tree in the middle. We enter. A couple of minutes after us, the truck from the gendarme arrives with three bales of hay. The gendarmes immediately unload the hay and that is not very clever. My horses are still packed and saddled, but they immediately charge at the hay, making it fairly difficult to unsaddle and unpack. Apart from the hay, there is a large water container. My horses are well served and they run only the risk of boredom. With all my gear loaded onto the truck. They drive me along a number of businesses where they might have internet. The only one appears to be Telefonica Argentina, but that facility is closed, of course. The truck takes me back to the living quarters. Tomorrow morning, the driver promised to pick me up again at 8 o’clock, to go to Telefonica Argentina. I betted with him for $10 that the e-mail there, would not function. Martin, the gendarme who is responsible for the living quarters, shows me around: immediately next to the court-yard there is a tiled, oriental looking inner court, a place for barbecue, separate rooms along a gallery, a stove fired with anything like old oil or timber for hot water for the showers, kitchen and a large dining/living room with television. It is ideal. I get a large room with two beds and wardrobe at the corner of the building. The windows are covered with shutters. When opened, I nearly look at the square. A hot meal is produced for me. In my room I unpack my saddle bags completely and am happy to find out that nothing appears to be missing. I was, since the situation in Calingasta, prepared to find possessions missing. I take a shower and go to bed.

Friday. I did sleep excellent. When awake I open the shutters and dress. The truck arrives when I am only just ready with breakfast. At Telefonica we meet a very friendly man; yes, they have internet, but no, they don’t have e-mail facilities. Back to the squadron, drinking maté with the commander and arranging the care for my horses. He assures me not to worry about it. He rings and a shared taxi to San Juan appears half an hour later to take me to San Juan, 160 kilometres far, for $10. During the first 20 kilometres there are buildings, trees, bushes and water. We follow a rundown railway track. After that, the scene becomes bare again: desert, sand. The taxi is driving fast, 130km/hr. Double uninterrupted lines on the road are not meant for this driver. At 11:00 I am dropped in front of a hospital in the centre of San Juan. I did like what I saw: many trees, clean, cosy and warm. The hospital is the usual shambles, old, lots of small rooms filled with people shifting heaps of paper. A lot of dazed waiting patients. I need to be at traumatology: the lump on my elbow grew alarmingly large again. Again, a small cabin with a number of stressed looking employees. No matter the number of waiting patients, I dive into the room and state my problem. The doctor, is he?, looks and says: don’t worry, it will be gone in 15 days. So, I leave and start the search for a street plan and e-mail facilities. Via a petrol station and a stationary, I arrive through a busy pedestrian street with lots of good-looking businesses, onto the central park/square and there I stay. Everything I need appears to be available here. That is efficient and pleasant. There are two places where they supply Internet and E-mail: Telecom, cheap and a pleasant lady to help me and a commercial mixed shop, modern, attractive serving girls, lottery, and café: pleasant but also much more expensive. I go work at Telecom. Hotmail is functioning not very well, a lot of waiting and complete disruptions. At 14:00 I go find an eatery and I find Amistad: a Chinese self-service ‘all you can eat’ for $7 restaurant. Drinks are relatively expensive but for in total $11,50 I am full and satisfied. I spend this Friday eating, drinking, mailing, hotel ($30 with a good breakfast), develop film, print the film with a very disappointing result. Somewhere in an upstairs locality, I attended a lecture about one of Argentina’s artists, Molinos Campos, pictures and explanation, which I enjoyed a lot. At 22:30 I am back to e-mail again. There are now a mother and daughter present. The mother is inquisitive and when they leave, she invites me to their home when I am ready here. I would have to call, cellular, to Irene first. They live two blocks away. At 00:30 the shop closes and I walk to a phone. I consider: call or not? I call but an automatic answering runs a lot of text, so I don’t get in contact. I ask myself: is God protecting me? I eat a little, watch the scarcely dressed girls and go to bed.
Saturday. When getting up, I miss my diary. I have breakfast and then start the search for it. I went to all the places where I was yesterday with the exception of the restaurant which is still locked. I spend time in the more expensive e-mail facility: they have excellent coffee and e-mail is going uninterrupted, do they employ a better server? Probably. At 13:00 I find my diary at the restaurant. I go back to Telecom, told the nice girl there that I found it and asked her to call a shared taxi to take me back to Jachal. The taxi will be here at 18:30. I sit on a terrace, drink beer and write my diary after registering the print from my camera film. At 17:00 I am loaded, see little stars, go buy two big ice creams and take one to the nice girl from Telecom, where I have two new messages to deal with. Just when I am ready, the taxi arrives. On the way back, I see deserted buildings in a sandstorm and fall asleep in the back of the car. At arrival, back in Jackal, they are preparing the square for the celebration of the 39th traditional festival. I find my horses quietly munching their grain. According to Martin, the gendarme-keeper, the party will start around 20:30 but when I walk around, I only find a lot of people busy with the preparations. Finally, at 22:15, the party comes to a start, with speeches, poetry, recitals with a lot of pathos. The square is now filled with tables, benches and packed with people. After the talking follow fireworks with an interesting side effect: all the bats are leaving the bell-tower of the church. Then: eating and drinking, dance groups, choirs, again speeches, followed by five floats and a procession of gauchos from all over the province, in traditional dress. Their horses are sometimes dangerously close to the onlookers sitting at the terraces. At 01:30 it is getting chilly with a rising wind. I take to bed. The festivities at the square are continuing till sunrise.

 


Sunday. It is very quiet and silent in town, until 21:00. I use the day reading, writing and watching television. My horses Nora and Daan both have broken irons under their hind-legs. I tell the chief and arrange a replacement for tomorrow. I see the first cycling tourists arrive, a couple. The have light on their bikes: a rare exception here. Feeding the horses is rather meagre. I don’t see hay and there should be grain but I don’t see that either. All four horses are suffering from diarrhoea, possibly from eating to much sand with grain and/or from drinking bad water.

 


Monday. The sky is overcast, dense. Good travelling weather, but first we need to shoe Daan and Nora and all four need a good meal. I go see the chief. The second in command is present and need to hear the whole story. When the serving commander arrives, I explain to him what is needed. He says he will arrange it and gives me an ashtray with the insignia of the gendarmerie. When I am back at the living quarters, nothing has happened yet, so I go shopping. I also go to the townhall, asking them for tourist information. The only information they have is a 14 pages thick explanation. They hand it to me. When I ask them a copy of pages 4 to 8, I numbered them, they all of a sudden realize that this is their one and only specimen. They immediately make now 4 complete copies, of which I get one. When I return from shopping, the hoof smith arrived; a large fatty who does not ride anymore, probably. He has an aid, similarly fat, holding the horse during shoeing. I let them and go for a hot lunch: tasty soup with potato, onion, carrot and a lot of meat. After the lunch I go to bed. When after my nap, nothing to eat for my horses arrived, I take action myself. Martin, the keeper, goes on his bike and returns with the message, that 7 blocks away there is a man called Ruiz, who sells hay but does not have transportation. Now what. I borrow the bicycle and go to Ruiz to buy two bales of hay and transport these, one after the other, on the bicycle. Something remarkable happens: Ruiz takes his car, loads the bales of hay and delivers them just like that. I leave the horses to quietly eat the hay, while I do some repair work to the sheep skins I use under the saddles. It is evening then. I have dinner with Martin: an enormous piece of meat with tomato, onion and bread. He tells me that San Juan is the ‘onion’ province and add, that raw onions and chocolate are excellent to deal with problems caused by high altitudes, like here and further up North. At 01:00, I take to bed.

09-11 11 Yanks are taking pictures Yanks filming me.
Tuesday. 130th travel day. At 04:30 I am up and start preparations for departure. At 07:15 I am on the road, with a densely covered sky. Good weather for travelling. The knee from Daan is not looking good: inflamed and raw. The roadside is green, there are trees and water. During a long time, there is also habitation: quiet small farms. At one of these, I take half an hour rest. It all looks friendly here. 09-11 12 Jil with solar panel and drink bags Jil with water bottle bag and solar panel. We pass a large weir, with a lake behind it. There are water birds, osprey, moorhen. Here we rest and hour and I eat something. Daan is now the one who is resisting and holding us up: does his knee hurt to much? So, I go ride behind the three others and that works excellent, because Jil knows very well how to chase. I don’t have to guide him and have time to look around. Terrific rock masses with different colours of sandstone with eroded holes and fissures. There are many shades of green and yellow from, amongst others, broom and a large bush with beautiful large flowers. There are also many flowering cactuses.  09-11 13 Our troops with 4 horses and me Me riding Jut, Nora, Jil and Daan behind Jil. I notice, behind me, a car following us and not passing. When I look back, I see one of the inhabitants hanging out of a car window, filming us. They pass, stop again and continue filming. Then they stop and leave the car, so I stop as well, while the three horses in front continue going on this high winding mountain road. They appear to be a family from San Diego (U.S.A.), on holiday: father, mother, son and daughter in law. At first, we talk in Spanish, but as soon as they hear that I am Dutch, we continue in English. 09-11 14 Jut carries me Jut and me. They are so enthusiastic that talking short, ends up talking much longer while my three fore-runners disappear out of sight. The family point that out to me, but I tell them not to worry: around the corner they will notice me missing and halt, waiting packed as a trio. And so it is. The family has a Sharp notebook, with which you can e-mail from every phone: very handy. They hand me a business card and promise me to sent me the pictures they took. I see the weir, deep down, in a nice valley. 09-11 18 We on the road After a series of hairpins, I get a beautiful sight across the valley with a place called Huaco. Around 15:00 we arrive at the police-station, positioned at the point where the road turns off to the right, to Huaco. Huaco is at the end of a road, 6 kilometres inland. I decide to stay at the police station for the night. 09-11 19 We looking tiny in the land The first thing I see in the police station, is a poster depicting Jesus and the text: ‘I am the light and the guide’. Underneath on the wall: a poster with a very well formed scarcely dressed body. I like both posters: ‘that’s life’. The two policemen, Walter and Carlos, don’t react much: they watch me and they try to get me to move to Huaco or to a hotel 5 kilometres back on the road. I ignore their suggestions, place my belongings against the fence and take my horses 500 meters inland, where a system of small canals with an overflow provide water for my horses.

09-11 21 the troop in the harsh country Rough country.

There is not much to graze, but it is better than nothing. Of course, there are millions of midgets, very uncomfortable. There is not much traffic passing here, the policemen serve here two days on and four days off. They loosen up a bit and we share maté, which is always a positive sign. It shows: they invite me to join them for dinner. It is getting merrier, we drink a lot of wine, my whisky is used and, in the end, they give me a small bottle with coffee-liqueur, ‘for on the way’. A truck loaded with bales of hay is approaching and they stop it. Two bales of hay are summoned to be unloaded, for my horses. Excellent, I pick them up and feed them one bale, keeping the second one for tomorrow morning. After this event, I produce a tent from plastic sheets. There is no wind, so that goes very well. There is no shortage of large stones to fixate the sides of the sheet. On top of that I find an old box spring which I of course use. After the diner and a nice hot shower, at 23:00, I take to bed and fall asleep very fast, as usual when I sleep outdoor.

10-11 op weg naar Santa Clara gele cactus bloem Cactus flower.
Wednesday, 10th November, 131st travel day. It will be a hot day today. The sky is totally clear. The preparations go easy and quiet, because the horses are eating their second bale of hay. The crew here has changed. Two new policemen are on duty. One of them is a horseman, he owes 15 horses. When I saddle Daan, I see a large inflamed lump on his back at the position where the packsaddle touches his skin. 10-11 op weg naar Santa Clara witte cactus bloem With this inflammation he is unable to do any work for a long time. I consider the situation. I have another 6 weeks of travelling ahead of me, until I have to organize my return to Holland and to work. Another fact is, that these coming weeks will be rough coming to deserts, mountains and areas with very limited means to feed the horses. After due consideration, I decide to leave Daan behind, in the care of the horse loving policeman. Of course, I did try to sell him, but that action was clearly in vain. It hurts but this decision is inevitable. When I ride off, with three horses and without Daan, I hear him a long-time protesting, whinnying like mad. It makes me feel terribly sad, but we have to carry on. It is very warm in the large green valley, surrounded by absolute bare but not very high mountains. From time to time I see a twirling dust column rising up from the land: a twister. We proceed slow, Nora is resisting. She carries extra luggage now. We have a long way ahead of us. Vegetation along the road is green, but they are very tough prickly bushes. Fortunately, there are also trees providing shadow during resting periods. The road is straight like a ruler, rolling softly from ditch to ditch. Ditches, now as dry as dust, are formed by melting water from the mountains. Nothing is growing in these ditches. The tarmac of the road is perfect, but traffic is neglectable. In order to proceed good, I ride behind Jil and Nora: it works well. Jil is in fact the only one who never frustrates the tempo with on- and off braking actions. There is not much variation and there are not sheds or buildings. The only colour comes from the cactus flowers: these are beautiful. At 17:00 I feed the horses the water I carry. They have to drink it from a plastic bag. When I empty the last bottle of liquid in the plastic bag, it appears to be Soda. The reaction of the horses is comical. They are thirsty so they try it, but after two sips, they give up, shaking their head, smacking their lips and foaming from their mouth. There are no indications about the distance I covered and/or still have to cover, but fortunately there are small poles per kilometre. Our speed is now 10 km/hr and we rest after each hour.

10-11 op weg naar Santa Clara Road to Santa Clara.

At 20:15 the sun is down and it is dark. For a short moment, there is a beginning waxing moon, but it sinks. I attach my 12-volt lamp at the ring under Jil’s chin. It gives sufficient light to be able to see the road and the road sides. Jil is reacting at first, with awe, but soon enough he is completely accustomed to it, because also he can see the road more clearly. I feel much safer as well, with this pretty strong shining and rocking light. We leave the province of San Juan and enter the province of La Rioja. I see already lights in the distance at the end of the endless straight road. These lights give hope, but from experience I know that they are still very far away. The watching and hoping gives me a strong feeling of lacking progress: the lights are seemingly not coming any nearer. The lights at the far end of the road are slowly getting clearer and I can discern the single sources. Next, I also spot a red flashing light, probably from a police station along the road. Getting nearer and nearer I begin to distinguish single buildings. Then I hear a sharp hard crack. I wonder, fireworks? When I arrive at the police post I find it functioning as a border post where they also check on the transport of fruits. They are trying to keep fruit flies out of this province. I find the post at maximum strength, thrown into confusion. A large strongly built policeman with a large gun and bulletproof vest stays a bit at a distance, looking half suspicious, half reassured, while the commanding officer is addressing me. He explains the situation: they were alarmed by that strange swinging light, far away, only approaching extremely slowly. They were concerned, because 7 or 8 criminals are thought to be, on foot, roaming through the area. The crack was from a warning shot (a dummy?). I hear him tell it, but I don’t understand their action. The excitement is soon tempered and now they are helping me. I am shown the way into Santa Clara. At the square, they tell me, there are two businesses still open. I can park and sleep there. They also tell me, that in Cuandacol there is a settlement of gaucho’s where they have facilities to shoe my horses. We enter the village where I enter a shabby shed where four men are playing Truco. There is not much choice to drink and you can only buy it per litre. I buy a litre of beer. The innkeeper provides lodging. Behind the shop there is a court with a half-collapsed terrace roof. A number of large rooms with a door, lay around this court and I can occupy one of them. I am secured here, but there is nothing more, so my own battery and light come handy again. I park the horses after unsaddling in the square, fixed to a tree. They have at least some muddy water there. I drink my beer and go asleep. xx3-web wk 45 La Rioja

xx4-web wk 45 La Rioja

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Week 44-2018. Amersfoort (October 28-November 03).

 

 

  1. Sunday, 28st October 2018. Amersfoort. It is wintertime. The clock was set one hour backwards. It is always a matter of physical adaptation. My friend did not come to church, but I go see her after the service. She tells me a nasty story about a niece. That niece is in Argentina to do a term with one of the leading experts on health care for horses. The niece was with a German young woman who was planning the same term. Before starting their study, they went for a hike in the region of Bariloche. They were held up and merely survived. After the visit to my friend, I went to Eemnes where I saw some of the soccer game between Feyenoord and Ajax (0-3) I did not stay to see the race in Mexico, which was won by Max Verstappen.
    Monday. Today I received news from Slovakia. The aid of my friend there, had two kittens, British Short Hair pedigree cats, for sale. I offered them on Marktplaats. Both the kittens did get a new home, one in Bratislava and the other in Workum. I rang a friend in Rotterdam, to make an appointment for the once- or twice a year event: visiting a town in Holland. We agreed to go to ‘s Hertogenbosch this time, next week Wednesday. I also tried to get in contact with another friend in Woudenberg, but when I rang, I only got the sound of a ‘non-connected’ number.
    Tuesday. After a quiet morning, I felt uneasy about not being able to contact my friend in Woudenberg. I took my Peugeot and went to her home to find out why not. At arrival, I just saw her preparing to take her bicycle to go shopping. That was already a reassurance. I did have some shopping to do myself, so we went together. Woudenberg Woudenberg. My friend appeared to have a new telephone number. After shopping I stayed for dinner. She made hotchpotch from curly kale with bacon and smoked sausage: I loved it, traditional simple tasty Dutch food. When back at home, I saw that my daughter in law had sent me a large number of e-mails, containing everything regarding the problems of my grandson at his school. I was asked to join in a meeting with the school staff about the situation. So, I studied the load of mails, which kept my awake till 01:30 o’clock. Without that study it would have been not very helpful to join the meeting.
    Wednesday. Around 03:00 the fire alarm goes off. I always stay in bed or in my room, because the alarm is ‘always’ false. At 09:00 we, that is me and my daughter in law, are at the school for the meeting. In the meeting we discussed the situation that had led to the suspension of my grandson from school. Groot Goylant (1) The school. We agreed on a next meeting. The objective of that meeting is to find a sensible solution for my grandson, to continue his schooling. Back at home, I got a call from one of the other inhabitants who lives two doors away from me. He asked me confirmation about the housing here, of people with a conviction. These people are housed here now, since nearly half a year. He, the inquirer, is rather retiring and unaware of the present situation. He was shocked.
    Thursday. My friend from Rotterdam called. He asked me for help, finding a company where one of his protégé’s might find a problem to solve. She, a Chinese young woman, has her MBA in logistic management and is now going for her Masters. I called my friend in Amsterdam, who is planning a 6 weeks horse riding trip in Argentina. I informed him about the sorry experience of the two young women who were robbed there. I advised him to fully inform the Dutch embassy in Buenos Aires and also the headquarters of the Gendarme Nacional for the province of Neuquen, where the are going to. He was happy with my advice.
    Friday. Today was a hectic day. I was going to join my daughter in law, to the meeting aimed at finding a solution for my grandson’s schooling. That meeting was set for 3 o’clock. Early in the morning my daughter in law informed me about matters concerning her eldest son. He felt bad this morning and saw his family doctor, who found a blood sugar value of 30+. That value is dangerous for one’s health, so he went to hospital immediately. Ziekenhuis Ter Gooi Hilversum (3) Hospital Ter Gooy. My daughter in law, my grandson and I went there a bit later. After due medical investigation, he was told to be ‘diabetic’. He is now waiting for further results telling which type of diabetic he is, type 1 or type 2. The internal medical specialist assumes it to be type 2, related to his physical situation and his ‘body mass index’. We all hope that to be the case. Of course, my daughter in law is in distress, like his brothers and he himself as well: he hates injection needles. After the hospital, we went to the set meeting. That went pretty well, leading to a temporary solution for Marnix: he can continue schooling at a special location where he is not confronted with the people he scared so much.
    Saturday, 27th of October 2018. A day at home, quietly writing and drinking coffee. No further excitements. Since long, I took it to go for a walk of an hour. Wandeling in de buurt (2)  Stichtse roundabout. I did like that and am planning to pick up that routine again: good for my mind and body.

Argentina on horseback. 1999. October 28-31/November 01-03.
Week 43. On my walk back, I enjoy thoroughly the lukewarm evening with its scents and sounds. At the gendarmerie I am told that the horses ate and drank, so I take to bed, tired. I slept within seconds.

10 29-10-99 Cerro el Calvario Cerro El Cavario.
Week 44. Thursday, 28th October. I slept very well, till 9am, took a cold shower. My dry-cell battery is fully charged. In the building, there is department for civil services where I ask about Internet and a hairdresser. In front of the building I meet an interviewer from ‘radio Calingata’. He came for me, for a live interview and that is funny. After the interview, I connected my solar-panel to the battery. A gendarme takes me to the telephone-shop, where they have Internet ‘for sure’. But no, no internet. Next, I try the office of ‘radio Calingata’, where they appear to have the one and only internet facility in the region. There are 10 e-mail messages for me. For answering there is no time: I have to postpone that until I am in San Juan de Jachal. They bring me back, by car, to the gendarmerie. They take me to a restaurant, by car again, at 12:30. Here, they now know who I am: the heard the radio-interview. The meal they serve is good, I watch television and write my diary. At 15:30 I leave and walk through the silent, warm afternoon back to the gendarmerie where I have an appointment with the hairdresser. Halfway, a cute little girl approaches me for help: she could not get the wrap off her ice-cream. 01 28-10 comedor Barreal Unwrap her ice-cream. I made a picture of her. I don’t have to pay the hairdresser and leave the ‘salon’ with a pleasant short cut head. Now I go search for my horses. I find them in a large fenced area, with next to them another area with a thoroughbred horse and mules. The gendarmes here use mules instead of horses: they are better for use in the mountains. When I arrive, they are just being fed. My horses are well cared for here. Now I am tired and go asleep for a couple of hours in this huge dormitory. When I wake up, around 21:00, the door appears to be locked from the outside. I am locked in! For the first time, since November last year, I need my police-whistle. After long and very hard whistling I get a reaction. The guard appears. Some gendarme, unaware of my presence in that dormitory, locked the door tight. Now I leave the doors open and the lights on, avoiding another similar situation. I go out, to do some shopping. In the only supermarket in Barreal, they sell really everything, but in a limited choice: food, horse shoes, fittings for watermains and lots more. At the till, a television set is on. The cashier and a client are watching an irritating game: video match. They are both totally absorbed by it, while I am ticking impatiently to attract some attention. I find the shop rather expensive. I go back to the restaurant, where I eat, tasty and cheap. When I pay the bill, I am given 6 bags with local herbs, for tea they say. With the guard at the gendarmerie, I agree that he will wake me as soon as the moon is up. I sleep like a log.
Friday. 29th October, 124th travel day. At 02:00 o’clock the guard wakes me up. I do have milk, so I make a nacho breakfast. It is again a lukewarm night with pleasant scents and sounds. The horses are easy today and I take it easy too, preparing, and leaving at 05:00. Via the main street I come onto a surfaced ‘path’, along which there are trees and houses for a long time. Everywhere the dogs start barking. Soon daylight appears and a lot of cyclists (a lot is approximately 10) are passing, probably on their way to a job. The area is very nice (relatively). A fertile valley with to the west, the high mountaintops and to the east a fascinating inaccessible mountain range of totally barren sharp rocks with many variations of colours. Everywhere around, clay stones are laying to dry. Large manmade stones, very good for insulation to heat or cold. These stones are not used with mortar from cement, but just with again clay. They are then plastered with clay. These constructions are not very strong, but that is not necessary either. I experience the province San Juan up to now, more pleasant than Mendoza. Alongside the road there are suddenly garbage bins and concrete tables with seating elements. There we rest for a while, because there is also water. I take the ‘longer’ road and cross therefor the ‘Rio de los Patos’ via a narrow bridge, low laying above the brown water flowing underneath it at high speed. This area is ideal for all sorts of animal life, wide water-meadows with pools (breeding of mosquitos) but few growths. The growth here is kept going with a lot of work, via an extensive system of small canals with minuscule locks. There is also agriculture, often alfalfa, an important product for local needs, and forestry of trees to be harvested within 5 years: white timber for construction and furniture. I eat a carrot and realise myself that the carrots here, taste absolutely smashing. Much tastier as the artificially speed grown uniform carrots in Holland. Here they have real taste and they are sweet. The road to Tamberias is pleasant. There is much to see and animals approach closely, like a bird with a very long split tail, constantly in motion as a rudder. It’s a nice sight. And in the distance, those fascinating geological rarities. There was so much to see, that I did not notice the shifting luggage carried by Jil. His luggage saddles topple over and he is reacting panicky, until I calm him down. Calming my horses in moments of distress is actually no problem anymore: they let me do, always. I get some help from a man passing us on a moped. He also gives me directions to an address where I can stop for breakfast. Without this help, I would have never found it: first enter the village, first path to the left and then the last house at the corner to the right. On the way, I ask and get confirmation. I park the horses around the corner, in the shadow and with grass. A woman I asked for confirmation, arrives on her bicycle, because she thought I was missing the house: the dear. Everywhere people are nodding, waving and calling ‘good luck’. Many off them appear to know about me, through the radio interview. At the house, I find a terrace behind dense hedges, under a sunshade. Caged birds, a green and a yellow parakeet together, a beautiful white bird with a head red as a beetroot, a small type of green/yellow parrot and two grey/brownish singing birds. Further there are two kind and attention demanding cats and similar Belgian shepherd dogs. I am served very tasty maté with cake and buns (pan cassero). First only the son and later also the neighbouring young man (25y) keep me company. Very cosy. Lots of people pass, many on horseback, like a 7-year-old boy on a large somewhat uneasy horse. The whole setting breathes a paradise like feeling. It is a pity that I feel the need to continue and pay the bill of $3!! When I am in the saddle, the innkeeper gives me a plastic bag with one kilo of sugar, a bag of Yerba maté, two types of leaves (mint a.o) and a complete set to consume maté consisting of a container and a drinking tube. There is not question of refusing, I must accept it. At the next corner I am held up by a complete family. Most friendly. A chat, and ‘good luck’. Did I take nice pictures? No, sorry, I did not. A bit further up the road, a boy on a bicycle comes up to me, with an envelop containing three nice pictures from the area. 09 29-10-99 Cerro El Alcazar Cerro el Alcazar.
11 29-10-99 Laguna del Tome-Calingasta-San JuanLaguna del Tome. It is lovely weather, warm and a bit of wind, not too hot. My horses, with the exception of Daan, are troublesome, so I try another sequence. Now I see, that Jut is causing the unrest. They all have their time to be nasty, I suppose. We arrive in Calingasta around midday and I am hungry. I tie them up to a tree and go to a restaurant at the other side of the road. The horses get a lot of attention. After my lunch I go to the dead silent and spotless buildings of the gendarmerie, at the crossroads in the middle of this sleepy village. After a lot of rattling at the door, a clearly awakened guard appears. For the first time I don’t get any help: they don’t have a place for my horses and the acting officer does not supply lodging. The living in the barracks is very homely, with sideboard, dining table, occasional table, television set on a trolley, a neat and comfortable 3-piece seat and an open fire. Two young men, ~20 years old, are called for, they will help me to a place for my horses. We leave the village, into the direction of RP17 (provincial road) and cross the river. Immediately across the river we enter a terrain with a fenced off area and a large cart where I can dump my belongings. When ready with those arrangements, Manuel, one of the guys, enters the house to ask if the old Peugeot can be used to get food for the horses. A bit awkward Manuel comes back with the message that we are not welcome. We have to leave again. I don’t understand this apparent habit. For instance, you ask directions to a shop, they go through a lot of length to tell you, but they never tell you automatically that the shop will be closed. And when you ask, they often tell you that the shop will be open, while it appears to be closed. That is a bit understandable because the opening times here are absolutely illogical. You have the best chance, according to my experience, between 18:00 and 20:00 for opening times. We pack my things again and go back across the river. In the forest we now make my own confined area, with amongst others a 20-meter-long rope. I am tired and feel sleepy, so I leave the boys to arrange for the rest. I give them money to buy food and I know the money will pay for their services as well. I plan to continue travelling around midnight. At the gendarmerie I install myself in the 3-piece seat, in front of the television set with my own maté. I rest and sleep a couple of hours uneasy. The gendarme on duty did travel himself, pretty uncommon. He shows me a lot of pictures. He travelled three weeks through Europe and he even knows some English. In November, he plans to go to Australia. He is an exception. At midnight the two guys appear. I am longing for an ice-cream and a number of businesses are still open. They announce having ice-cream, but they don’t have it. We get my horses from their position. My luggage was neatly stored in a room in the house. Everybody is helping. Unfortunately, there is also a problem: the long rope and my reins are missing. After a lot of searching, talking and analysing, I conclude that these items are stolen. They don’t deny it and react resigned, awkwardly dismayed and passive. Yet I depart at 02:30. Without reins now, but with these horses that is no problem at all since long. Again, it is a lukewarm night and we follow the tarmac, because the sky is overcast. It is certainly exciting. The boys did ask me if I am not afraid. No, I am not and I have not even asked myself this, but their question caused me to be more cautious tonight for possible dangers. I have no idea if there are any.
Saturday. 125th travel day. I am told this would be a tarmac surfaced road. It is indeed, for some time. But soon it appears to be a bit trickier. The tarmac ends and I come to a series of diversions, some announced, some not. I have to look for the right path regularly, sometimes gambling, alert, sometimes going back, to be certain about the way. It is certainly feeling like an adventure. We take it easy. We pause regularly, there is plenty water and we pass a number of settlements, as marked on my map. We go relaxed. During the last 10 kilometres, Jut is being nasty: going, stopping, going, stopping. It is terribly disrupting, to the extent that I disconnect the three and pushing them, riding Nora, from behind. It is not very pleasant but it works and we progress. We pass Puchurun in time. It is pleasant to have these settlements with habitations from time to time: gives me a safe feeling. At 08:00, we arrive in Villa Nueva.

 

03 31-10 Villa Nueva Enclosure Gendarmerie Enclosure for my horses.

 

Bad weather above the Andes.

Everything is still asleep, nobody to be seen, until we come over the bridge across the river. There, to the right, there is again a boarding school. An adult and children come sprinting off the schoolyard. The gendarmerie appears in sight, only 500 meters away at the far end of this village (one street only) with 125 inhabitants. It looks neat: friendly, large shed, small enclosure for horses and a small cute building with porch and vines. A small wooden sentry box. A gendarme comes out the sentry box and we go into the house. The serving officer is a bit older. He sits in the living in a tracksuit, writing. It all looks well maintained and clean. He is immediately helpful and pleasant working together arranging my needs. We unsaddle the horses in a large shed. My luggage goes into a neat dorm with two good beds. In the clean wash- and toilet section everything is in threefold for 5 men of which two are away. They take duty in turn, a third one is busy in tracksuit, gardening and housekeeping, cooking. For the horses we go to Lalo Torres, nearby. Lalo, a farmer, has plenty alfalfa for the horses and a large enclosure for them. Lalo will take care of the horses during the weekend. We find him ploughing his land, a pleasant fatty. At 10:00 everything is done and I go into the relax mode. At the local general store, I drink a litre of beer, take a hot meal (expensive). Then I walk the village trying to find grain for my horses. They don’t have it, or their business is closed. It is a minimalistic pleasant village, Villa Nueva. This gendarmerie belongs to the 26th squadron in Barreal. At the local grocery I buy wine, soda and one kilo of beef, all for $8. That is not bad! Oh, yes, I also bought ‘pan casero’. It was a quiet afternoon and evening. I had a lovely hot shower. I spot a group of geese: they have a funny fluffy hairdo. The whole day it is half cloudy. At 22:00 I walk to the grocery, where they celebrate ‘mother-day’ with the soccer club. Under the awning they placed a noisy audio installation and a large table with wine, soda and lemonade. Mothers, fathers and children of all ages take their seats. When all the guests are there, a ritual follows. All are standing up, with a filled glass. Then comes a short speech and a toast to the mothers. Next is eating: snacks, chicken, potato/carrot salad and empanada. Again, a speech. After this, the table is cleared and removed. A 6 men band starts the music and everybody is dancing. It is pleasant and joyful. At 01:00am I walk to my lodge, the gendarmerie, where it is dark and silent. I take to bed and sleep immediately. It is lovely silent and calm here.
Sunday. At 08:00 I get up, fresh and full of energy, take a shower and have breakfast. Breakfast is with ‘Trigo’, powdered milk, powdered chocolate, sugar and hot water. It is tasty and nutritious. After that a bun with cheese and one with jam, maté. Dressed in T-shirt, shorts and shoes without stockings, I rummage about at bit and write a lot. There is much wind, the whole day, thunderstorm far away, a short shower. Unknown vehicles pass here rarely.

 

My hosts.

Around midday I see Lalo and we agree on getting my horses at 20:00 and pay for his service. We have maté: they are pleasant people, quite different from those in Mendoza. In Mendoza people were a lot more distant. Aldo, the gendarme, cooked an extensive meal. The 26th squadron from Barreal serves 4 small sections the whole year through and on top of that 5 sections during summer in the mountains. At each of these sections, the men serve for a month.
I am told that tonight will be a cold night. At 20:00 I go pick up my horses and lead them into the small enclosure at the gendarmerie. I did not see Lalo, so I give $ 20 to Orlando, the other gendarme, to hand that to Lalo. Orlando knows to find Lalo and leaves to pay him the money. I take a picture from the group here and go to bed at 21:30. Orlando advised me to try, the coming weeks, to leave around 05:00-06:00, ride 4 or 5 hours, take a rest till 16:00-17:00 and ride 3 or 4 hours again. I like that, because I am then not depending on the moonlight and I see the landscape, which is one of the main reasons for travelling. We calculated and came to conclude that, in the past week, I travelled 193 kilometres which is pretty good. Orlando is gone nearly the whole day. Aldo occupied the sentry box. I eat alone, beef on bread. I go to bed in time. I don’t have an alarm, so I sleep uneasy.
Monday. 1st November, 126th travelling day. At 1 o’clock I am awake, stay in bed and fall asleep again. At 4 I am awake again and get up. Breakfast is bread with beef. The sky is clear and there is a moon. Jut is laying down, asleep, while the other three are standing around and looking a bit aggrieved. In the kitchen I find a plastic bag with the rope (in two pieces) and my reins. Something must have happened in Calingasta, where these were lost. Aldo, tells me later that a mapuche delivered these items yesterday late. He told that the gendarme in Barreal did send a truck full with gendarmes who searched for my lost belongings in Calingasta. That is also Argentina. When I load the saddle bag with spares, I see that the buckles are half closed and the strings are loose. Somebody had gone through them and I suppose that must have happened also in Calingasta. It is annoying to have noticed it now and I am prepared to find out, later, that items from them are missing. I am not now going to find out. Around 06:45 we depart after a cordial farewell to Aldo. Orlando is still asleep. The country is hilly at first but soon we enter again an endless plain where the wind is blowing unbroken. The mighty mountains with snow to the left with in the foreground the pré-cordillera. To the right it is hilly for a while. After that: pampa, but pampa with some bushes in between stone. There is nothing to munch for the horses. Lizards and birds, I see a lot. After 24 kilometres, at 11:00, we arrive at crossing with a camp from the roadworkers. It is a tiny camp with two men living here the whole week, with a radio for communications. They are hospitable. The give me a large cup of coffee, bread and a huge bowl with BBQ meat. After an hour rest in the plain, we drive on. I know ride behind the other three more often and that is working out very well, we make good progress. Around 15:40 we arrive at the planned location and that is very good: approximately 50 kilometres in 9 hours. There are trees and a large meadow with horses. The settlement is called Tocota. The only building I see, is the building from the gendarmerie, with a three men strength. They help me without much asking. The horses go into the meadow to rest and eat. Then I have maté with a woozy deaf warrant officer, followed by a shower. Water is heated by a wood stove. Electricity comes from batteries powered by solar panels. It is always a bit of a surprise to find it functioning. I am given a bed in the room from the warrant officer. At 19:00 my eyes want to close so I go to bed for an hour. After that there is diner served: beef, eggs, bread and pickled cucumber. The meal is tasty and I like the timing. The are taking to bed early here, in order to save energy from the batteries. I suppose that they will get up early as well. It is so quiet here, ideal for an intermediate halt. I write my diary: The reining wind is strong and cold. The vegetation changed to more cactuses, no longer only the thick finger like but also the ones with flat thick leaves and small types standing in groups. Some kind of a broom full of yellow flowers, but these are nearly finished. Soon after our diner, while I am writing my diary, they have to change batteries, so we are in the dark for a while. They are used to it and have candles and lanterns readily available. The enclosure and the meadow are from the gendarmerie. The gendarmerie here has no horses but mules and their mules are now being used at the groups in the mountains. This section belongs to the 25th squadron of San Juan de Jáchal. The horses present in the meadow here, are from local small farmers. Among the horses are a pregnant mare and a mare with foal. At 22:00 I go to bed, planning to get up early. The matrass and the pillow feel very good. I use my sleeping bag. Cold wind is coming in from all sides through the badly closing windows and doors. The warrant officer and his mates are now doing everything preventing to make a noise. I am asleep when the warrant officer goes to bed and covers me with two ponchos. I just here him vaguely mumbling that the nights are very cold: he acts like my mother. xx-web wk 44 Mendoza
Tuesday. 2nd of November, the 127th travel day. I am awake pretty early, but I like my bed so much, that I turn around and carry on sleeping. After all, I am on holiday! And, I don’t want to disturb the crew here. The officer is up around half past seven and when he is ready with his process, I get up as well and have breakfast: trigo, bun with cheese and one with jam, maté. The two soldiers appear half an hour later too. Outdoor it warms up fast. There is no wind. My horses are grazing grouped together. The other horses are fed grain and now my horses intervene. I have to give them their headsets and tie them up. I take my time preparing to leave. The officer is helping from time to time. I sit in the shadow when one of the gendarmes shows up with a large glass, filled with a yellow substance: horse milk with raw egg, fresh but very fat and very tasty. I drink it, with in my mind the risk of salmonella. At 10:45 I am ready and hit the road. The air temperature is warm but not hot. There is a bit of cirrus clouds and that keeps the sun a bit tempered. Around me, far away, are hills and mountains. The altitude here is 2500 m+ sea level. The road is awful: only loose stone. The road side is not better. Four cars pass us, amongst them an ambulance going to the gendarmerie for an accident? It can’t have been a serious case, because not much later the pass me from behind, joyful waving at me. There is nothing for the horses to eat, but we ride along a fast-flowing river and for a while through the river. So, enough to drink. We are going ahead very well. Soon I spot the trees from ‘Bella Vista’. One-and-a-half-hour riding, half an hour rest, again one-and-a-half-hour riding and half an hour rest at the waterside. After that another hour riding and we are in Iglesia. My first impression is of a friendly place, silent, of course because it is 16:00 and everybody is asleep. I follow the main road for a while. To my left there is a park and I take the turn to the left just on intuition. My luck, because I find an eatery with three tables and a travelling businessman. I sit and drink a litre of cold beer. The horses stand nearby, at ease and dozing because there is nothing to eat. I talk with grandfather, who appears to be a pensioned gendarme. He tells me that I can stay here for the night, fortunately. He takes me to a new barn where we unsaddle the horses. I will sleep in the barn. We take the horses to a large meadow with other horses and enough to graze. I install myself in the barn. My new battery is working well, so I do have light. Grandpa gives me a spring box and matrass. During my installation work, bending down and getting up again, I lose conscience and hit the wall with my forehead, resulting in grazes to my head and a sore neck. Very annoying. I take half an hour rest and then to the tiny terrace to write my diary. I am invited to get into the house. Of course, I accept the invitation gratefully. Inside, I find grandpa (Luiz), his wife, a married couple and their son Martin. The room is stuffed with furniture and the walls are covered with photo’s and prints from glossies. I answer all their questions while the two women are preparing dinner: chicken, bread, lots of green olives, red wine, soup of cannelloni in water and a green type of vegetable. It is all very tasty. For after we get empanadas filled with ‘dulce de leche’ and powdered with sugar, cold, but also tasty. At 23:15 I go to my dormitory in the shed.
Wednesday, 3rd November, 128th travel day.
I did not sleep very well, maybe too many sheets or trouble from the wound on my head. I go find my horses. At first, I don’t see Nora. She is sleeping in the high grass but when she notices the other walking into my direction, she hurries to join them, afraid to miss some of the process. I give them a portion of grain and I go breakfast. Luiz comes to have a look. Packing goes fast. Luiz goes to his land but is back soon. He harnesses a mule to a cart. The bill for their services is only $10. Problem is that I only have a $100 bill. His son goes on his horse, looking for change but returns without success. Suddenly I realize that, against my habit, some paper money in my purse. It happened to be $20 and that was a relieve. At 10 o’clock we part, cordially. For the first time since Perito Moreno I ride Jil and he clearly likes it. What he does not like is pulling on the lead by the others. We arrive in Las Flores where I go to the gendarmerie to drink maté, as promised yesterday in Tocota. It is funny there and we talk a lot. The young pimple-faced chief even arranges hay for my horses. After 1,5 hours of talking, I depart for Rodeo, via an inland path as indicated by the gendarmes This route is supposed to be a lot shorter. A very cold wind rose: a cold strong wind in a moonlike landscape: stones and sand. We pass Achango with trouble, because the three behind us, refuse. Nora puts her four feet firmly in the ground. Jil reacts panicky and winds the whole lot into a frenzy, so much that he topples over with me as well of course. No damage, fortunately. It is not getting any better and I lose my temper, hitting Nora where I can. Completely wrongly and unjust, because a bit later I see why she is defiant. Jut is causing all the problems: he goes, stops at once and walks and Nora is fed up with that. The result is lack of progress, damage to the reins, luggage shifting and an agitated trio, with the exception of Daan. Going behind the trio does not function either, because Jut is pulling the others off the path into the hills. It is all very exciting in an unpleasant way, no matter the very good functioning of Jil on his own. But it all cost too much time and energy, so I change the situation again. Now I join Jil and Jut, while Jut is joined to Nora. Daan is joined with Jut as well, but Daan is always following tensionless. Like this it functions again, but we arrive late, at 17:00 in Rodeo while the wind is picking up strength and cold. The gendarmes in Rodeo suggested to go to the municipal camping. On the road through Rodeo it is pretty busy and as usual, the given directions are rather vague. This camping is strange, covering a large area but without an office or something like it. So, I ask around and am directed to the lady living in the sanitary building. As recommended, I knock at the door. A big woman, sleepy, not unattractive but blockheaded, nasty and non-cooperative, opens the door. Without her cooperation I find a position next to one of the cabins ($35 per night) where there is grass for the horses. These cabins are mostly permanently inhabited. I don’t unsaddle, because I expect to get some sort of a reaction. And indeed, while I am eating bread a pleasant guy appears. First, he tries to get me to move 50 meters with my horses. He picks up some sticks, plant them in the ground and expect me to tie my horses to these sticks, an absolute useless idea. So, I stay where I am carrying on eating my bread. A bit later he guides me to the picknick part of the camping. Everywhere there are fireplaces with concrete tables and benches. Some of these places are covered and with light from one sparing bulb. I like this, so I get the horses and tie them to some trees near a stream.

 

Preparing a mule.

My ‘host’ appears a number of times again, amongst others to tell me that the keeper of the canteen will come soon. I wait, but when it is getting dark, I start the production of a tent underneath one of the covers, using my 28m2 thick plastic sheet. The ropes are already tightened and I am just unfolding the plastic, when the keeper arrives. That is shitty late, but he is nice. He allows me a place to sleep in a small shed where he has a bed. My luggage can go into the canteen. It is a lot of extra work, but it is worth it because it is now really cold. He supplies me with a thermos with hot water for maté and leaves. I arrange myself, lucky again. I eat bread, drink maté and lemonade. When I am ready with that, I go asleep and that works perfectly well. It is not cold in this stone building: it accumulated sufficient heat from the daylight and it is sheltered from the wind. xx-web wk 44 San Juan

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Week 43-2018. Amersfoort (October 21-October 27). Argentina 1999.

Sunday, 21st October 2018. Amersfoort. There are not as many people in church as usual. School holidays are possibly the reason. After the service I visit my friend in Hollandsche Rading. The highway which I usually take, is closed. I have to follow a diversion, through the country, via Westbroek. 01 Westbroek-UtrechtWestbroek is a small rural village between Hilversum and Utrecht. My friend is recovering from an operation. She has only very little energy, so I walk Toets. After the exchange of a variety of information, I leave to Eemnes. My grandson celebrates his 15th birthday. The living is occupied by his friends. The older guests are gathering under the porch. After the departure of most of the guests, I stay to watch a formula 1 race in Texas. Our Dutch driver Max started as 16th and manages to overtake most of the other drivers, finalizing as second which is extremely good.
Monday. A day of shopping, buying food for this week. 02 Boodschappen I made pumpkin soup for the first time in my life: it tasted very well. I also produced Chili con Carne for three days.
Tuesday. For my friends in Humenné, I placed an advertisement on Internet. They have two pedigree cats for which they seek a good home. In the evening I saw Ajax win over Benfica, 1-0, with a lot of luck. 03 Trappenhuis IJselberch
Wednesday. From the RSCPA I was asked to transport a hen to the bird-sanctuary in Naarden. 05 Gevonden hoenWhen I came back home, I found one of the other inhabitants in distress: somebody had tampered with the lock of his scooter and he was unable to start the thing, to go to his job. It is the second time that this happens to him. Later I heard that he had managed to get a piece of plastic out of the keyhole. We are now trying to find out, who did tamper with that keyhole.
Thursday. A friend called in the afternoon. He planned to come and see me. This friend picked my memory about horse riding in Argentina. He is now organising his own trip there. We had a good meal in the nearby restaurant. 06 Verbouwing UtrechtsewegAfter that he showed me some videos he made during an earlier trip there, in preparation of a longer trip this winter. He now has 4 others who are joining him. They are leaving the 1st of December and he planned to stay for a period of 6 weeks; absolutely exciting. He made some videos with the use of a drone, while riding his horse. The pictures are fascinating.
Friday. I was in my first sleep, when at around 2 o’clock the fire alarm went off. I never go out to see why. During all the years that I lived here, nearly 30 years now, there has never been a real fire. The alarm goes off because some of the inexperienced youngsters forget a pan on the ceramic cooker plate. Or they smoke their joints immediately underneath the smoke detector in their apartment. In the afternoon, my daughter in law, with my grandson, came to see me. 07 Fenty Fenty, the cat of my grandson.
Saturday, 27th of October 2018. We, that is my daughter in law and my grandson with me, had planned to go to Schiphol. The passport of my grandson, he had lost it in July, was reported found and kept with the military police. My grandson saw the notification on his face-book account. The message was also 3 month old, so I rang the police to hear if the passport was still there. They keep this sort of documents for a month and after that they are destroyed. So, we don’t have to go to Schiphol and my grandson has to apply for a new passport.
Instead of going to Schiphol, I went to see my friend in Hollandsche Rading. My daughter in law joined me. My friend in Hollandsche Rading solved the problems with my mobile phone. Apparently, messages were not sent and I did not receive any either. After resetting it worked properly again. My friend is very good with gadgets, that is clear. Tonight, at 20:00 o’clock, the environmentalists are switching off their electric lights; to save the world?

Argentina on horseback. 1999. October 21-27.
Week 42. At midnight I am back at the hostel, where I am now met by a much younger woman. I take to bed immediately, but don’t sleep really well.

xx-web wk 43 Mendoza

Week 43. Thursday, 21st October When I wake up there appears to be a dense wet fog from the ocean. I am lucky to have my raincoat with me. But first things first: washing and brushing teeth, however, I lack a towel. I go around the house, calling, whistling, nocking. After a while a cute little old woman leaves the bathroom. She is a permanent guest and knows where to get the innkeeper from. I am given a towel and can continue. Now looking for breakfast. On a street corner at the park I eat a hotdog with instant coffee. No, they don’t have milk. At the park there are from those skinny ‘Rosinante’ look-a-like horses with carts for tourists: After this minimalistic breakfast, I walk to the bus station. I can board immediately, after which the bus departs for the 1,5 hours trip to Santiago. 11 ticketAt first there is not much visible, due to the dense fog. Soon we leave the coastline and the fog. It is getting hot in the bus, the airco is switched on. I am thinking about my return to Holland, planning a party in Tiel and calling that JAMPOP, I don’t know why, it just happened. All the hills are well overgrown, with vineyards in between and the white snow-covered cordillera in the background: beautiful. Arriving in Santiago de Chili, the bus ends the trip close to an underground station. I have to work hard to find the tourist information office.  10 Santiago foto Santiago de Chili. In the metro, they let me pass for free: hospitable! At the tourist office they supply useful information, like hostels. The one I find and where I hire a room, is absolutely a dangerous one: it is old with lots of timber inside, high, no signs of escape routes, no fire extinguishers and a locked door downstairs, to be opened electrically by an attendant at the reception (if occupied). It does not feel to good. 08 plattegrond Santiago Santiago de Chili. I nosed around in the neighbourhood, bought something called Chirimoya and ate it: a fruit from half a kilo for $300, very tender, large- but few seeds, tastes of white wine: very tasty. I drink coffee in a strange locality: two nearly naked beauties run it and don’t mind to sell themselves as well. I had a hot dinner down under my hostel: tasty fish pan with too much sand.

09 beschrijving Santiago Santiago.
Friday. It is a wet morning, Breakfast (included) is a roasted bun with jam and tea. I take a taxi to bring me to the Dutch Embassy. I arrive there at 9, according the information the opening time, but have to wait for half an hour. A Chilean is waiting as well: he plans to go to Balk in Friesland, in February 2000. The ladies at the reception in the embassy are speaking in Dutch. First, they supply me with two addresses where they can give me the medical help I want, treatment of the large swelling of my right-hand elbow. One of the ladies was away for a while and returns with the 1st secretary who makes an appointment with me, to hear my story, at 11:30. We are hardly started when we are called to join a small party with the ambassador: the departure of a trainee. The usual proceedings: speeches, handing a present, drinks and snacks. When appropriate, the ambassador calls me into his office, where we talk for nearly 2 hours, after which I am invited to have diner with him and his wife tomorrow, Saturday. I have to tell him whether or not I am accepting his, actually his wife’s, invitation. After that I meet the 1st secretary for a while, exchanging information with regards to my further plans. It is then, all of a sudden, 14:00 and I have to hurry to Clinica Alemana, not really close, because Dr. Jorge Thibault sits at 14:15. The clinic is absolutely very neat and efficient and I am now glad to have organised this action in Chili and not in Argentina. The full treatment takes two hours and cost me 200 guilders. One of the two glands in my elbow appears to be inflamed. After two x-ray pictures taken, I return to the doctor. He jams a needle into the bubble and sucks the fluid out. After that he leaves the needle in position and injects a medicine. A plaster and an elastic sock over it, that’s it, ready. It feels very good to me. Now back to the bus station, to find out when I can return to Argentina: tomorrow morning at 08:00. I rang the ambassador’s wife to tell her that I am not coming for diner: she is clearly disappointed. When I am back in the centre of town, a party of two girls and a young man attract my attention in the metro: they invite me to join them for some food and drinks. They are not sober, so I decline again. I need a new dry-cell battery and after some asking around, I found one. The battery cost me half from what it cost me in Ushuaia. The battery has to be charged, but that is something I can do when back in Argentina. After an expensive meal, I return to the hostel. It was a well spent day, with very pleasant weather, after the initial drizzle in the early morning.
Saturday. I hurry, because most buses depart early in the morning. At 09.45 I sit in the well filled bus. The passengers are mostly young. There are some students who have something to celebrate and a German young woman who, just like me, needed a new entry to Argentina in her passport, for another three-month allowance. The bus is driving at a quiet pace, also stopping for pauses to pee and smoke, which is very pleasant. The German woman asked me a light for her cigarette, as an introduction. Iris, she takes the seat next to me and wants to hear everything about my journey. Iris, 26 years old from Hamburg. She studied, MBA, also in the USA. She does want to emigrate, because of the weather in Germany. She is now 10 months in Chili and has a job, as well as a Chilean friend. She stays with me all the way, makes pictures and video, amongst other from an Inca-built bridge near Punta de Vaca. There is a story to that bridge, told by an Argentinian woman, but I am unable to understand her. At arrival in Uspallata, Iris gets off the bus with me because she wants to see my horses. The gendarmes are getting mad: Iris has very blue eyes, very long blond hair and a healthy figure. The gendarmes do everything to please, especially Iris. We did arrive at 15:00. After maté and meeting with my horses, we walk to the centre of town where she rings her friend to inform him off her where a bouts. The gendarmes informed us, many businesses are closed, because of the elections: no sale of alcohol, not today and neither tomorrow. That is disappointing for the students who wanted to party. Iris is in doubt: stay here or go to Mendoza. She confers with the students and decides to go to Mendoza. She was tempted to join me travelling for a week. At 21:30 she hitchhikes and gets into a lorry, not to confident, a bit scary.
Sunday. A day without memorable experiences. The gendarme had been sloppy, not taking care of the supply of food for the horses. For all the food, I paid in advance. When I memorized that, he admitted: ‘totally forgotten.’ I am afraid that this is a bit characteristic for Argentina. The horses however were looking fine.
Monday, 25th October, 121th travel day. The day started very cold, but when I am ready to go again, at 13:00, I have to change cloth because it is warm now. Today we will leave the province of Mendoza and enter the province of San Juan. The first part will be a farm ‘San Antonio’. We pass an historic object called ‘Los Bovedos’, mentioned on my map. The object is surrounded by fencing with a locked entrance. The farm lays deep into the land, away from the road, but a bit further up the road, there is an annex. Unfortunately, I find the gate to that annex locked with inside the fence only dogs. I unsaddle the horses anyway and lead them onto a meadow on the other side of the road. I myself take the horses’ blankets to lay on and sleep a bit. It is very hot, without any shadow. When I wake up, I see someone chasing my horses off that land, onto the road. The group happily ‘hit the road’ into the wrong direction. It is a drag and cost me a lot of energy to catch them. When done and back, I tie them up to the fence. Not much later, the inhabitant, a joyful Chilean farmer, arrives in his car. He opens the gate and lead my horses into the confined meadow. He is interested and soon we sit, drinking maté. He must go, to Uspallata, so I lay down on my blankets again and fall asleep. When I wake up, it is dark and he is back. I join my host and he share chicken, bread and beer. Around 22:00 I go get my horses, pack and saddle, and at 23:15 we are travelling again. It is still pretty dark, because the moon still has to appear. It is a rare experience: full moon. I ride Daan. I go slowly, because I calculated to have sufficient time to cover the planned distance. I thought it not good to arrive at my destination at 6:00 in the morning. At 01:00 at night, we come to the camp of four roadmen still up and awake. That is quite funny and pleasant for a while. They offer soup with a lot of meat in it, wine and lemonade.
Tuesday, 122nd travel day. After the time with the roadmen, we continue and it is becoming quite cold. I now miss my gloves and a cap. The road, a dirt track, is absolutely dull and while this is not really pleasant, I am convinced that it will be a lot less pleasant during the day, in the heat. It is still pitch dark, when we come to a cattle grid and fence without a gate. We have to pass the cattle grid and I am very glad to be able to guide Daan across, with the use of a lot of energy. The other three however, refuse, stubborn. The driver of a truck reacts shitty, telling me that I am lucky there is only one of these and drives on. Half an hour later a car with youngsters arrive. The driver is extremely cautious, does not get out of his car at first, crosses the cattle grid but then he decides to stop after all. He pulls the three from ahead while I chase them from behind. It works out, the crossing, no broken legs. We continue. When the sun comes up it is soon warm again. I reach my goal around 10 o’clock and that is a later than anticipated. On top of that, I find the gate to the farm firmly locked, I can not get to the farm, so I carry on. To the right I see what the gendarmes had told me: water and grass, but in the distance, I see something that looks like a house, so we carry on. The horses don’t object. When we arrive, it appears not to be a house, but it is the junction which was my goal for now. There is hardly anything for the horses but it was enough for now so I unsaddle the lot. We reached the border between the two provinces, entering San Juan. 16 Barreal A pick-up truck stops. The driver is the administrator of a farm called Yalguaraz. He suggests me to carry on for another kilometre, where there is water and food for my horses. I agree, but ask him to help. He agrees. The saddles and luggage go into the pick-up truck and the horses are tied up to the truck. After 6 kilometres, not only one, we turn into the land. It is indeed a much better place, with grass and water, but without any shadow at first. Only around 3 pm, the sun has shifted enough, allowing me to lay in the shadow of a mountainside. There I eat two buns and some sweets. I don’t have anything to put on my buns. I drink warm water with it, because the water I carry with me, is heated up by the sun. It is dead silent, with some birds and large lizards. This seems to me the ideal spot for the puma, but my host tells me that these are all chased away, out of the area. Around 19:00 I wrap myself in 28m2 of black plastic and fall asleep like a baby.
Wednesday, 123rd travel day. In the middle of the night I wake up: fresh. The moon is good underway, so I suppose it will be around midnight. In South-West direction, far, far away, there is a heavy thunderstorm going on. I don’t hear anything, but the flashes of lightning and the illuminated clouds on the horizon are fascinating beautiful. I stay laying down and watch, in silent admiration, for a while, thinking of the might of God: boundless. A nocturnal bird sits next to me, all of a sudden. I hear the horses rummage. The moon is hidden every now and then, but I do have light enough. Preparations to departure are going as clockwork, very quiet. I dressed with an extra shirt and keep my gloves and balaclava at the ready. It was not necessary because the night is lukewarm. Lovely weather. According to my map, the road should be surfaced, but it is patchwork. The road signs tell me, we are driving through a National Park Las Leoncitas, which is not marked on my map. The country is terribly barren as far as I can see. The few bushes are dispersed and there are large white spots, where there used to be water. The moon is lighting the snow-capped mountain range beautifully and at my left, at the foot of the range, I spot a light line, straight as a ruler. Later, I am told that that is a rock-hard plane (sand or salt) where they, especially North Americans, race with sail driven carts. The horses go very well. At 06:00 we arrive at my goal, without any delay, the farm Leoncito. Daylight is just arriving. I stay on the roadside, at a water filled ditch. The horses fall asleep and I settle against the fence, waiting for any life at the tiny settlement, far from being ‘a farm’. observatorium To the right I spot, vaguely, the contours of the ‘observatorio astronomico, built some 14 kilometres away from here, inland. At our arrival, dogs are alarmed, of course. One of them, a large young animal is extremely playful, making it a drag. I am not even able to produce a hand rolled cigarette. At half past seven, the inhabitant appears. He is absolutely non-presentable, shabby, with a dirty eye, a bleeding nose, unshaven (since days) and besides two eyeteeth only some stubs. His cloth can not claim the word: they are in tatters. He is nevertheless hospitable, opens the gate and let me in. In the yard stands a large unfinished building which is supposed to become a house made of in the sun-dried stone. His living is made of the same sun-baked stone, capped with spar, reed and plastic. I don’t think it will be watertight. I unsaddle and the horses go into a large meadow with water. We drink maté outside in the early morning sun: magnificent. My host, ‘don Emerito’, shows me an album full with pictures and postcards from tourists from Holland, Switzerland, France and Argentina. There is also a very nice series of pictures from his yard, his animals and himself. His yard is littered with empty bottles, mainly white wine and cider bottles. His goats are kept in a confined area. An enormous amount of newly born goats frisks around everywhere. It is a comical sight, with their much to large slim flappy ears. Apart from goats, there are horses (5), a single cow, a cat, five dogs, a few sheep, geese, chickens and turkeys. He also exploits a potato field. After the maté he begins his work He saddles his horse, after which he alarms his goats by making a lot of noise, banging on tins and pulling a rope with lots of tins attached to it. It is absolutely unclear why he does all this. The whole population of goats disappears into the country and I stay behind with the newly born goats. His dogs are no working dogs, they just walk along with him and his goats. I take to sleep, out of the sun and out of the wind. When I wake up, I cook rice. I see a goose spitting funny and hear pots rattle and a lot of bleating.  13 geit detailA lamb goat got his head stuck in a cattle and is banging around with it because he is unable to get his head out of it. My first reaction is to help her and take the cattle off, but first I make a picture of the funny scene. After feeding the horses their corn and eating my rice, I take to sleep again. The wind is blowing hard, which appears to be the standard here in the afternoon. We are high in the mountains here and the view at the Andes with its eternal snow is beautiful. From here, it is a strange combination: the hot sun, warm wind and ice-cold mountain tops. Don returned and asked me for an aspirin. I carry those. We talk a while when he suddenly rises, shouting: his goats are walking through his potato field. It is unbelievable poor living here, but he lives, and he appreciates the company of visitors. When he is gone to get his goats, at 17:15, I start preparations to leave again, because I want to arrive in Barreal tonight. At 19:00 I depart. Now I have a good look at the landscape, and indeed, it is purely desert: sand, stones and dispersed hard bushes as far as I can look. 15 BarrealThere is absolutely nothing to graze for my horses and there is no water. We ride on as long as there is daylight without resting and just carry on. The moon is not showing for a while either. I have to take that in account for further plans travelling at night. When it is dark, we are following a clearly newly surfaced tarmac road, without traffic. Here I feel again totally alone. Even without a moon, it is not absolutely dark and I can see and follow the tarmac. Just after 21:00 I see the first lights in the distance. That is a relieve, but at the same time I realize that those lights may still be at least one-hour riding away. I am surprised to enter Barreal half an hour later, at approximately 21:30. The lights I saw, are far apart. Immediately at the first house, there is a man standing in the dark. I am taken by surprise when he shows up. I ask him to direct me to the gendarmerie. He starts a long tale from which I understand that the barracks from the gendarmerie are only 500 meters further up the road. The buildings lay all far apart, with every house a good piece of yard. No wonder you don’t see much light from far away. It feels tropical here, with the sound of crickets and frogs, with the scent of mint and eucalyptus. After an hour driving (500 meters?) and asking, amongst others at a camping where they don’t want to lodge horses, I arrive at the barracks from the gendarme. It was certainly a joyful ride through the lushly overgrowth subtropical evening.  14 esc 26 Barreal At the gendarmerie, this is a large one, nr. 26, I have a clash with the guard who, and that irritates me suddenly, not answers to my questions, but changes to asking himself (which is logical enough.) which is a habit of Argentines. Other gendarmes, plain clothed, cool the discussion down and an hour later we are suddenly friends. It did help a lot, when the officer on duty (2 stars) arrives saluting me cordially, carrying a fax message (from Uspallata or Mendoza) announcing my arrival. Now they all start to help. I get a bed in a dormitory large enough for a complete army. I sleep alone there. My luggage is stored in the hall. The horses’ caretaker is called. For a while the horses are tied to a tree, where they get a lot of food to munch. The guard explains to me where, at 23:00, I can get a cheap meal. It is a bit of a walk and it is warm and we are at a high-altitude of 2500 meters. I take my shirt and the upper part of my ski overall off. It is busy in the restaurant. The steak I get is dry but tender nevertheless. The salat is great: egg, onion, lettuce, tomato, carrot coming with a litre of lemonade with ice. It cost me € 4,50 and that is indeed cheap. On my walk back, I enjoy thoroughly the lukewarm evening with its scents and sounds. At the gendarmerie I am told that the horses ate and drank, so I take to bed, tired. I slept within seconds.

xx-web wk 43 San Juan Entering San Juan Province

 

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Week 42-2018. Slovakia-Humenné/Amersfoort (October 14-October 20).

 

01 Klant tussen Humenné en Medzilaborce (1) On the way to Medzilaborce.
Sunday. This Sunday-morning I had planned to be in the local Roman-Catholic church early. The alarm helped me to get up, otherwise I sleep till 9! I drank a cup of coffee and walked to the church, at major cross-roads in town. This church has 2 consecutive services, always totally packed with people following the service at the front court-yard. I don’t understand anything of the language, but I enjoy taking part in the devotion and especially I enjoy the lead-singer with her beautiful voice. I used my telephone for a number of recordings. After this church visit, I had my breakfast at home and drove to the veterinary of my friend. They had removed the few plants they have outside, because winter is approaching, with heavy snowfall and temperatures down to -20 degrees Centigrade. Today my friend and her assistant are primarily treating the 9 stray kittens in the sanctuary. Then follows cleaning and departure to Medzilaborce, where my friend lives with her daughter and aunt. Halfway she turns into a village to see a client with an old German shepherd dog.

02 Klant tussen Humenné en Medzilaborce Rail from Slovakia to Poland.

Then we carry on. In Medzilaborce we enjoy meals and talk a lot about the regional difficulties and the private difficulties. At 17:00, I set to return to Humenné. When I turn the start key, nothing happens. I see why not: I left my lights on, so my battery is flat dead. I know from earlier experience, that starting a Diesel engine by towing it, is useless. That does not work when there is no pre-glowing possible. I have jump-leads and connect the battery of the car of my friend and mine. After much too long, that too appears not to give a result. My friend calls a local cousin who arrives very quick, with a friend who is a car-mechanic. These two men check what I did, conclude that that was right, they try, they suggest buying a new battery, but I know that my battery is in good condition. Then these two conclude that may be my jump-leads are no good. They leave and return with leads from the garage. With these, the problem is solved in a couple of minutes. My jump-leads are no good, is the conclusion. I get home without further difficulties.
Monday. Tomorrow I will leave for home, Amersfoort. In the morning I did my laundry and started cleaning and clearing the apartment. I drove to the clinic and stayed there for half an hour. Back at the apartment I continued cleaning. At 16:00 I wanted to drive to the clinic again. Coming to my car, I felt a fool: I had left my lights on again. Driving with headlights on, is obligatory in Slovakia. My battery is flat again. I walk to the clinic and inform my friend. When they are ready and leaving, I go with my friend to the local Shell petrol station. There I find a good set of jump-leads. With these we return to my car, join the two cars and in 5 minutes the work is done: I can start my car! From there I follow my friend for some kilometres, to charge my battery. Back in the apartment, I continue packing and cleaning.
Tuesday. My planning for today, is based on experience at the border between Poland and Germany. The road there is not much used, uninhabited, dark. I don’t want to be there during the night: it feels uneasy and risky for robbery. I would have to leave Humenné before 10 o’clock in the morning. I was, therefor, up in time to meet that goal. After breakfast I looked around in the apartment, found everything that had to be done, done, not left anything that should not be left, and parted. First, I said goodbye to the parents of my friend, then to the clinic. The farewell there was a bit emotional and short, because business had to go on. I left at 10:30, got a message from my friend 2 minutes after leaving: I had the keys from the apartment still with me. After the second farewell, I did have no further delays and followed the instruction of my TomTom.

04 Estate in Polen Entance to former estate in Poland.

That leads me through the fastest route. I know, that the ‘fastest’ route is calculated theoretically based on the allowed speed at the various roads. Many roads in the North-East of Slovakia and the South-East of Poland go through rural areas. The speed limit is 90km/hr, but you can rarely meet that, due to local agricultural activities, local traffic and a load of spots where the limit goes down to 40, 50 or 70 km/hr, and these very short after each other.

05 Laatste tankbeurt in Polen (1) Last stop in Poland.

It is even technically impossible to drive a calculated speed. I take my time, taking pictures, drinking coffee. After 3 hours I come to the highway, A4, that goes all the way to the West. I have to turn-off in the direction of Berlin, following the A18. That A18 is terrible driving from West to East, I know. Driving from East to West, as I do now, the road is very good but only few traffic uses it. I arrive at the stretch which I wanted to avoid driving at night. I am well in time and cross the border with Germany during day-light, as planned.

06 Pauze in Oost-Duitsland (3) Enter Germany.

The whole distance to cover from Humenné to Amersfoort, is 1465 kilometres. Most drivers would feel the need for a lengthier stop, but I feel good so I drive on. I only stop for short periods, taking in fuel, drinking coffee, eating a sandwich and stretching my legs. My bottom needs a rest as well, from time to time. I arrive back at home in Amersfoort, at 01:30. Take a glass of red wine, have a chat with another person who is still relaxing in the living room, and take to bed at 02:30. I fall asleep immediately.
Wednesday. I did sleep very well and got up at 8 o’clock, totally fresh! The ‘normal’ routine starts. Shopping, drinking coffee and writing. Early in the afternoon I get a call from the RSCPA: can you please pick up two hedgehogs and bring them to Huizen! I was a bit undecided at first, but agreed. At the RSCPA, I addressed a young woman doing gardenwork. When coming back with the baskets with hedgehogs, she addressed me: it appeared to be a former neighbour. I only slowly recognised her after she told me her name: Roos. She had been my neighbour nearly 20 years ago! After the return back home, I informed family and acquaintances about my return in the Netherlands.

07 Leusderweg Amersfoort Amersfoort, Leusderweg.

Thursday. Today I went to see my friend in Hollandsche Rading. She had had an operation and is still recovering from that. Dog Toets was getting crazy when she saw me, after 6 weeks of absence. I handed my friend some goods, a syrup from elder bought in Poland, two bags of herbs bought in Slovakia and a sedative paste to give to Toets when she is getting crazy from thunderstorm. I rang my friend in Canada, who sounded very well. Further I was occupied in my flat.
Friday. A lot of time was spent on the Internet. I investigated the possibility to sell two male kittens, British Shorthair Bluepoint. They belong to the assistant of my friend in Humenné. Her husband will bring them here when sold. I also investigated the possibility to help my friend in Charkov: he needs work as a city-guide, but is incapable of organising it and get customers. Before I left here, 6 weeks ago, the signal for radio- and tv was changed to digital. That meant that both my audio set and my television did no longer function. I had received a switch-box but needed a scart/scart cable. Of course, you can find those on sale via Internet, but I decided to go to the shop in recycled goods. There I did ask and got such a cable, new, for €0,50. After installation of the cable, I was unable to find the required settings. I was lucky: two technicians appeared to be busy in the living room. They came to my apartment and made the necessary settings. Now I can use my television set, one from the past century, and my audio set again.
Saturday. The first quiet day after my return. Routine is on its way. I rang the 5-year old daughter of a niece to congratulate her with her birthday: she is easy talking to. Funny little girl. In the evening I saw a number of soccer games.

Argentina on horseback. 1999. October 14-20.
Week 41. Inside, you can serve yourself on cold dishes, slices of cow’s tongue, beans, salat, onion, carrot, tomato, Achilles tendon of calf, rice with tuna, fruit and a choice of tasty sauces or dressing. I order loin beef, very tasty and very tender. Two empanadas come with it, free. These are not notably special.

08 gendarme Tunuyan
Week 42. Thursday, 14th October, 117th travel day. The innkeeper takes me and my luggage to my horses, very nice of him. During packing and saddling, some 10 young boys are jumping around us, very unruly but funny, all their questions. It cost time, certainly. We leave the gendarmerie via the rear exit. At the north side of town, we have to go through the main street. We attract a great deal of attention, of course. Daan is behaving surprisingly good. At the end of town, we follow a parallel road, with a flooded park from the heavy rains during the past days. We come at a bridge, with a tramp. Daan does not trust neither the tramp nor the bridge and is adamant to pass. I manage to get past this ‘difficulty’ following a car. Daan is the champion in causing some stress at specific objects, like road markers painted white, large stones, birds and even the shadow of birds.
First, we follow the road to Zapata and take the turn to the left, to Tupungato. The road is lined with small ‘street’ businesses, selling apples, nuts, honey and bundles of asparagus. A car turns, stops and we have chat. A car with three men, including a gaucho, also stops with a special interest in my wooden luggage carrier. Parallel to the main road, the ‘old’ road is sometimes still present, with dilapidated bridges. We pass, with much difficulty, one of the old bridges but only with the help of cyclist going in front with Daan. I avoid the next bridge by going through the muddy, quite deep water, but that goes very well. The road from Zapato to Tupungato is quiet, lovely. Especially to the left I see the fertile valley with vast estates. This way it is relaxed travelling. When taking a break, the horses have plenty to graze. The huts we pass, are all similar: a hotchpotch of stone, corrugated steel plate, aluminium sheets at the roofs held by stones; lots of playing ‘dirty’ children and very few people greeting us. Even the men don’t get much further as looking stupidly. When I wave or say ‘hi and good day’ they seldom get much further as raise a hand, hesitating, embarrassed. It is still early when we enter Tupungato, with lots of trees, looking neat and pleasant. This is a surprise, because on our way, at the unused ‘old’ road, it looked much like a rubbish dump. I ride around a bit, concluding that this indeed appears to be a pleasant provincial town. At a hostel called ‘Aventura’ I park my lot and ask assistance for a night lodging. From this hostel, they organize trips on horseback (cabalgates) through the mountains. Next to the hostel is a hardware store cramped with horse-riding related practical/funny/luxurious items. The choice is gigantic and the goods are cheap, in my opinion. My request leads them to suggest a meadow at an unused hut, 5 kilometres further up the road. The horses rested nearly an hour at the door and they are looking good, so this 40-minute ride extra, is no problem. I find it a pity, because I would have liked to look around a bit more. It is what it is, so we go. Jut is going fast, so after 3 kilometres I force them to walk easy.

09 16-10 van Tito Experiencing Argentina.

Nieto, the innkeeper, passes us by car and stops 500 meters past us. We follow Nieto, into the country, past a hut with lots of laundry hanging out to dry and a host of children. Through another gate we enter a medium sized terrain occupied by three curious horses, lots of grass and a bit swampy from the past wet days. There is a stone hut, nailed up, thatched roof and a porch with a sprouting vine. Nieto gives a short jerk at the padlock, unlocking the door. Inside it is dark, dirty and also wet in the ‘living’ room. Dried droppings are laying around. I may use the settlement, with 25kg of maize, for $20, not cheap. Of course, there is a stove, so as soon as the horses are eating the maize, I lite a fire. Of course, the chimney is wet and maybe even clogged; It required all my gasoline. The three ‘local’ horses are tame, I have to chase them away from the maize many times. One of them is very tame and get acquainted with Jil and Nora. That is always a terrific ritual: turning, yelling, rearing and much scraping their hoofs. Nora is impressed and is offering her services. I did not see her doing that earlier, she must be in heat. I cook a meal, for the first time since long. I like it; tasty and nutritious. I take to bed early, although I do have light, but sleep I do have too.

10 gendarme Mendoza 1 See the map.
Friday, 15th October, 118th travel day. Breakfast is the rest of the ‘dinner’ from yesterday-evening. During packing a shabby little guy arrives, talking and nosing around. He seems to live in a similar hut as where I stayed. I don’t get much wiser from him, but he helps me closing the gate. Daan is having difficulties getting going; he unexpectedly stops dead in his track, alarmed but from what? I have no idea. He even tries to return on his track. Pretty tricky. After 3 kilometres of tarmac, quietly, we arrive in San José, with a road turning to the left. There is a shop/café. In the shoulder of the road, there are two pigs held on a chain. I have much difficulty in getting Daan to pass them. The manager of the café comes out to see what is going on, so I can ask him if he serves coffee. He does that, so I attach my horses to a solid looking signpost and go drink coffee. The coffee is good. I am served something else too, unasked for, from a bottle: he calls it ‘water of life’. It does not taste bad. I think it might have been a cold brew from certain herbs, like tea but then different. A terribly fat guy comes in to buy a bag of dried leaves, no coca leaves but possibly the leaves from which they make this brew. The coffee cost $1. San José is some sort of a suburb from the Mendoza, the provincial capital, with a lot of newly built houses. When I get out, after the coffee, I find the horses standing unattached together, with the signpost pulled out of the ground. After 500 meters I have to take the left turn. It is a dirt road, along the borders of cultivated lands. To the left is the valley, green, organised. To the right are hills, again already brown/yellowish. According to my information, ‘Lonely Planet’ book for Argentina, only few rain is falling here, so I am ‘lucky’: around two o’clock the sky gets overcast, it is getting cold and rain may come soon. I go picknick and get my rain suit on top of my saddle bags. For some time after the picknick, the horses refuse to keep going. I try all sorts of tricks, leading to unorderly situations. For the first time I use a whip and they don’t like that one bit. For a while I go walking behind them, like chasing them. That works for a while. Then I try riding again. Daan is willing, but the rest, behind me, stand stubbornly.

11 gendarme Mendoza 2 See the map.

Then I decide to change horse, saddling the biggest troublemaker Nora. That goes, but the horses, especially Jut, are soaking wet from sweat. At 17:00, we arrive at a position with three houses. With a large stretch without any livings ahead of me, I decide to stop here for the night. The first persons I meet, two men, are shepherds on horseback. I ask them about hosting, but that appears to be a problem. After a lot of talk, I go to a neat looking accommodation. A man is just entering his pick-up truck to leave, and no, they can not have guests because the owner is coming tonight and she is very much against guests. The man leaves, his wife watching from the door. A backward son is nervously pulling his lip when I talk to him a bit when I say that the other people are reacting just like them. When nobody dares to take any responsibility, I will have to make camp on the street. The man in the pick-up suggested me to go 5 kilometres further up the road, with more houses and a small farm. I don’t follow up, because to often I found the said 5 kilometres to be 15 kilometres. I go back to the shepherd, and one might guess it: he is only 2 days here to take care of things while the boss is away. He can not decide. No, go ask that man there, a dot in a huge land, ploughing with a tractor: he lives alone and has plenty space. I complain again and go sighing to the hut of the ploughing man, park my horses and set myself to wait. I suppose that I will have to wait till nightfall. It getting well and truly cold. At 19:00 the man with the pick-up truck from the neat looking home, back from his trip by car, comes up to me, walking. He has changed his mind, but I will have to leave early tomorrow morning, in order to avoid the misses. That is fine with me. My situation has now changed totally. Excuses follow, hospitality, difficult grandma, etcetera etcetera. Father and son are now helping unpacking the horses, the son brooms the floor of a barn and lays out a large sheet of plastic. I settle, by my own illumination and then ask them about maté. They offer to supply that in the barn, but I talk them into joining me for talking. They get the point and now I am invited to their home, where mother Irene, a small but nice woman, sits next to the stove. The relation is getting better fast and soon enough the father (Pablo Luis Navarro, called Tito) is talking my ears numb, about hospitality, difficult and selfish owners, family, children, politics and so on.

12 gendarme Mendoza 3 See the map.

He fears for his job, like nearly every employed person I met. So, that is what it is, employees are just given the sack when they don’t work for next to nothing and obey their employers like slaves: antisocial. Mauricio, the son, is the local champion in preparing maté. We eat crackers with it. Later I am served a large plate with chicken, beef, vegetables. All that coming with wine and crackers with pâté. Next, they provide a mattress and hundreds of excuses for their first reactions. I understand I say and now they are glad to have changed their mind. Irene, the wife, makes excuses for not serving me something for afters and I give her two kisses on her cheeks, after which I can not do anything wrong at all anymore. During our talks, Tito tells me that we are in the coldest area of Mendoza, at 2400 meters above sea-level and that makes it clear to me at once, why my horses were making so much trouble. They must have had breathing problems and were very exhausted from covering 30 kilometres of deceptive gradient. I feel stupid, but this deceptive flat was really deceptive and only know it downs upon me. On the way I have seen a ditch with water running slowly down, all day! I have seen a fascinating landscape, with estates with rows of trees, green, sloping and behind all that the massive snow-white mountain range, with Cerro Tupungato at 6800 meters, the highest mountain of the continent. ‘Impressive’.

13 gendarme Mendoza 4
Saturday, 16th October, 119th travel day. I got up early and went to work immediately. It was a night with frost, it is probably still freezing: my fingers get cramped from cold. The horses let me do, without any problem. When Tito shows up, my luggage is packed and the horses are ready to be saddled. We drink maté with honey cookies. After a well-meant cordial goodbye, Tito suddenly shows up with a gift: a white soft goats’ skin for under my saddle. Fantastic. It is nice weather, cool still, at 10 o’clock, with sun and a breeze. Today we are not in a hurry, because our next goal, Potrerillos, is only 25 kilometres away. At first, we are still climbing. At the highest spot I take pictures from the valley behind us. It was very good, to not let me be tempt into riding on yesterday, because there is absolutely nothing between my lodge and Potrerillos. The primary reaction of the people yesterday evening, is apparently the usual way of getting rid of some unannounced visitors. Soon after reaching the top of this pass, the road is winding down with very steep hairpins, making me realize again how much work the horses did yesterday. We walk, because for anything faster the slopes are just too steep. The descent is spectacular, with a terrific view into the valley where I can already see Las Vegas.

14 gendarme Mendoza 5 See the map.

When arrived there, I see it to be some sort of holiday resort, with large new houses where very large families go for recreation. I go picknick here. The horses are two by two lined up, to graze and drink. I am still enjoying my rest in the now warm sun, when they decide to start travelling. It is a comical sight when they walk away as a compact group, in a rather steady trot. I have to walk pretty fast, to be able, 50 meters behind them, to keep up with them. In a bent of the road, they take a turn into a side road. A pretty young woman in hot pants, tries to stop them but she starts running, so my four friends do the same. A bit further, there are fortunately cars and people. The horses stop there, a bit undecided. I line them up again, get into the saddle and ride on. When the road has tarmac again, I know that we have to go another 9 kilometres. Many cars are driving here, and they drive fast. When one of them appears around a bent, Jut is each time pretty alarmed. In Potrerillos we come across a camping, still clearly closed. A bit further a line of small businesses starts, but I have not seen a sign telling me that we arrived in Potrerillos. It looks absolutely attractive here, with many trees, porches, warm and sunny, horses, holiday like. To the left there is a nice porch at a hostel. I park there.

15 gendarme Mendoza 6 Between Argentina and Chili.

A little, voluptuous woman was addressing me, followed by her father. A strange situation here, because they appear to be able to lodge my horses but not me: this is a hostel? Next to the café/restaurant there are two neat looking cabins still under construction, but with electricity and light. That is for me sufficient and I find it perfect, because my horses are placed immediately next to them. They stand, still fully packed and saddled, dosing at the door, while I eat an omelette and a large bowl of salat. The meal is drowned into an enormous gin/7-up with ice. Two men, also having their dinner here, come to join me. The gin by the way, is hitting me hard. When I am busy repositioning my horses, a man comes up and ask me if they are for sale: no, they are not. I attach Jut to a post from a grit in front of a window. One of the two men, an opinionated oaf, come to ‘help’ me and Jut becomes so alarmed from him, that he jerks his head aside, totally destroying the grating. Rather awkward and I suppose that I will have to pay for damages. We produce some sort of a partition for the horses, of which I am not really proud, but he is the boss. The daughter orders, by telephone, two bales of hay and 40 kilos of grain. The goods will be delivered in half an hour, they say. Four hours later, I slept in the cabin all that time, they arrive with it and I let them know very clearly, that I am not amused. The cost for the supplies is $26, I pay with a $100 bill expecting some difficulties with the change. I am right, it is a problem, as usual, but they solve it. Later that evening, while I am eating an excellent steak, the innkeeper woman is talking to a couple, about politics and economy. Next week Sunday they have elections, obligatory. She refers to the situation with the delayed delivery of goods to me. They clearly approve of my reaction because they show me thumbs up. So, they know what is wrong but are incapable of changing it. When they are not hanging in a car, they shuffle slowly through life. The suppliers take me to a large shop in the centre of town. It is busy there, in a pleasant way. I did see them before: some sort of a festivity with decorations, lots of noise, jolly doo. A lot of hooting their horns and rock-hard music. When back at the hostel, I placed two large tree-trunks in the entrance of the location where we tried to keep my horses. That is necessary, because Daan and Jut walk through the initial fencing as if it is not there at all. At midnight even that second fencing appeared insufficient, because the sound of walking hoofs wakes me up. I go outside, in my underpants, to sort things out by the light of a local lantern with on/off switch. There is now also water running through some sort of a canal, so I make a dam to form a pool for drinking. The old boss comes out to and interferes again. Switch off the light, he says, because it attracts the horses. That is nonsense, clearly because I hear my horses walking around all night. Yet I did sleep rather well and long, with short pauses for a pee.

16 gendarme Mendoza 7
Sunday. I stayed in bed, nice and cosy. Today is ‘mothers-day here. On the way here, I realise to have seen a lot of very old vehicles like Citroen 2CV, Citroen Diane, Renault Dauphine, Peugeot 404, Fiat 500. All cars that are rarely seen in Europe: vintage cars, all driving, 40 years old! They however have often another engine, like from Toyota. It is lovely weather, so for the first time since long, I get my shorts and stay here, writing, feeding horses, eating and sleeping from 13:00 to 17:00. Argentinians are experienced roadside picnickers. In their ramshackle cars they arrive, four or five cars fully occupied: make fire and BBQ, drink a lot, car radio at full volume and then listening to the commentary of a soccer game between River Plate and Boca Juniors. River wins, apparently unexpectedly, with 2-0. The excitement is clear; everybody in favour of River Plate does not let go of his car horn today. Boys, 12-13 years old are chasing around on their horses. This is holiday. A large lump has formed on my right elbow. It is an old problem; the elbow is actually always a bit sore. With this developing and growing lump, it looks awkward and I don’t like it. So, after advice from my friend, I decided to travel to Santiago in Chili, to have some doctor look at it. During the night I experienced a strong earthquake, my first one, short but strong.
Monday, 18th October, 120th travel day. I slept well and at ease, knowing that my horses would be near. Early in the morning it is warm already. On the other side of the street, municipal employees are busy clearing the rubbish left by the guys that had their BBQ there, also in the brook I see. I take my horses there, to drink after I saddled and packed. For the damaged window-grating I have to pay $60, piece of luck. They gave me proof of payment, allowing me to write them when back in Holland. I ride Jut today. Along this main-road between Mendoza and Chili, most of the sites are campings. I also spot an ACA sign, from the automobile association Argentina. I go to there ask for a map. An unfriendly fellow tells me that the ACA office will be open from November and maps are only available in Mendoza (town). I am used to this: they know what you need, they have it, but not here! Pretty useless. We ride along the river Mendoza, a wide riverbed with muddy brown water, surrounded by high mountains. After 15 kilometres we arrive at a checkpoint from the gendarmerie, where the horses drink. The gendarmes advise me, to stay at ‘Arroyo Alumbré’ for the night: approximately halfway Uspallata. There is a railway track, now 4 years out of service. I had seen it and considered the option to follow that track, but the gendarmes in Potrerillos told me that that would be not possible with horses, so I just follow the road. There is not much traffic and we have sufficient space at the road side, to avoid it. The track winds upwards, it is real mountain track. After a second checkpoint from the gendarmerie, we pass Guido. Guido does no longer exist as a settlement: the bridge across the river is gone and there some uninhabited buildings. After the said 15 kilometres, we arrive at the river Alumbré with also a left railway station. A bit further away, I see the first of a set of tunnels we will have to pass. We descend into the riverbed, with absolutely crystal-clear water and plenty to graze. The gendarmes promised me a spot without wind, but there is a strong wind pushing through the small valley. I unsaddled and left the horses to rest, drink and graze. A bit undecided, I lay down behind my luggage, out of the wind, and sleep from 16:00 to 18:00. I wake up fresh and energetic and know that there will be moonlight. I decide to leave from here. eat some bread, pack and saddle the horses and start my trial, an experiment, driving by night. We are underway at 19:00. Jut refuses to enter the first tunnel, so I dismount and walk behind a car that entered the tunnel. Now the four follow. Soon after, the next tunnel: they are 30 to 100 meters long. This one we can avoid, following the railway track, with which the horses don’t complain at all, surprisingly. At that moment we still have daylight, but I mount my inspection lamp. It does not function, very awkward: for the first time at night on the road and the light does not work. I only have my flashlight now available. That one is functioning well, fortunately. Traffic is however getting busier, with busses and rows of lorries. Again, this is proving that Argentina lives at night. This motorised traffic however, has good lighting so I see them mostly far before they reach me, from ahead as well as from behind, leaving me sufficient time to move out of their way (most of the time). And that is necessary, because Jil is categorically refusing to leave the tarmac. Jut, Nora and Daan follow my orders without ado but Jil remains on the tarmac pulling at an angle of 30 degrees to the others, which is tiring to all. Daan goes always, I don’t know how he does it, without any tension on the lines. When we come to the next 7 tunnels, daylight has gone totally. Riding at the light of the setting sun is in any case pleasant and also marvellous, with a completely different light at the mountains around us. Going through the tunnels in the dark is now absolutely tense. I dismount and use my flashlight forward, by which the fortunately plenty ‘cats-eyes’ are lighting up. That appears sufficient to get the quartet to follow. I am happy with the traffic and they slow down sufficiently when I wave with my lantern. On the open road, the moon supplies sufficient light to ride. Of course, I don’t see much of the surrounding landscape, and that is certainly a disadvantage. It has so far been an important factor during this journey. Only once there is a hairy situation. A heavy truck is approaching us, with Jil on the tarmac and the others contained by a mountain slope. We can not pull Jil of the tarmac. There is, at the same time, a car coming from behind. The truck has to hit the brakes rather hard and he will probably be either angry or pretty shaken. It all goes well, fortunately. We proceed well and now I know where the Dutch expression comes from. It is not the same in English, but it comes down to ‘walking the fire out of your boots’. The irons from the horses produce continuously sparks at the tarmac. The solar panel is another good thing now: it reflects very well the lights from approaching cars. These two aspects help a lot to warn the traffic of something unusual on the road and they slow down and are alerted. Soon after leaving the set of tunnels, I see stationary lights again: we are approaching Uspallata. The farm, marked on my map, is clearly in sight and I consider going there, but it is only 22:00 and we are actually going very well and without any problems: there is no wind and the temperature is very pleasant. I pass the bridge across the river Mendoza walking, because I know by now that it is the best and fastest way to do it. On the other side of the bridge we get during 10 minutes the company of a large white horse, dangerously wandering about, across the road. Dogs are getting mad when we pass now. The buildings are increasing, with now astonished people following us with their eyes. At 23:00 (25 kilometres in 4 hours is very nice), we enter the premises of the gendarmerie, where they organise me fluently. The horses are unpacked at the inner court and then taken to a meadow behind the barracks. I am given a bed in some sort of a communal sleeping/living room where there are already 5 guys asleep. Two electrical heaters are on, totally stupid because the weather is absolutely fine. At 01:00 I am in bed.
Tuesday, 19th October. Uspallata appears to be a main shopping street and single buildings along the three roads joining in the centre. The level here, is 2000 meter above sea level. The air is notably thin, tiring, everything goes slow here. Luiz, one of the gendarmes, will take care of my herd. I pay him $200 in advance for 5 days. That is inclusive food and providing them all with new irons. Drinking is simple: there is a hose, a tap and a small canal. Each horse will get 2,5kg grain in the morning, 2,5kg maize at noon and 2,5kg grain in the evening with a quarter bale of hay. I hope it will work out, my hopes are soon broken because the bales of hay arrive at 20:00 in the evening and nothing else. I go do some shopping using the bicycle of Luiz. I leave my battery in a shop to be charged, if possible. Today Jut and Nora got new irons already, Daan and Jil will follow tomorrow. I wonder how that will go. I spend the evening with the gendarmes. I bought toilet paper for them, because there is none in the toilets. The feel a bit ashamed, because there is enough of it, but in a drawer. I take to bed early, at ease, knowing that all my possessions are safely put away, behind lock and key.
Wednesday, 20th of October. (07:30 on TV: for today, temp 22degrees Celsius and 29% humidity.) I cycle to the shop where I left my battery. The battery is dead, so I buy a new one. At 10:00 I am waiting for the bus, stopped by the gendarme. This bus goes to Valparaiso-Pacific Ocean, via Viña del Mar. I get in.

17 20-10 grensdocument Bus ticket to Valparaiso.

That went easy. The Mercedes bus is modern, comfortable and fast. The driver is drinking his maté, no matter the narrow winding road. The road is spectacular and ascends along the wide river Mendoza. The water in the river is getting lesser all the time. The track from the railway is also there all the time, with its dilapidated installations. We arrive at 3151 meter above sea level, in the snow. We pass tunnels with snow against the walls, a bridge built by Incas and we see a bit away, the mountain Tupungato, the highest mountain on the continent. The border with Chili is halfway a tunnel. The Chilean customs check everything, even hand-luggage. The don’t complain about my sandwiches with cheese and salami. In Chili we descend in a spectacular manner, via 180 degrees hairpins. Immediately after the border there are lots of ski lifts, deserted, and destroyed installations like curb-side protection, telephone/electricity poles and mains. With the exception of mosses, there is no vegetation. The hairpins are numbered from 1-18 and you see them all beneath you. A beautiful view. Further down the vegetation starts, at first with low bushes and some grass. Along the ‘rio Blanco’ further down, it becomes a lot friendlier, with lots of yellow/orange from broom and anemone. There is more and more variation in trees and cactuses. The rails are also still there. In Los Andes, at 13:10, we pass a large derelict complex from the Ferro Carril. The road goes through a nice valley, looking healthy and prosperous met the snow-capped mountains to the West. There are vast vineyards, very neat. School children wear grey uniforms, the boys with trousers, blouse, tie and blazer. It is a pity that I can not do this part on horse- back. The hills are all fully overgrown. Numerous fruit-stalls line the roads and the restaurants are looking good. Also here you see many horses being used and angling in the rivers is apparently a much-used pass-time. At 15:15 we arrive in Viña del Mar, just north from Valparaiso.

18 20-10 gevel Vina del Mar Facade in Viña del Mar.

It is busy in town and pleasant. A real sea-side resort. At the bus station they have a tourist information office, where they help me friendly and efficiently with a city map and further documentation.

17 Info Viña del Mar Viña del Mar, Chili.

First things first: I am hungry, buy a hamburger and two beer. I walk through the pleasant busy centre, where even a train goes through. Much street-business and a lot of police (men/women/German shepherd dogs) looking very professional. Nearby is my first choice for a hostel: Residencial France. I get a reasonable room for 32 guilders, from the pleasant innkeepster with a completely overloaded, but tasteful living. Money from an ATM is no problem. After that I walk the main-street with a political manifestation accompanied with drummers, guitars and stilt walkers. Even little boys dressed in school uniform ask for money. The two Internet cafés they pointed out to me on the map, are easily found. After that I walk on, to the ‘famous’ flower clock at the boulevard.

19 20-10 bloemenklok Vina del Mar Flower clock.

The beach is very clean and primarily young people are enjoying it. They are swimming in the sea. Nice in the setting sun, I enjoy the ocean. At the roadstead in front of Valparaiso, a freighter is anchored with also three sailing yachts. I like the scent of the sea. In all, I get a very pleasant impression here.

20 20-10 strand Vina del Mar Viña del Mar, beach.

When the sun is down, I walk to the third address for Internet. It is quiet there, with two approximately 40y old ladies running it. I get a computer and coffee and start work. I pay here 6 guilders per hour, which is very cheap in comparison with Argentina. At 23:30 I have done enough and walk through the sultry and still busy town to ‘Residencial’. At Mc. Donalds I eat a hamburger with fries and a Coke. The atmosphere is still very pleasant. Stray dogs are everywhere, begging and causing lots of noise. Police are nowhere to be seen now. At midnight I am back at the hostel, where I am now met by a much younger woman. I take to bed immediately, but don’t sleep really well.

xx-web wk 42 Mendoza

Red line = on horse back.

Green line is by bus.

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Week 41-2018. Ukraine-L’Viv/Slovakia-Humenné (October 07-October 13).

01 Railway station L'Viv L’Viv railway station.
Sunday. One hour before arrival of the train in L’Viv, I am wide awake. I employ the charger of my cell-phone in order to have sufficient power during the day. I dress and remove the sheets from my bunk. These sheets, I have to give to the purser to make her know that I will leave the train. The train arrives in time at the station in L’Viv, where it is now beautiful weather, as opposed to the day I left here. I take some pictures and walk in the direction of the parking. The watchman has some difficulty finding the registration of my car in his handwritten logbook. He is relieved when he find it: I owe him the equivalent of €3 for parking from Tuesday afternoon till Sunday morning! The TomTom is set for the trip to Humenné. This time I follow the shortest road, through Poland. At some roads it is not possible to drive safely at a speed of more than 20km/h, due to the many very deep holes.

02 Road L'Viv to border with Poland Terrible roads.

At places there is even no tarmac left at all. I do not care to much, because it is nice weather and I am not in a hurry. It is however rather dull at the border. Crossing did take more than 3 hours, including the use of a ‘sniffer dog’, an old cocker spaniel. In Poland the roads are surprisingly good. I stop for lunch at a brewery, where many more people spent some time.

04 Brewery in Poland Brewery

The brewery is fully equipped to receive guests. I eat a sandwich with a sugar free jelly and drink coffee. Lots of people, mostly with children, arrive during my lunch. When I leave, I buy a bar of chocolate and a 3 litre souvenir bottle filled with my choice out of 5 types of beer from the tap. The landscape in this part of Poland is absolutely attractive.

03 Ancient church in Poland Timber cladded church.

Between Poland and Slovakia, there is no sign of any border check. I carry on and arrive, much later than planned, in Humenné. There I get a meal at the home of my friends’ parents and the key of my apartment. When settled and at rest there, I find it very easy to fall asleep.
Monday. I was just ready with my cooking, when my friend rings to tell me, that ‘they are all coming to the clinic’ in half an hour. I am asked to come as well. ‘They all’ are the family from Medzilaborce with two women, clients from my friend, and a pregnant dog. They, the owners, did not know the dog was pregnant until just this evening.

05 Caesarian sectionPregnant dog.

My friend has to do a caesarean section on the dog. The dog produced 6 puppies. Everybody was very busy cleaning the puppies and giving them massage to make them start breathing. One of the puppies did not survive, while another was later bitten to death by its mother. Four puppies are now alive and well. It was, for me, an interesting new experience.

06 Six puppies Getting puppies out.
Tuesday. An ordinary day with nice weather.
Wednesday. A white kitten was returned to the clinic, by the people who had her for some days. The kitten was healthy when it was given, returned however dirty and with an eye totally destroyed. The poor animal was shown on the face-book page of the clinic and did receive 2700 views in 3 days.

07 Brother and sister dog Very  busy, brother and sister.

I did not cook, but bought a pizza in a recently opened ‘take away’. I will never do that there again. In the evening I started preparations on the lunch I was asked to produce for tomorrow, for my friend and her assistant.

08 Music school Humenné Music school around the corner.
Thursday. I was up early, because I did not yet know what sort of a lunch I would create for my friend and her assistant. After 2,5 hrs. of creativity, I had two plates filled with: salad leaves, baked potato, fried carrot, egg, mozzarella, sherry tomato, fresh figs, walnut, raisins and a large piece of salmon. It did, in my opinion, look very much and tasty. For afters, I filled bowls with my own made apple compote, without sugar added but cooked together with a lemon. I transported it all in a shopper, carefully driving.

09 Lunch creation Lunch.

When I arrived at the clinic, I got a shock: my friend appeared to be sick. She sat in front of the gas-heater, shivering with 40 degrees fever. Of course she was unable to eat anything. Fortunately the assistant ate with pleasure, nearly emptying the whole plate. She did like it. The assistant and I managed to convince my friend to see a medic. When they came back I was asked to go and fetch the described medication. The job however carries on.

10 Amalia en Buddy Amalia and Buddy.

Clients come and go with their animals, dogs and cats. It was a surprise to also meet a client, speaking in reasonable Dutch. The woman appears to live in Nootdorp, already 20 years and is now visiting her ‘old’ father (71).
Friday. I was up late. When I came to the clinic, I did not find anybody there. My friend appeared to be asleep at her parents flat. When I saw her later in the afternoon, her fever had lessened and she was functioning at something like 30%. There were no special activities today.

11 Disabled kitten Disabled cat.
Saturday. At 7:15 my friend sent me an sms to tell me her temperature was down to 38,2 degrees. She was preparing to come to her clinic, 48 kilometres away. I told her to stay under the sheets. She never listens to me!
Argentina on horseback. 1999. October 07-13.
Week 40: These kids, 34 of them, are here together with the staff during 21 days. After these 21 days, they go home for a week. So, the headmaster is much like a drill-sergeant.

xx-web wk 41 Mendoza On my way to Tunuyan.

Thursday, 7th October, 113th travel day. The school day is starting up, for the second time this term. The lessons start on time, after breakfast with hot chocolate milk and a bun with mozzarella. There are three classes: 2 for primary and 1 for secondary ‘students’. The housekeeping under the director, an elegant woman, consisting of: two motherlike cooks/cleaning ladies, a clever jovial humoristic lady cook and an absolutely attractive separated woman for laundry/repair work, are now at ease, talking, asking my address in Holland and request me to talk in Dutch for a while. Packing my horses is going smooth, with everything close at hand. In between we drink maté and chocolate milk, eating buns. At 11:15 I am ready to leave. The classes are stopped for the occasion, all are called for a group picture with my herd. It is beautiful weather for travelling, a cool breeze, sun, and some scattered clouds the whole day. It is terrific. At first, we are climbing along steep hairpin roads for a long time. After that I arrive at a level high plane for 1,5 hours after which we descend again, into the valley of a small river. There is sufficient water and a deserted small farmhouse called ‘Ojo de Aqua’. Idyllic. We take a break here. The horses are enjoying lots of juicy grass and clear water. The place would have been ideal for camping. We carry on, climbing out of the valley again, while I have Cerro Diamante in view all the time, only slowly changing its position for me. One car passes and stops for a chat. For the rest, it is total silence. The silence is such, that Jut reacts with a jumpy move sideways when a bird flies up from the road shoulder or when some stones are rolling away. At a certain moment large cactus appear, standing in the dessert like fingers, prickly, ungainly with sometimes a red top from their flowers. I experience it as pretty sensational, when I smell water. Proof of it appears after a while, we enter the valley of the river Faja. There is a structure like a hostel, with another building like a small church. I find a male- and a female person there. Only they, but I suppose there must be more people around. It is 13:00 and they are having lunch, so I join them: the usual soup with potato, onion and this time large lumps of goat meat. It tastes great, with Cola to drink. Energy is all arranged with solar panels. They use low energy lamps, 12Volt television which they are watching. Luxury. The male person, gaucho, goes to work while I carry on drinking maté in the company of the burly 62-year-old woman. She waves me goodbye when I leave. Again, I am on a vast plain. A dead dog lays in my path. A bit further the hollow remains of a horse hooked with one hind leg onto the second wire of a fence and the other hind leg stuck in the third wire. The poor animal must have died a terrible death. I consider the title for a book: ‘Unspoiled’. I am totally happy with this track. Waste is rare, no plastic bags, no plastic bottles, no empty cigarette boxes. I also keep my waste with me. It is cool here, but lovely. The horses go fluently, easy, no pulling or pushing, no need to restore packing or saddles. Easy going. Again we enter a valley. Jut is pretty alarmed when all of a sudden, the second car of the past three days appears around the bent of a hairpin. Twice I took the gamble to cut hairpins going through the land, gaining on distance to cover. Both times the gamble worked out well. Deep down I see the river Hondo, with the small farm as indicated on my map.

12 Little farm Farm

I arrive there at 16:30 and meet the family Saril, father, mother and three adult sons. They keep goats. I settle in a shed which is filled with bales of hay, old cloths, saddles and rigging. My horses go into the land without fences, but I am confident that they will stay around, near the shed and near the water. It is a surprise to find an ordinary toilet here. Two sons take a carriage with enormous wheels, to get wood for the stove. They are away for two hours. When the sun is set, it is getting rather cold, but my bed is provided with so many sheets, that I will not be cold tonight. When I leave to the shed, I am called back: first we have to eat.
Friday, 8th October, the 114th travel day. During the night I heard a strange banging noise. In the morning I saw what made that noise: a turkey-cock courting a hen endlessly. An interesting sight. Early morning is cold, but that changes rapidly. The air feels differently here and now I know why; the humidity is extremely low here. It also makes it clear to me, why I am constantly thirsty and why meat and vegetables don’t rot away. Everything is drying out. The family is watching when I am preparing to leave and they help. Nice people. At 10:45 I am strugling up a very steep slope. Of course, Nora needs to put the brakes on for a shit. The whole family is watching me working my way up with my quartet. We get out of the valley, wave three times to the family and then we enter the high plain, the ‘meseta’, where we are met with kilometres of a barren road, straight as an arrow. Our goal for today is a settlement by the name of ‘Arroyo Papagayos’. This road is much like in the province of Santa Cruz: every sign, every path, tree, pole, is a welcome variation. To the left is the high snow-white mountain range, while to the right is only endless plane, only broken by still the volcano Diamante and a single unnamed high lump. In the distance, I see something on the road, looking like a dead sheep. When I come nearer, it appears to be a goat, getting up when I get nearer. She had given birth to two lambs. The first is already clean, the second one stands up shaky, bleating and still wet and slimy from the amniotic water. I pass them slowly and carefully, because it is clear that the goat is considering what to do: flee or keep watch. She stays watching. A bit further down the road, we are met with a herd of horses, watching us astonished. Lovely to see them, with their tails in the air, speeding away in full gallop. A fox, the first in month, is crossing our path. The civilised world is also, since very long, showing its presence, with high in the sky the white condensation lines from a plane. I can even hear it. The horses are glad when we come, after a good speedy trip, to the river Cortaderas. Now we meet a truck. Nora is, again without any warning, putting the brakes on again to shit. Jil does not like that behaviour at all and is protesting by rearing, damaging some slings. We are early, entering a valley where I spot various groups of trees. It seems to me too early for Papagayos, at 15:00. The first settlement lays close at the side of the road. There are two horses, saddled. A lot of dogs meet me loudly barking, but I see nobody. Walking around the house, I see a woman inside. Back at the front a gaucho appeared, in full traditional dress including spurs. We meet and he has no objections me taking a break here, disappearing inside. A workman arrives, greets politely, and also disappears inside. I asked the first one for Papagayos: 15 kilometres further. Silence. I smoke a cigarette. The workman appears again and leaves without looking. Not much later, the woman and the gaucho appear, locking the house thoroughly, mount their horses and ride away. I leave as well. After a hundred meters, we cross a brook with a fierce current. A sign calls this brook ‘Arroyo Papagallo’. To the left there is, as suspected, a road to Lake Diamante. An hour later we come to another group of trees and a settlement along the road, with a gaucho. No, the boss is not present. Now I get farm Yancha in sight: an enormous number of trees. We ride for 2 kilometres along lots of trees, with agricultural lands to the left (along the river) and pampa to the right, with cows, before I see any buildings and a fence with a gate. I see no sign of life. I enter the terrain, calling. The buildings are uninhabited, dilapidated, fit for demolition. A bitch, thin as a rake and clearly feeding puppies is all the life I find. I walk further up the terrain, following the imprints of tires and hoofs. When I look into another lane, I see what seems the wreck of a car. Going into that direction, I come to some sort of a hut with signs of habitation. I carry on calling and then, a scarcely dressed little man appears asking quite alarmed what is going on. I explain it and the he is immediately helpful. He goes inside and appears again, fully dressed and with a hat. Walking towards the gat, a young woman appears also. At the gate, where my horses are, there are now two dark skinned dirty men. They, driving a Mercedes van, appear strangers to my host. I think they are asking for directions and a couple of other things. I feel uneasy with these guys. They leave and we take my horses inside the gate and to the house. Soon I am having coffee with Alfonso Gustavo Gonsalez (31?) and his wife Valeria Isabelle Sosa (19?). Alfonso tells me, they are actually primarily growing grass on their enormous land. My horses, quietly grazing two by two, behave like they belong here. Valeria bakes ‘torta fritta’ and somewhat later bread in an outdoor stone oven, a round clay structure being fired until it is well heated, after which the dough (for ‘pan casero”) is brought in when the fire and ashes are removed of it. After one hour, the bread will be ready. It looks an easy lovely quiet life. The wreck of a car I spotted, is their way of transportation for shopping and for emergencies. It is no more then a running engine with four wheels, steering and probably some brakes as well. No windows and only two seats without cladding. They don’t have a phone, nor electricity. Light comes from a gas lamp. They keep, with the exception of one horse, no animals. No dog, nor cat. The bitch with puppies I saw, attached itself to Alfonso. At half past nine I nearly drop off my chair from sleep, but first we must eat. During food preparation, they play cards with the same strange decks as for ‘Truco’ but they play something else. The meal is as usual, simple; soup from potato, some onion, some garlic and lots of good meat. Side dish: lovely freshly baked bread. It is very tasty although I miss a bit of salt. Soon after this dinner, everybody goes asleep. I get a foam rubber matrass and sleep in the living room.
Saturday, 9th October, 115th travel day. At 7:30 somebody at the door wakes me up. It appears to be Alfonso’s brother. They have to go for a job. We drink coffee with milk: something else! It is splendid weather. I take my time. I filled a bowl with water from the brook running along the house and at the doorstep I wash my face, brush my teeth and shave. Meanwhile I enjoy the sounds of the birds and watch a gaucho picking up an astray cow. It is an idyll, radio with joyful music, Valeria singing and cleaning, happy and laughing. Alfonso and Valeria moved here only three weeks ago. My horses stand quietly between the trees. When I go to fetch them, Nora and Jut are lazily laying in the sun. The stay where they are when I work around them, totally at ease. Around 11 I am ready to leave and I say goodbye to Valeria. We walk off the terrain and when at the road, RP101, we go with an easy trot. Daan misses an iron from a front leg, but he does not seem to bother. Jut is pulling the whole lot, while Jil is as always in the contrary. The air is lukewarm, lovely, with the strong scent of herbs. We enter the inhabited world again: a settlement not shown on my map. We enter a terrain at a small habitat, but the woman there does not show any sign of interest so we carry on, along the fast-flowing water of a clear brook. Now there is habitation everywhere, all supplied with solar panels. Children come running out of their house to meet and watch us. Now there are also real pastures and also the first vineyards: green and fertile. We pause at a juicy place, where Nora sinks into the wet moss down to her belly. I watch it all, lazily laying in the tempered sun. The next stop is a farm as shown on my map. Again, it is a very large terrain and I am not going to look for habitation. Just past the bridge, we come to a spot with lovely grass, beautiful willows and water.

13 Between El Huitre en Paraditos Oasis.

There is settle for my first real picknick since months. The horses, kept paired, are grazing around me, while I prepare buns with sausage, cheese and fig jelly. Jil steals a bun from my hands. This is heaven on earth with singing birds and a drowsy temperature. From that lovely spot, we continue along various habitats vineyards, lush gardens, flowers, wisteria. I have Pareditas in sight: many trees and a busy road (Mendoza-San Rafaël). A friendly woman shows me the way to the gendarmerie, where I find them having a do for children: a lot of horses carrying the children. The gendarmerie is straight in front of a very nice parc in the centre of the village with ~2000 inhabitants. Their large office looks homely, neat and clean. The gendarmes checked with their head office in (esc. 28 in Tunuyan) and get confirmation: I am welcome and get a huge room with two beds and for the rest, all the help and freedom I like. The horses go into a rather small confined area behind the high wall at the back of the barracks. Bales of hay and wheat are stacked on the other side of the wall. I only have to lift a bale over the wall: easy. When that is arranged, I take a cold shower; the heater for water is not functioning. I change cloths: green blouse, new green trousers and boots. I get appreciating reactions. The chef here is Alfarez Gabriel Antonio Mitacek. The gendarmes are preparing to shoe Jut completely and Daan only his front legs. That will be done tomorrow. The weather is going to change: thunderstorm is on its way. At the petrol station I drink a litre of beer, eat a bag of potato chips and write my diary. I look at everything that passes: may mini busses, luxurious ones, but also a beautiful antique example with all the colours of the rainbow. And indeed, at 20:00 the thunderstorm arrives, with lots of rain. I do some shopping and walk in pitch dark, to the other side of the village. They told me that there, at the petrol station, they run a restaurant. Indeed, they do but it is boring, cheap and the carbonate is low quality. After my meal I ask to call a cab, because it is raining cats and dogs. No telephone, she says: there is a pay phone at the petrol station. The two employees there try to help me, rather gloomy and without success. When I roll me a cigarette with an air expression like ‘I can wait’, they offer me to take me with their own car to the gendarmerie. At arrival there, my host and his seriously sexy wife (blond and enormous tits) are busy cooking. I am asked to join them but I decline. I drink a glass of wine with them and go to bed.
Sunday. 10th October. It is still fully overcast, but during the day it becomes fine again: silent and quiet. A sheep managed to work its way into the confinement with my horses. It tries to join in the food I give them. They don’t mind at all. The horses are okay in the limited space but with plenty food and water. The gendarmes here are fairly to themselves, but they treat me respectfully. I am lazy: love to do nothing at all, walk a bit, sleep a bit. A 15-year old boy, Martin, slightly mentally handicapped, adopted me. He is active, cleans the busses parked in front. It’s exclusively his ‘business’. A hoof smith does not appear, so I suppose that that will be done tomorrow. Late in the afternoon, while enjoying an ice-cream and a beer, I watch the built-up of an election procession: noisy, a wide variety of cars, trucks, busses and mini-busses full with people waving banners, awkwardly dressed in animal-like outfits and T-shirts. And all that accompanied by very loud music and announcers, from huge loudspeakers they mounted on their vehicles. In the evening I cook my own meal from the emergency rations I carry with me since long. I don’t think I will ever need those. I also prepared an oral salt drink. I have only another three months left to go on this trip and three months pass fast, so now is the time to start thinking about using up these spares.

14 Tunuyan Queen of the 'tonado' Tunuyan Queen of the ‘tonado’
Monday, 11th October. I slept very well. At 7:30 I dressed, fed the horses and ate the rest of the meal I prepared yesterday. The gendarme who met me here on Saturday is here again, with his jeep. I am not in a hurry, because first my horses must get their new shoes and I don’t think that will happen soon nor fast. I was told they would do it at 08:30 but they arrived at 11:00. I am told that the hoof smith asks $10 per horse. I don’t complain, because I find it cheap. Ten minutes later, he appears with a jovial person with an enormous beer-belly. Not much later 4 men are busy with my horses, while a fifth is watching. All redundant? At 13:30 the work is done, with me already decided to stay till tomorrow. I do some repair work to my equipment, undisturbed, pleasant, at the small inner courtyard. The chief is working on his Jeep with Nissan engine: nice car with a very healthy engine sound. He, the chief, asks me about the validity of a plan to guide tourists during 2 to 3-week trips through the cordillera. To me it seems a lucrative business. According to me it is certainly feasible to regularly organise groups for a trip through the mountains, with a good guide. I rate it anyway as highly attractive. In the evening the chief cooks for me. His attractive and much younger wife is also joining in. They are behaving as a couple of teenagers, snugging and cuddling. During our dinner, rain is coming down again in heavy showers. Their comments: ‘muy raro’, so much rain, but very good for the land, the growth, this early in spring. Martin stayed with me the whole day, talking and chattering. The neighbouring boy who arranged the hoof smith, shows me his special saddle and especially the enormous amount of sheets to go under it. One of these, a very thin fleece, he gives to me as a present. He also provides me with a greasy white soap. They use that here to treat parts of the horses’ skin where slings have been grating the hair away. The spots stay clean, antiseptic and supple. Very nice of him, clearly loving horses.

15 Tunuyan Manzano Historico Tunuyan Manzano Historico.
Tuesday, 12th October. 116th travel day. From Pareditas, I planned to travel to Tunuyan today. According to the gendarmes, that is ‘cassi 40 kilometres’, but according to me slightly more than 50k. The gendarmes wake me at 6am as asked. I slept very well. It rained steady during the night, so everything is freshened up with a temperature of 18 degrees centigrade, with scattered clouds in the sky. At 10:30 I depart, waved goodbye by all the gendarmes. The road is straight and even, busy but with mostly broad shoulders, a shallow slope down and lots of grass. A pity is, that the shoulders are littered with rubbish thrown out of cars. I ride Nora, neat, steady. Jut is always forward pulling, Daan is always going with the flow: abiding, the dear. The road is lined with a variety of trees. We drive past well-maintained orchards and vineyards. The strip of cultivated land is not very wide. When the growth is not to dense, I see the endless pampa to the right and the mountain range to the left. Water and water management are fully pointed towards irrigation for agriculture. The natural waterways stand empty. Instead, there are numerous small canals, with brown water flowing or with dirty standing water. Parallel to the road there are some pools with standing water, mostly very dirty but with often some small fish. There is not much variation in colours: it is green. At a patrol station I eat a large ‘Wiener Schnitzel’. The horses graze along the road while I am eating. A bit further up the road I come across a tourist information office. I park my horses in front of it. A woman comes up with a key, making a fuzz about my horses because they might drop something: she wants me away, so I go, pretty aggrieved. We are attacked by large mosquitos. It is rather logical to find those here, with all these dirty pools with standing water. Behind a larger part of burnt down shoulder, I see a pool with fresh looking water. I try to guide Nora through the burnt land, but she refuses: Are they not thirsty? Yes, they are, because somewhat later we come to a pool next to a leaking canal. All four drink a lot. We arrive in Tunuyan around 17:45. Later than I had planned. Route Nacional nr.40, is the ‘high street’ here, Avenido San Martin. The gendarmerie is quickly found, where we come into town on the south side. They know about me coming but did not prepare for it, so I must wait. The horses with the unnecessary luggage go to a large terrain across the road. Luggage into a locked shed. A soldier takes me in his old American Buick to a hotel. The hotel cost $20 -breakfast included. The hotel owner arranges for a pick-up type taxi with which I get 2 bales of bad quality hay (lots of thistle) and 25kg of maize. Grown up boys are playing soccer. I see them kicking their ball often in the direction of the horses. When returned to the hotel, I eat two Kiwi’s, a banana and an orange. I take to bed early, tired. The covered distance was as I expected, not 40k but more than 50k. I stay in Tunuyan, tomorrow, because I suppose to be able to find Internet in this town with 40.000 inhabitants.

16 Mountain trip Tunuyan Riding ‘Cabalgate’.
Wednesday. 13th October. I slept well in the hotel and wake up early. Take a shower: hot water! Breakfast is good: coffee with croissants (media lunas). I start the search for a street plan. I am directed to the townhall. There it is the usual sham. At 10am some thirty persons sit lazily behind a single desk, facing either the door or a high placed television with soccer on. The first paper shoving guy takes me to the basement, where three persons are cramped into a tiny office. I am asked to wait, fortunately not very long. They produce some obsolete tourist information. No, they don’t have a street plan. Vaguely apologizing, mumbling about students who stopped? No, they don’t have internet. They propose another institution for a map. With an address written, I go underway. I ask directions to other pedestrians. Excuses. They don’t know it, while a bit later I conclude that I am walking in the street I was looking for. Unbelievable. At the given address, they eventually produce a street plan at a poster from a firm. The lady says: ‘our one and only copy’. To late, I put it away in my bag already. Now I go looking for internet. A neat modern Telefonica shop wrote in capital letters ‘E-mail’ on their window, but no, they don’t have it. Not in Tunuyan, no, but in Mendoza they do! Thank you very much. I don’t believe them and carry searching. At a certain moment I end up in the office of the chamber of commerce, where an efficient and even some English-speaking young woman helps me behind her computer and leaves me in peace. I worked there for four hours and was billed for $12,40. That is cheap. It is well organised here, because internet is not running via a telephone line, but via a server. This was great. Back at my horses, I see them contently walking and grazing. I go shopping and then writing diary in a hall where middle aged men are playing, cards or dominos. It is a commercialised social doo. The men don’t consume much but they do play for money. In Malargüe I also found such a hall. It looks pleasant, but it is really a bit pathetic because they should be working. Observations. Walking back, I notice something I saw in virtually all towns: characteristic here is, that every house/shop owner is responsible for his own part of pavement. That leads to an enormous variety in appearance. A bank has a neat pavement from natural stone. The neighbour, one of the many kiosks, has no money so no pavement: well swept earthen with boulders, dusty in summer and muddy after rainfall. Furthermore, this part is 10 cms below the level of the adjoining pavement. It is lively, messy and at night, life threatening. The deep open gutter between pavement and road is always and everywhere a terrible threat, not only at night. Crossings are made from concrete slabs of a doubtful quality, from rickety timber, corrugated steel (very slippery when wet), or sometimes a tube in the cutter covered with earth. In those tubes live dogs, cats (unless it rains) and/or rats. The women: The girls are cute and nice to look at, tight, slender and well built. The men: behave much like I know Italians to do, jealous hunters, very fertile once attached to one of these good-looking girls, feeding them too much so they get soon as round as a barrel. Soon there is not much left of the good looks and the danger of loosing her is minimalized. Such fun! These men don’t stop pinching the young, green game. As far as I know, they are however loyal to the mother of their children: Divorce? No way! Left alone the exceptions. Back in the hotel, I have either lunch or dinner: they don’t make a difference. Outdoor, a sturdy man is roasting a variety of meats. Inside, you can serve yourself on cold dishes, slices of cow’s tongue, beans, salat, onion, carrot, tomato, Achilles tendon of calf, rice with tuna, fruit and a choice of tasty sauces or dressing. I order loin beef, very tasty and very tender. Two empanadas come with it, free. These are not notably special.

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Week 40-2018. Humenné-Charkov/Argentina on horseback. 1999, September 30-Octobere 07.

01 Mother beagle Mother after birth.
The Sunday in Humenné is, by now, some sort of a routine. I go to the local church, where I enjoy the beautiful voice of the lead-singer. After that I go to the clinic, where I meet my friend and her assistant.

02 Beagle puppies 7 puppies.

When the work is done, I follow my friend to Medzilaborce. There I spent the afternoon, quiet, lots of coffee and food, playing with daughter Hana and talking about the work of my friend.
Monday. In the afternoon I tried to find information about travelling by train in Ukrain. My intention is, to go by car to L’Viv and then take the night train to Charkov. On internet I found the address of a travel agent. That agency appeared to be one man in a tiny office, only selling holidays as intermediate. Pretty useless, but he showed me another agency. There, I found two ladies busy with clients: this looked like a proper travel agency and it appeared to be just that. The woman helping me did not speak one word of English, but a customer appeared to be the local teacher in English. The agent was extremely efficient and produced, in printing, a variety of options. One of the options appealed to me and I decided to go. I went back to the clinic with my information. In the clinic my friend Lenka had just removed a 600-gram tumour from a dogs’ belly. In the evening I worked out the trip to Charkov.

03 Café for my internet work in Humenné My internet café.

First by car, 250 kilometres from Humenné via Snina to L’Viv. My Slovak friends are not to happy about leaving my car there: L’Viv is, so they say, a town with an extreme crime rate.
So, I will have to look for a safe parking place for my car. Then I must go to the railway station and buy a ticket for the night train, 1000 kilometres to Charkov. The train, according to my information, should leave at 21:57 from L’Viv and arrive in Charkov at 11:16 on Wednesday.
Tuesday. I packed my backpack, with only the essentials: no spare cloths, but sufficient tobacco. The Ukrainian ‘Griefna’ (may be the wrong spelling) is worth only €0,03. That is useful information. When I am ready, I go to the clinic and take leave there, from Lenka (very concerned) and Stanka (also very concerned). It is raining when I start to Snina. At the border to Ukrain, it is as expected: time consuming with four counters to pass, where they register all and everything up to the kilometrage of my car. I have to pay €2 there, in local currency which I don’t have. At the ‘bank’ I try to pay with my card, but that appears to be not possible. I pay with a note of €50 and to my surprise, they pay me back in 2x€20 and the rest in Griefna. Having some local currency now is very good. At first the road in Ukrain is pretty bad. Just around a bend in the road, there is a stop sign at a police checkpoint. I nearly missed it and stopped 2 meters past the ‘stop’ sign. The two police men again register everything: passport and car specifics. Then they try to get me to pay a fine of €50 because I did not stop in time: In time means well before the sign! I play innocent, not understanding and not carrying money either. Of course, they don’t speak English and I talk in Dutch. After some hazzle, the leader of the two makes a gesture showing he is giving in: I may proceed, without paying a bribe. Soon after this, I come to a military check point with a proper barrier. The soldier here looks short at my passport and opens the gate. From here the road is suddenly excellent, all the way to L’Viv. Of course, I don’t know where to find the railway station. I stop at a small shop where I saw some young people. In the shop I ask for someone speaking English. A young and pretty woman reacts. She tells me later, that she is the daughter of a local hotel owner and doing work on the reception there. She is very helpful, tells me to find the railway station and also a guarded carpark near there. I find both without difficulty, park my car and walk up to the nearby impressive railway station.

04 Platforms L'Viv Platform, waiting for the train.

Buying a ticket to Charkov is no problem, although I have to ask around a lot. I don’t understand anything for the text on the ticket, but I recognise the train number and the time, so I suppose it will be right. Nothing here is in English, so again I have to ask on which platform I must board the train. It works out well. I find the platform and wait for the train to arrive. At the various train parts, there appears to be some sort of a purser. I approach one of them and find the part of train where I should go according to my ticket. I also find the cabin, where I will spend the night with three typical Ukrainian women, having fun amongst them but totally incapable of communicating with me.

05 View from train to Charkov View from the train.

Smoking on the train is prohibited, but done nevertheless at the balconies. There is a restaurant on the train where I buy and eat some. In the restaurant there is a party of two men and a woman. They invite me to their table and share the ‘cognac’ they are drinking. I resign because I don’t want to end up with a headache from what they call cognac. I go to sleep, successfully.
Wednesday. When in the neighbourhood of Charkov, my friend Mykola sends me an SMS. He wants to know the wagon I am in. I can’t tell him, but tell him how I am dressed. The meeting at the platform is easy: no mistaking, we recognise each other immediately.

06 Arrival in Charkov Outside Charkov railway station.

We leave the railway station, walking in the direction of a café where we can exchange the first information. How are you doing now, is the issue. It is cold in Charkov and frequent showers make it a bit difficult to get around without an umbrella. We arrive at his home, where his grandmother prepared ‘borsjt’. Mykola does not have a job, but is very busy caring for his nearly blind grandmother. He is, however, an excellent guide to Charkov. He knows all its specifics and his English is very good too. In fact, he could very well exploit this knowledge of the town. He knows lots of details that are very interesting for visitors. We do some shopping, for which I pay of course. Later, I buy a bottle of excellent Ukrainian red wine for under €2.

07 Charkov Railway museum How it was done, and sometimes still is.
Apart from a variety of cafés where we have either lunch or drink coffee, Mykola shows me around and tells me too much to write.

08 Charkov delivery of orders Serving at your table.

In the days to come, we visit, amongst others, the small but interesting railway museum, a cable line across wetlands to some sort of Disney-land, the flea market and the library.

09 Charkov cable track Cable train.

The library is very special to him: he even has his own location where he likes to be. The library works a strange system (to me). First you go to the section with the registers: handwritten cards in loads of drawers. From these cards you write the title you want to see, on a sheet. With the sheet you go to the reading room, where you hand it in and receive a number. On a large signboard your number will light up, when the title you asked, did arrive. You may not take the titles home.

10 Mykola in Charkov library In the library.

We also go to buy my return ticket, in a special office where they know much more than shown on the internet. There they manage to find me a return train to L’Viv, getting me there, as requested, on Sunday morning early. Early arrival in L’Viv allows me to travel by car in daylight. I would not like to travel by car in darkness. The return trip by train cost me under €30, for a 1000km trip in a ‘sleep’ train!

11 Charkov impressions Charkov.
Saturday. After lots of going around in town, like at the flea market, we go back home to have the last meal there and take leave from his grandmother. By tram we go to the railway station. I rate my visit to Charkov as very interesting and pleasant.

12 Charkov impressions Charkov.

The train to L’Viv is on time. Mykola guides me to my cabin, where I will be with two women, again not speaking anything but Ukrainian. These women come from Lugansk, at the frontline of the war with the ‘Russian backed’ separatists. When we have said goodbye, Mykola leaves the train and the train leaves the station. I install myself and try to rest as much as possible.

13 Charkov railway station Charkov, railway station.
It has been a most interesting trip so far. Now I wonder how I will find my car back in L’Viv.

Argentina on horseback. 1999, September 30-October 06.
September 29: The town is warm, quiet and pleasant. Back at the gendarmerie I continue packing and make plans to leave tomorrow morning early.

xx-web wk 40 Mendoza To La Jaule in Mendoza.
Thursday 30th September 1999. The109th travel day. From Malargüe.
At 07:30 I try to find the key to the room where my luggage is stored. It takes a while to find. It will be a warm day again. The veterinarian tells me that at 10:15, the television crew will be here for an interview on local Malargüe television. The interview will be broadcasted direct on local radio. They arrive in time now. There will also be a page on Internet about me. Malargüe is profiling itself as the centre for adventurous tourism. At 11:30 it is all ready and I can depart, with my luggage arranged without sheets under the pack-saddles but cell-rubber. Of course, I keep the sheets because this is a real trial. It may not work out well. I pay the cook $75 (5 days) and some 20 gendarmes come to say goodbye. After 500 meters I have to restore the pack on Jut, but it goes quick now. For security and to avoid escalation in the high-streets, I pass through town via one of the parallel roads. It is clear, from the reactions, that many of the inhabitants heard the interview on radio. All around people are calling, waving and whistling. The funniest is a gaucho in traditional dress on a bicycle, riding up with me and begging me to sell him one of my horses. Imagine that: a Dutchman riding with four horses and an Argentinian gaucho on a bicycle. I nearly fell off laughing. The trip to El Chacay goes fast and easy, with Jut leading the pack. Two strongly built women stop their car, to chat and see my horses. They heard the radio interview. The first farm I come across, a modern and orderly arranged one, is not El Chacay. I have to do another 3 kilometres. El Chacay is real business. On my way there, I experienced the lovely smell of a weed unknown to me. It appears that the farm produces aromatic herbs. The owner, Chicho Martinez is in San Rafael where he runs a cider factory. This estancia is managed by an administrator. He is not present either. Michael, a young man well aware of his importance, is the one who is supposed to help me. It takes hours. The horses are led into a large confined meadow with few grasses and two other horses. Jut is thrilled and runs around cutting capers with his tail up, a funny and enjoyable sight. My luggage disappears, for the time being, behind a wall, out of sight for tidiness. Michael has to confer (by telephone) with the administrator. I have to wait, so I drink maté with one of the gaucho families. The simplest people are usually the best to go with. Michael, for instance, is not offering me anything: feudal bosses’ mentality. At 18:30 I go look for further information and something seems to be arranged. I am linked to the school teacher. Cowardly and indolent. The teacher, Pablo, is cute, soft-hearted, quiet and helpful but taken by surprise. First, I do help him and two municipality carpenters. We cover, with an enormous peace of canvas, the timber from the roof of a new part of the building. They expect it to rain. After that we pick up my belongings from their temporary storage behind the wall. It all goes into the study of the teacher. I get two matrasses, 6 sheets and am given a heated classroom where everything, and in functioning condition, is present. When I have arranged myself, I am invited into the large room where the children are eating at daytime. The school is serving 35 children, but it is rare when they are all there. The school opens at 8 o’clock and finishes at 15:00. With Pablo and his cute wife and one-year old daughter I spent the night, talking, eating and watching tv. When going to bed, wet snow is falling and every now and then a strong wind picks up. I hope, with them, that the canvas is remaining in position. After inspection, I conclude that the use of cell-rubber is not yet perfect. The steel saddle is still functioning perfectly well. Jil’s back is okay but the skinny Daan shows some depilated red spots. His skin is fortunately not damaged. So, I prepare the saddle used by Daan, with some more cell-rubber.
Friday, 1st October, 110th travel day.
It is cold, dark and it is heavily snowing when I go pick up the horses at 6:30. I am busy with it for one hour, in the dark. Jil and Daan are easy to get hold off, but Nora and Jut are fooling around with me. It is very funny, but not very practical in these conditions, so I use Jil as a lure and that works perfectly well. Near the school I park them with plenty juicy grass, because I don’t have other food for them. Then I arrange my luggage and have breakfast (maté). Pablo is also present at 7:30 to prepare for the next school day. The school is quite new and boasts a large well fenced terrain for large kitchen gardens (educational), soccer ground, volleyball place and geese, dogs, cats and three ponies. It would be, in the Netherlands, an absolute model school. Here there are only 15 children today, from the direct neighbourhood. It works out that way nearly everywhere. Many parents don’t bother taking their children to school. The two carpenters are here on time. We share maté. They both heard the radio interview and watched the television interview about me, so now we are the best of friends. They leave after an hour. The school staff arrived as well: three sociable fatties and one neatly looking skinny one. We make acquaintance. Two of the fatties are for household tasks. They serve me weak but tasty coffee with milk and some sort of a sweet cake-like doughnut ball. At 10:30 I depart, fully nourished, while it is snowing a lot. The trip for today is approximately over 40 kilometres. Soon my feet and hands are wet and cold. My cold feet are my own fault, because I did not get my cow skin shoe covers out. My cold hands are an Argentinian problem: their gloves (bought for skiing) are far from watertight. After 20 kilometres with very limited vision, we pass again a real river: Rio Salado, not passing across the modern new bridge, but across the old bridge of the type I already passed many times. Just across the bridge I spot a hut where smoke comes out of the chimney, so I guide the horses into that direction. The two inhabitants offer maté and I can warm my hands and eat a carrot, an apple, a piece of nougat with nuts, and smoke a cigarette. The horses stand close together, quietly resting in the snow: there is nothing to eat for them. They have rested well, taking it form the speed they go again. Jut is, as often, the frontrunner, pulling Jil and Nora (with me on her), while Daan is helping Jut. Jil is most of the time a bit defiant, logical, because he is used to being the ridden and leading horse. I would be good to ride him again, but I can not because of the still not sufficiently cured wound. Nora does not want to walk the wide shoulders because they are too soft and full of gravel. She prefers the surfaced shoulders of the road. The snow stopped and now and then a somewhat hazy sun appears making it immediately a lot more agreeable. Yet it is excellent weather for travelling, because there is no wind. Large areas with only those prickly hard bushes, from where the horses keep far away, are now from time to time exchanged for parts with more variable vegetation on which they serve themselves as far as I allow them to. Just before the crossing of the river Atuel, with again an old and a new bridge, a car passes loudly hooting its horn: Pablo, the school director from El Chacay. My map tells me, that in the past there has been a tragedy in El Chacay and I must remember to find out what that has been. Just after passing the bridge, a Renault car approaches me and stops.

14 Sosneado 1-10-99 Passanten Travelling locals.

The driver, a plain clothed gendarme, turns around and guides me to the quite hidden quarters of this section of the gendarmerie. I am welcome and I experience a much easier approach then at the larger barracks from the squadron. They help me quick with unpacking and a bedroom appears to be ready for me. The horses are immediately fed with a large portion of grain and later in the evening a bale of hay. On my request, they separate Daan during their feeding, in order to allow him to eat without being disturbed by the much faster eating others. When all work is done, I sit down in an easy chair next to the stove, the only heating in the building. A man is busy cutting the hair of the gendarmes. I did see this man also at work in Malargüe. The room is pretty busy, with 8 gendarmes. Their boss, Eduardo Juan Kailer, is young. One of the men is hitting a computer with haste. My wet shoes and gloves are drying near the stove. The highest in rank, the boss, shows me my bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen. He also shows me the hot water tap. Later in the evening, the man working the computer is getting terribly frustrated and upset: the computer appeared to crash. The user is now thinking he lost the large and complicated document. I offer my help. They appear to have Norton, software for recovery of documents. I know that software and after some work we manage to retrieve the document. The user is extremely relieved. I am very hungry and join the others eating plain bread with coffee and maté. At 22:00 o’clock the cook is fed up with waiting for the two men who went to do the shopping. He provides everybody with soup, bread and lemonade. I eat three portions of soup. I requested to allow me to stay for two days, because I have to make corrections to the arrangements on the pack saddles. Just when the men who had been shopping, came back, I took to bed, very tired, and immediately fall asleep.
Saturday, 2nd October. I slept like a log. It is quiet in the building. I try the shower, but it produces no warm water. To get warm water, they first have to put the fire on in a stove outside the building. I had a quiet breakfast while very relaxed watching the proceedings. I am told the name of this small settlement: El Sosneado. When asking about it, they tell me the story of the ‘Tragedy of Chacay.’ It happened in the year 1830. The ‘pacification’ of South America is in full swing. A delegation of approximately 80 men, consisting of politicians, soldiers and colonists of which may were ‘mixed blood’ Argentines, arrived in Chacay for the first time. They came to communicate with the local Indians but where slaughtered. After this story, the gendarme who picked me up from the road, takes me in his Renault for a ride through the area. First, we go to the school, which has capacity for 60 children staying here the whole week. The staff is accordingly extensive and even though it is Saturday, 12 off the staff are present. We drink coffee and talk about my trip and experiences. Corruption is an always returning subject, but even so are the costs of living, living as such here and language. It is a lively discussion, pleasant. After that we go to ‘gringo’ Alvarez. Alvarez runs the hardware store here. He is acquainted with Max, my friend from the East. He will inform Max that I arrived here and that I will stay a while, allowing Max to come and meet. Alvarez is not a very talkative man, pleasant but not very entertaining. I learn here, that El Sosneado is tiny, with only 50 families, approximately 200 persons. But it has everything necessary: the section of gendarmerie, a police-sanitary settlement (where everybody not local is stopped to be checked), a petrol station, that large school and the hardware store. We discuss my journey for the next few days. I am strongly advised not to follow the provincial road 101 (direct and short), because the chance to get lost is considerable. That road, has many branches made by the firms looking for locations to drill oil wells (petroleros). These branches are easily mistaken for the proper provincial road and somebody not familiar with the area it would be a real gamble to go. There are no maps, no signs, no habitations so asking for directions is no option. They advise me to just take RA40, with more traffic and habitations, and going past San Rafael. Back at the section, the boss and another gendarme don’t agree, because road 101 is wide, while the branches are narrow. This view produces doubts. The gendarmes are all busy with shifting documents and orders. They confirm my assumption: the whole administration has been neglected for some time and now they are reorganising the whole lot. It is certainly useful when I see what is laying around disorganised. The boss agrees, when I state that they should employ a scanner. A scanner would save them much time and a lot of paperwork. After a hot lunch I am terribly sleepy and take to bed for nearly three hours. After that ‘nap’, I join the crew again and drop a bag with peanuts in the shell on the mantelpiece. It does not take long, before the bag is empty. They are all extreme pilfers. My only work is, to see to my horses and to the possibilities to improve their luggage carrying equipment. Dinner is again extremely late. The men enjoy a pleasant Saturday evening, drinking Coca Cola mixed with Fernet, wine and beer.

21 El truco

After dinner they play ‘truco’. I am not tired, but go to bed anyway. I should not have done that, because I am unable to catch sleep.
Sunday, 3rd October. It is virginal white outdoor and it is still snowing when I get up. First, I repair the rickety lock from the bathroom. Everybody is already being very busy. They are painting, cleaning guns, replace broken glass from windows and, of course, the reorganisation of the administration is still going on. They ask me to neatly arrange my saddles in the saddle-room. I start my work on the luggage carriers and manage to diminish the total weight as well. Regularly I stop for a while to get warm, to drink maté or coffee (they drink a lot of that here) and to eat. At 16:00 I am ready with work. I saddle Jut and depart at full gallop for the 12 kilometres to the farm of Coco Martinez, a friend of Max. Jut goes like a flash and the three dogs from the gendarmes try to keep up with us, loudly barking. This is the first time to ride Jut like this and it is going perfectly well. I actually give him only directions and must be well aware of his sudden movements, avoiding restrictions on his path. He may suddenly move to a side or put the brakes on. One dog stays with us and I have to watch out for him, because he taking to the road where cars are driving quite fast. Coco’s farm with the many trees, is clearly visible in the flat and empty terrain. Just when I enter his farm, he returns himself from a ride. He accidently rides a horse with exactly the same colour and appearance as Jut, the only difference being that his horse is approximately 10 cm lower. At first, he listens to me with awe and completely forgets that we are standing outside in the rain now. But soon we sit inside, at the open stove, drinking maté and whisky. He produces pictures from Max, the father and brother of Max and of his wife. Nice to see those pictures. Coco has a cute round daughter of 1,5 years old. She sits quietly on a tiny chair next to her father. Coco tells me she is already drinking maté. I can imagine it, because not much later she tries to lite a lolly stick, like a cigarette: two roguish pigtails, round healthy cheeks and a cordial smile. I stay for 1,5 hours, meet his pretty wife who knows about my journey from radio Malargüe. At 18:30 I ride back, with Coco joining for a major part, chatting and smoking cigarettes. His farm is 12.000 hectares large, he keeps many goats, cows, a few sheep and horses. He also tells me that he started erecting fencing along RA40 because the road has become dangerously busy. That will be a lot of fencing. At 19:30 I am back at the gendarmerie and help them feeding the horses. After that I settle next to the fire, warm and comfortable, to write my diary. I am not waiting for dinner tonight. At 22:30 I take to bed after eating bread with cheese, sausage and jam.
Monday 4th October. Up early, after a good night sleep. The boss, Eduardo, is already here, nervously busy to prepare his gendarmerie ready for inspection. It is very interesting to be able to join in. He, Eduardo, actually invited me to stay one more day, until tomorrow. He will then give me an escort of his soldiers, via RP101 to La Jaule, which are 2 days travelling, 60 kilometres. I am thrilled at the idea, so I change over to the automatic pilot for today. I help cleaning, tidying, chase all horses and mules out and back into their confined areas in order to get them counted and categorized. Today is another cold day, with sometimes snow and sometimes ice-cold rain. The 10 gendarmes are getting more and more nervous during the day. They are rehearsing the drill to welcome the commander in chief of the whole northern border of Argentina, a two-star general, Luis Roberto Remy. It is absolutely funny to see their rehearsal. They are very clearly not into the way of the military drill: they are horsemen, not privates. At exactly 4 o’clock the Korean four-wheel drive SUV arrives, with the general, two aids, a photographer and the regional boss of Mendoza, a colonel Rouen Dario Welchen. Immediately after the ceremony, they ask me to be introduced to them. Eduardo had asked me to stay a bit ‘out of sight’ and is now hastily picking me up.

15-Remy en ik in El Sosneado Meeting the general.

It is clear to me, that they knew about me beforehand. It does not happen too often, having a foreign traveller at their compound. They are very interested and what I tell them is highly appreciated. Of course, they do their inspection, automatically, but they regularly involve me into it. When they go inside the barracks, I stay outside. I am again quickly asked to come in as well, because the general wants to share maté with me. It is all extremely funny, seeing Eduardo reacting, getting at ease fast. I am now neatly served with everything and have an interesting casual chat with the general and the chief of the region, both kind men in their fifties. The general is even of the same age as me. He, the general, is responsible for all the provinces where I am still to pass through and he stresses that I must not in any way hesitate to go to the gendarmeries on my way. It is made easy for me, this way. The photographer makes a picture of the general and me shaking hands, for publishing in their magazine. Of course I ask them to sent me a copy. When they are gone, the local crew is enthusiastically reflecting, after which we discuss the plans for tomorrow. Three gendarmes will go with me and we will depart late, at 13:00 o’clock for 30 kilometres to the first stop halfway. Exciting. I am very curious as to the possible effects of the meeting with the general. Eduardo, the chief here, is clearly very pleased with this day. He is talkative, falls asleep in his chair, he hardly slept the past two nights. He will sleep very well tonight. The rest of us watch age-old video films, because the television only produces ‘snow’.
Tuesday, 5th October, 111th travel day. I wake up at 6, for a pee. When I open the door to the living room it goes with a loud squeak. The assigned watchman (the little corpulent caretaker for the horses) is asleep in his chair and wakes up alarmed and panicky. After my pee, I go back to bed for another 1,5 hours. Then, after the maté, I go feed the horses a good lot and make up for leaving. It involves also the cleaning and inspection of hoofs, all 16 of them. Only the front legs of Daan need to be worked at: he has no irons there anymore. Looking for suitable irons and nails takes more time than the actual shoeing. Cleaning the others goes 3 times fast and 1 time difficult (for Jil as usual). When that is all done, we drink coffee.

 

Preparations for departure.

Eduardo, the boss, had planned to join the escorting party, but he is ordered to appear at a social do in Malargüe, probably with the inspectors. So, I go with two gendarmes. Halfway the packing and saddling, a car enters onto the terrain: Max and his wife Ilona, from the East. That is a surprise. Max first went to Alvarez, ‘El Gringo’, at the hardware store in town to learn there, that I did not leave yet. Max, fluent in Spanish, explains to Eduardo about the situation and his connection with me. They are invited to join for dinner, we talk a lot and so it takes a lot more time. Finally, at 14:00 o’clock, we depart after a lot of compliments.

17 Sosneado 5-10-99 Leaving El Sosneado.

We go via the back, straight through the country side. I follow the slow trotting Carlos and Pablo. It goes very well, but I have to hold Daan back, because he wants to go faster.

 

Travelling with guides.

Max went a bit along the RP101 to meet us and to take pictures. There we part as well. 20 Sosneado 5-10-99Goodbye Sosneado.

We shorten the way to El Huitre by approximately 10 kilometres going through the country. At 18:00 we arrive at a small farm, where we will stay for the night. They are family of Coco Martinez. The farm is situated next to the road, RP101. There are no trees. We unsaddle and have maté. My horses go two by two into the country. With a lasso, the horses of the gendarmes are tied up to a pole. Our evening meal was provided by the gendarmes: a large piece of mozzarella, salami, cheese, bread, onion and BBQ meat. We empty two cases of red wine. It is very amiable. At 23:00 we make bed in a half open shed, using horses’ sheets, using the light of my very useful equipment. We don’t talk much now and I fall easily and fast asleep.
Wednesday, 6th October, 112th travel day. A dog settled during the night in my knee pits. It caused me some disturbance of my nights’ rest. The weather is splendid for travelling: cool but not cold. Breakfast is maté with a bun. The gendarmes help me packing, allowing an early start at 10:00. The gendarmes, who are going to the left, give me instructions for the days trip. I go to the right and have to avoid any deviations: just go straight on. I am only once forced to take time to orientate at a junction with three directions, left, right and straight on. On my map there is a single sole volcano marked: Cerro Diamante. I can use this volcano to show me the way.

21 6-10 Cerro Diamante-El Huitre naar La Jaule Cerro Diamante.

The road is mostly flat and straight through nice green country side, with plenty grass for my horses. It is getting colder and pitch-black clouds are closing in fast. Approximately at the planned time, I arrive at a point where, according to my map, one can only go to the right. In practise however, there appears to be a similar road turning off to the left. There are, fortunately, road signs confirming me that I am 7 kilometres away from my destiny. I smoke a cigarette in the yet warm sun and the horses are grazing. Before leaving I put on my rain coat. And good I did it, because beginning with only a few drops, it soon is raining like hell and a bit later a thunderstorm follows. I descent my high position on a horses’ back and lead the pack, walking. The road is not surfaced and consists of only loose stones, winding down into the valley of the river Diamante. There was no traffic on the road. It is only very limited used.

22 6-10 Landchap El Huitre naar La Jaule

Landscape to travel through.

I meet however lots of cows and also an enthusiastic herd of horses. The river Diamante is flowing fast and brown. As with the other river crossings, there is a bridge across the point where the water is forced through a narrow. I see La Jaule, on the other side of the river. La Jaule consists of a large school, three farms and a deserted gendarmerie (the neat signs are still present). It is still raining when I arrive. A well-fed woman meets me. When asked where I can find the headmaster, it turns out to be easy. Everything here is linked to the boarding school, equipped to house 35 children of all ages, from sometimes far away in the land. The headmaster appears to be a burly short man with a kind wife. The staff consists of women from here and a few real teachers. During my investigation, the rain suddenly stops and the sun appears, making it very pleasant rapidly. Some of the older students help me unsaddling. The horses go into a confinement. I buy two bales of alfalfa, of which one is consumed immediately. With all those around, it is tiring business but funny and pleasant. I am adopted to stay in the boarding school, dinner at 21:00 with staff and children. Simple but sufficient, warm and pleasant. I get a bed in the dormitory with the boys, 16 of them, aged 8-15 years. It smells like it, but for the rest it is excellent. These kids, 34 of them, are here together with the staff during 21 days. After these 21 days, they go home for a week. So, the headmaster is much like a drill-sergeant.

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Week 39-2018. Humenné/Argentina on horseback. 1999, September 23-29.

01 Vroege ochtend in Slowakije op weg naar Humenne Early morning Slovakia.
At midnight, from Saturday to Sunday, I was still in Poland. I was on these roads already earlier. I know more or less, what to expect on these secondary roads: drunk drivers, improper dark dressed people walking their dog, men coming from a bar, animals on the road. There is no street lighting.

02 Vroege ochtend in Slowakije op weg naar Humenne met ontbijt langs de weg-appels Roads in Slovakia, lined with apple trees for my breakfast.

The variation in speed limits is a mess, so I just go slow also to cover for unexpected encounters. There are large parking’s and lots of light at the border with Slovakia. There is also a police car standing, watching what is crossing and sometimes picking one to check. Here I park, get into the back of the car and go asleep, short. I carried on and avoided the directions given by my TomTom.

03 Vroege ochtend in Slowakije op weg naar Humenne View near Svetnik.

I know where she wants me to go: into again a lot of tertiary roads. I follow my own directions until TomTom gives in. I did sleep again twice, picked up lots of apples from the shoulders of the road and arrived in Humane just in time to go to the usual Sunday morning service in the local Roman Catholic church. After the service, I found my friend already at work with 24 kittens and two dogs.

04 Bij de praktijk van Lenka Veterinary clinic.

One of the kittens is unable to use a leg and Lenka is unable to work out why; broken? May be. She made an appointment with a surgeon in Presov, for this morning. I join her and her assistant. It is a nice trip, with nice weather and there is enough to talk. The assistant is much better in English and has to translate more than once. The surgeon made x-rays and concluded that there was nothing broken, but a tendon partly detached from a joint in the leg. It takes a month to heal. And all that for a stray cat!

06 Kliniek in Presov met Lenka en Stanka Presov, vet’s clinic.

Back in Humenné, I am ordered to have lunch with the parents of my friend. I do it, but it a bit a sorry situation because her parents, both with a university degree, don’t speak more than two words English or German. I go unpack my car after the lunch and install myself in the well known unused flat, fully equipped. My friend told me that she had not been there since my visit this spring. That appears to be correct: the bed is the way I left it half a year ago and the washing machine is still out of order.
Monday. Of course, I need groceries and go to the clinic to ask if they need anything. Yes, they do: large kitchen paper rolls, chicken heart and/or stomach for the cats.

05 kittens for adoption 24 24 kittens for adoption.

Back in the clinic with the ordered items, there is a woman with a dog, chatting. This is going on all day and every day of the week: this clinic is more like a social club for animal lovers. The two small dogs kept in the clinic are looking for a new owner. Meggie, a blond dog is ready chipped and sterilised. The other one, a black funny limping animal called Amalia, is not yet sterilized but that will be done next week.

11 Meggie and Amalia Meggie and Amalia.
The assistant has two kittens, British short hair blue points, for sale. They are fully treated against any disease that is common, chipped and will be sterilised when they are old enough, in a couple of weeks. These kittens are from a breeder and this breeder gave them away with the restriction that they are not used for further breeding. I may sell them in Holland.

 

Tuesday. At Tesco there is WiFi, so I go there often to check on my WhatsApp messages and for internet on my laptop. There is a café where I can work quietly with the internet and drink cheap coffee. Funny to see the woman behind the counter recognising me. Back in the apartment, I realize that my body is finally getting into a more normal state. I sleep very well and long enough when I don’t go to bed too early. My friend goes to bed, in Medzilaborce, already at 9, while I go around midnight.
Wednesday. The small DAB portable radio from my friend Hanke, is serving me very well here. Television here is available, on two enormous screens, but I don’t feel like watching it. Sometimes I watch for a short period at night to the news on European Network. I don’t like their approach and I don’t trust their statements.

07 insulating and plastering an apartment building Insulating and plastering a flat opposite my kitchen window.

08 detail of plastering Detail of renovation.
In the afternoon, I am just having my lunch, the mother of my friend appears and goes to the washing machine, to find out what is wrong with it. I tried that already during my previous visit and has concluded that it needed a proper service man. The mother did the same as I did, left, and came back soon after: with a huge service man who shook my hand which is pretty unusual as far as I experienced. Both the service man and mother are trying to explain to me what was found out and how I should use the machine. As they know that I don’t understand Slovak, they talk extremely loud making it even worth. I get the point. The machine works and they expect me to do only laundry at a short programme, at 30 degrees, taking only 15 minutes. I don’t think the laundry will be very clean after that, but at least it will be a little less dirty and it will smell nice. I did wash the few things I have with me and it works. Later in the afternoon I went to the internet café and published my blog from the past week.

 

Picking up little Hana from kindergarten, next to Russian Orthodox Church.
Thursday. Nothing special occurs. I walk up and down to the clinic, have a chat, walk the two little dogs, smoke a cigarette. I does not sound much, but I enjoy it this way. Free to do what I like in an area with a difference from Amersfoort.
Friday. During my breakfast I did again some laundry: the sheets and covers from my bed. I do have spares, so if they are not dry by tonight, I am not stuck.

 

Client for the vet.
At the clinic, I walked a dog and joined Lenka picking up her daughter from school. After that we did some shopping and that done, I returned to my apartment. At the end of the afternoon, I went to Tesco to do some internet work. Internet gave me the address from a travel agent in Humenné. Maybe they can help me sorting out how to travel to Charkov, next week.

16 View from Tesco parking View at the country from Tesco’s parking.
Saturday. I woke up early with a headache after an uneasy night. It had been raining a lot, but the sun appears. A strong cold wind from the north-east is blowing the whole day. In the morning it is busy at the clinic.

17 Cleaning the cat-house Cleaning work.

Two women are cleaning out the cats’ shed, while Lenka is dealing with the on-and off going clients with mostly small size dogs. I help her and Stanka when they are sterilising the British Short hair Blue point cat from Stanka. It is a very muscular cat, I have to keep her very tight before she falls asleep after anaesthetizing. At midday, Lenka closes her clinic and I join her for lunch. In the afternoon I take a good nap, after which I do feel a lot better and manage to finalize the concept for this blog.

Argentina on horseback. 1999, September 23-29.
These people are called ‘Verenadores.’ The 15 locals don’t bother me; the ones not looking at the video are playing truco and drink beer. At 23:00 I go to bed.

xx-web wk 39 Mendoza The trip this week. By accident I deleted the pictures for this week. Sorry about that.

Thursday, 23rd September. 107th travel day. I wake up at 3 o’clock, concerned. I was wide awake with the idea that someone could get the idea to steal one of my horses. The fellow who assisted me with the telephone asked many questions and was interested in my opinion regarding the best one of my horses. Unsuspectingly I gave him an honest answer. I am afraid I will have to be a bit more careful. Anyway, all that just popped up in my mind, preventing me from falling asleep again. I got up. There is no electricity. I know that: They charge batteries or employ a generator, only in the evening. Outside there is a strong cold wind blowing. I am fortunately reassured when all my four horses approach to smell me. I smoke a cigarette and go back to bed, where I fall asleep like a log. Just after 7 I wake up, fully rested. It is plainly cold outdoor. At 10 o’clock I am ready with the usual preparatory work like feeding, dressing and eating. I drink maté with the boss, who gives me 6 large carrots (I asked 2). On our way to the person, halfway Malargüe, busy with the construction of cabins for tourists. Nora is my mount today. She is a bit slow today. The road is mostly surfaced with tarmac and littered with large holes. The very wide shoulders are usually very good accessible. The road winds continuously up, the wind subsides. This is lovely weather for travelling, not too warm, just good with a few clouds in the sky. I don’t have a map, so what comes up is a surprise. There is no shortage of water and from time to time we ride in the riverbed, nice cool through the water, but not too long because it is a bit tricky. Through the red/brown water you don’t see the larger cobble stones and that is not very nice for the horses. The landscape is now getting greener all the time. I have no snow-capped mountains in sight. It is long since I have seen some game. Now I see mostly birds of all kinds, whistlers, tweeters and singers, butterflies, fat dragon flies, still fatter large beetles and lizards. Besides those, all over meat cows, horses and goats uncontained. I see very few sheep. There is plenty to eat for the horses, most of the time. Apart from passing a number of huts and settlements, an exhausted uranium mine (Huemul) and the ruins of left buildings, we pass also a village called Aqua Botada. In a field with much grass I stop to rest, with the company of curious goats and horses. After this pause, we climb continuously, seen from the water running up to us. It is hard for the horses and we go slow. At 16:00 we arrive at the top of the passage: no running water anymore. It does not take long before we now descent via loads of steep hairpins. That is also difficult for the horses and soon I have to stop because all carried by the horses, including me, is shifted forward. All the ties are untied, loose and the luggage is hanging disorderly. It cost me a lot of energy to repack everything. It is a long time ago that I had to do this. The descent is spectacular. Beautiful crevices, masses of rocks and slopes. Then a waterfall and fast flowing clear water. At the bottom of this descending winding road there is a final sharp flat bent in the road, after which you suddenly have a view across an immense plain to the right and hills to the left. There are no snow-capped mountaintops in sight. In a bend, there is a clear-water stream, an abandoned camp from DNV (departemento nacional de validad, road maintenance) and opposite of it, the construction activities that are announced by a young informer earlier. What he did not tell me is, that there is nothing else; no settlement, no house. A stone building is being built and at the side of it, two very small wooden cabins. It takes a while before I see any movement. That appears to be Miquel, a friendly carpenter, busy on his own with the placement of some concrete steel reinforcement. The boss is higher up the hills, by car, to lay out the watermain for the house to be built, he tells me. Miquel lives, with his foreman, in one of the more or less finished cabins. The foreman is now gone with the boss. I cannot stay in the second cabin, because they just poured the concrete for its floor. I am allowed to retire in the gangway of the stone building, with my gear. I will have to do with it, it is better than nothing. The horses can go free here: most of the settlement is bordered by high and steep rocks. I don’t worry, because only here there is sufficient to graze. The carpenter continues with his work, unbelievably slow and in a traditional manner. I sit down on my saddle against a heap of stone. There is quite a lot of traffic, heavy trucks and many pick-up trucks. Just after 7, the boss appears with the foreman and a well-dressed person. The boss is dressed in an overall. He says: ‘you should have been here this morning, to join me up in the mountains. Up there, there is a well from where they are planning to lay-out the 700-meter-long watermain to the construction site. The objective of all this, is to run a camping/hostel, basically for adventurous tourists, especially fishermen. They see my horses with extensive admiration, after which the boss leaves with the third person. The foreman stays. We settle in their cabin, where they are during week-days. On Saturday evening they go to Malargüe, to return on Monday morning. We talk, drink maté, play Truco (I learned it) and eat. It is a nice, calm, hospitable evening.
Friday, 24th September, 108th travel day. I slept well in the corridor. It is cold, this morning, medium overcast. I have breakfast with the workers. At 10:30 I am on my way, riding Jut. At first, he goes a bit fast, but then we have a nice easy trot. There is again plenty of grass and water. It is good riding weather. The plain on the ride is covered in a light haze. The shoulders of the road are wide and good to travel on. At the first junction, after 11 kilometres, I pause, nice in the sun. A curious car driver stops for a pleasant chat. A bit further the haze over the plain is gone and now I see some paths, straight as an arrow. Some groups of trees I see too. That must be, amongst others, Los Chacras, a farm shown on my map. After again 1,5 hours we arrive at a clear water stream with to the left a large group of trees with cows. I suspect there to be a house, so I follow the stream upwards. There appears to be a camping, with somewhat hidden, a large old house where an old couple sits on their enormous porch, under the vines in the shadow. I park my horses in the shadow and am invited to join them. Soon I am getting fresh torta fritta with sweetened maté. The sweetened maté is here habitual, where to the south they drink it mostly pure. After a pleasant hour rest, I continue, not in a hurry because Malargüe is near. Now we meet mostly youngsters on bicycles and soon I say why: a large camping at the banks of the river Malargüe and also a beach where they are swimming and enjoying the sun and the company of (girl)friends. The river is wide, flowing lazily across a bed of gravel: very attractive. After the river crossing, the road is on both sides lined with trees, livings, a shop and lots of water. The wide shoulders are littered with some sort of clover. I let Jut go for the water side to drink, but he jumps over the ditch, with all the others following. When they do something like that it looks so easy, but if you want them to return, it works out very difficult, with all those trees around. We carry on and arrive at the barracks from the Gendarmeria, in the South of town. After the usual ceremony, all is being arranged. A lot of people are gathering around us and my horses are always a bit nervous at that. Jut puts his foot on my foot. Now I am very happy to wear boots with steel reinforced noses. The horses are taken to the stables, with the saddles in the saddle room. The caretaker is called David, a repugnant little fellow, meticulously done hair style and white cloves. I am brought, with my personal belongings, to the casino for sub-officials in a large room with two beds, a dresser and a cabinet. For heating there is an electrical appliance moving over 90 degrees. The promised hot shower water is not functioning. Dinner, for me alone in an enormous hall with cable television, is very good.
In the evening I walked to the tourism office, just outside town in the North. They are housed in a very nice modern building and I am helped very friendly.th Next to this building there is a congress centre, an ancient mill and opposite it, a centre for nuclear research. The latter seems logical, with uranium being mined here. I take a cab back to the gendarmerie.
Saturday, 25th September. David is already busy with my horses. We take them to a spacious fenced area, where they will stay for the time. They get a bale of hay to eat. I dismantle all the horse’s equipment and spread it out to ventilate. Then I ask for a cab and we agree, that he will take me for $6 along the various businesses. First, I take my laundry to a laundrette and after that a photo-film to a developer. I take my saddle-bags to the shoemaker. I leave them there only broadly telling what has to be done: the shoemaker is away to San Rafael. Finally, to the post-office where I let go the taxi. I am served at least friendly, but unfortunately, they don’t handle international packages either. But they are going to try and arrange something. The problem seems to be, that packages to outside Argentina, must go through customs. Awkward fuss. I leave my package with them, after we agreed to try and arrange the dispatch on Monday, by telephone. I walk back to the photo-shop, through the sunny morning. The men there, a cute man and an old fellow are impressed and ask me all about my journey. I did not notice it yet, but the old boss spots it: the support from my spectacles on my nose, is broken. He asks for my glasses and 3 minutes later I have new supports. When I pay for the prints of my photo’s, he gives me unasked for, a new photo film and wishes me all the best. This morning, the vet of the gendarmes gave me a small bottle of Softal, to be applied to one of the eyes of Daan. This eye is watering and the vet suspect an inflammation due to dust or a little stone in the eye, from the sandstorm in El Anquinco. Behind the horses’ field, they are playing soccer. I brush the horses, they are losing lots of hair now (after winter). After treating the horses, I go to town, find a pleasant terrace, eat a pizza there and write text to the pictures. After that, back at the gendarmerie, I take a long nap. During my nap it rained with thunderstorm. David was so considerate, to take my laid-out luggage inside. In the late afternoon, I ate bread and went into town to do some shopping. I bought, amongst other things, a new pair of trousers. On the way back, it started raining.
Malargüe boasts two main streets running parallel, one of which is also RA40: two times three wide lanes with in between the streets a very wide central reservation with green grass. The streets are lined with trees. At the walkways on either side, modern street illumination and in the reservation cast-iron Jugendstil like lanterns with either one- or two arms and yellow light. It looks pretty. The broad walkways have life threatening level differences and again those mean deep open sewers for the drainage of rainwater. These sewers unfortunately serve also as a reservoir for garbage and hotbed for mosquitos. It is nevertheless, quite pleasant. At the Easter outside of town, there is a railway station which stopped functioning two years ago. This train primarily transported of crude oil, but that is now going through a pipe-line of which you see the track signs all over the country.
Sunday, 26th of September. It rained all night, as far as I know. Everybody is glad it did. A pity however that it did not stop: it rains all day. The horses are already fed when I come to their meadow. I hear that people from El Chacan were here, but no further news. They were probably the friends where I was supposed to meet my friend from the East. I slept a lot, walked around a lot. In the morning I watched a formula 1 race held at the Nürnburgring in Germany: spectacular. In the evening I miss the feeding of my horses again. At 6 in the evening I go to the shoe maker, but he did not come back yet. I will see tomorrow morning again, even though they promised me to look for me at the gendarmerie. I spent the evening watching soccer. The cook has done a good job again, to produce a lovely meal for me.
Monday, 27th of September. It is still raining. There is another caretaker, a nice and pleasant chatterbox, good for the horses, for the dogs and for 5 cats busy keeping the mice out of the grain. Immediately after feeding, I walk around to the shoe maker. Nothing has changed there and don’t see it happen either, so I grab my belongings and go back to the gendarmerie. A soldier from ‘communications’, a Polish descendent, lends me a soldering gun, but this thing is terribly crooked and stops working after 2 minutes: useless. I take a taxi which takes me to another leather worker, who was advised by the tourist information people. There, in a clean tidy shop I am helped quick and probably good as well. Tomorrow evening the work will be ready, for $30. I wonder. Now I go to the townhall, to look for the people I met the other week in Buta Billón, who told me to look for them if I needed something. I need internet. Without taking a load of waiting people in account, I just bluntly entered an office and stated my case. A nice woman walks me through the building, constantly talking. Her talking is heard by the woman who interviewed the other week and she appears. In her tiny office, where another two women (good looking) and two young men work, it is arranged: I can come tomorrow morning to use a computer for e-mail. Norma, the interviewing woman, gives me some names, which will be useful. I am now really looking into the kitchen of the local governmental business. All offices are miniscule and loaded with desks and officials being terribly busy with disorderly heaps of dossiers or they are sociably chatting and sipping their maté. After this, I go to the post-office, where it is indeed arranged to dispatch my package at a cost however: $88!! The boss who arranged this for the first time in his life, invites me to come with him to La Lenas, departure this afternoon at 13:30 from the petrol station. I don’t take a decision yet. Back at the gendarmerie, I eat some and decided to go with the postman. However, my taxi does not come. I rang at 13:14 and at 14:00 there is still no taxi. I left the idea and took a nap. After the nap I get another soldering gun from the horse-keeper and that works perfectly well on the detached contacts of my battery. The keeper tells me he has to go, tomorrow morning, to the shooting practising range. He therefor asks me to care for the horses, mules and donkeys. I appreciate it a lot, that he asks me to do that. There are 6 new horses/mules. He leaves me three bales of hay. The commander of this regiment asked me my home address and he gave me his: a good man. I did have a very good evening meal again: this cook knows to make something of it. After my dinner, I walk into town for some more shopping. This town, with 22.000 inhabitants, is clean and well organised. Cars are driving through at slow speed only. I bought something to cover me in the open, when asleep, as a replacement for my lost tent. I had considerable trouble finding a good bottle to carry some gasoline with me.
Tuesday, 28th of September. I did sleep rotten, fed the horses and gave them water. Then I went to the city-hall. Raoul, the man I met in Buta Billón is not there, but Norma helps me. At 10 o’clock I am in the office of the deputy for finances, behind his computer. I get help from the IT (that function does not exist yet) man. There are a lot of messages and I am very busy with it, while the weather is actually to good to be inside. An old man with a huge white beard enters. He is the social worker in town. He suggests me to allow an interview on channel 7 from Mendoza provincial television. We make an appointment for 4 o’clock at the barracks from the gendarmerie. Just a moment later, a secretary enters to tell me, there is a local television crew in the corridor, also for an interview. I am in the middle of a long letter, so they have to wait. When I am ready with that letter, they are gone. At 12 I am hungry and take a break to have lunch. When I return at 13:30 all is closed and the desk where I have been working is manned not earlier then tomorrow morning, so I go back to the gendarmerie. It is now dead silent in town, a strange experience. The sky is clear now and to the West, North and East I see now snow-capped mountain tops. There is one opening in the mountain range, the earlier mentioned plain. I ate a nice ice-cream and at the neighbouring shop I can use the telephone. I ring a friend in Holland, she is thrilled to hear from me. I also try to call my son, but his phone is busy. Back at the gendarmerie, I serve the horses and while I am busy with that, the television crew arrives. After this funny interview, I carry on mending my equipment. I try another arrangement, using cell-rubber pads under the saddles to avoid the need to use of blankets because these slide from underneath too often. My friend from the East did not show up. I will call him tomorrow because I also would like to meet him. The horses, mules and donkeys all stand together. I am surprised about the beautiful sound they are producing, like a departing steamer. In my bed in the morning, I listen to the terrific repertoire of a whistling bird. After again a splendid meal, I go to bed.
Yesterday I searched my first-aid kit for an antibiotics cure, because I get the impression that an inflammation is developing between my jaw and my right ear. I did find the cure, but in the end decided to keep it for worse cases. Today someone suggested that Jil is limping with his left front leg. I don’t worry because I did not see anything wrong and suppose that he is a bit stiff from doing nothing for such a long time. Jil is, by the way, a lot easier in lifting his legs for inspection, even we he is without luggage or saddle. I like that a lot. Daan has four spots on his spine, where the packsaddle was sitting, I have to see to those spots and prevent further damage. Nora and Jut are without any defects or damage, beside some bolt places in their leg pits, from rubbing slings. Today, for the first time, I watched the morning ceremony at the barracks: appèl and raising the flag. It happens straight in front of my room, easy going, kind hearted. That is exactly how they look, mostly short and well fed. They all look like family-men, appreciating a quiet life, maté, cosy chats and security. About everything deviating from the routine, they look doubtful and hurry to the chief. It really looks more like a holiday camp then as military barracks.
Wednesday, 29th September. The door, from the room where my luggage is stored, is locked with a padlock. It looks crooked and it appears to be: with my multitool I get it easily unlocked. Now I don’t have to wait for, or disturb the caretaker. Later in the evening I notice that they have not been happy with this action: a new padlock is now in place. I have been busy there, with my equipment, all day and I am satisfied with the result. Now it need prove in practise. Today was a beautiful day. After a nap, I started packing. At 9 in the evening I went into town for the last buys and to ring my friend. His daughter is answering the phone. Coco, the friend where we were to meet, appears to live 50 kilometres away, up North, near El Sosneado. My friend had been expecting me to ring earlier. This phone call did cost me $19, not cheap here, using the telephone. The result of the contact is to keep him informed when I am again in an inhabited area during a weekend. In town I eat a tosti with gancia, I write diary and look at the people walking past. The town is warm, quiet and pleasant. Back at the gendarmerie I continue packing and make plans to leave tomorrow morning early.

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