After church, alone, I go see my friend Hanke. She is very weak but gets up to make coffee for me. After the exchange of our experiences from the past week, I walk Toets. Toets is behaving unusual, not leaving me further than 20 meters, not even when other dogs are in the neighbourhood. In Michaels garden, the landlord, there is a large amount of grapes, ready to be harvested. From both Hanke and Michael I get a lot of grapes. Later, at home, I separate the grapes from their stems and store them in my freezer for later use. In Eemnes, my daughter in law was just leaving for Leeuwarden with my grandson, to the birthday party of a relative. I had lunch with the oldest son of my daughter in law and watched the Formula 1 race in Belgium. The race was rather dull, but our Dutch hero driver managed to finish in third place.
Result of draught.
Monday morning, I got up after a good night sleep, although I am aware of having been busy thinking. I worried over the problems of the world from nowadays. I realize that it should not be necessary to do that, because my conviction that this world is only a temporary one and due to be replaced by a much better live, should give me peace. Fortunately, that feeling overrules all sorrows.
I went to the technical services of the organisation here, to find the address of the caretaker for my living quarters: he is not well. I did get it and sent him a ‘get well card’. In their offices I saw a brand-new wall covering with a plan of the whole terrain. That plan does not show any of the changes that are said to be planned for the near future, which is a relieve for me.
On Tuesday I got a visitor, a friend whom I had not seen for a while. She is on sick leave: a burn out from her work with convicts. The apparent impossibility to get these young convicts placed in a very much needed programme of rehabilitation is, for her, a reason to become totally ineffective. That causes so much frustration, that she feels unable to continue her work. We had a lovely day, strolling through the large hall with second/third hand goods in Amersfoort, buying brooms and enjoying a lovely steak at a nearby restaurant.
Weg der Weeghen.
On Wednesday, I only had a walk to the nearby petrol station, to buy a pouch of tobacco. Discussions and exchange of information at home, took place with a variety of people. Cooking with a neighbours’ girlfriend (the neighbour has just left prison after a 9-year sentence) and talking with another who apparently had been threatened by the same neighbour. Never a dull moment in this house. In the evening I saw PSV play and win, resulting for Holland in now two clubs entering the Champions League.
In the afternoon on Thursday, the local RSCPA rang. They needed some volunteer to take 6 rabbits to the sanctuary in Amsterdam. They were a family of 2-3 days old without a mother dug up during construction work, At the sanctuary, the receiving lady made it very clear: she thinks that there are too many people in the world, causing the necessity to dig up nests of rabbits.
Transported to Bijlmerweide, 6 baby rabbits.
I took my bicycle on Friday and paddled to the Eemplein, to search presents for the baby to be born next week, in Norway. I was lucky, a Xenos shop had 70% price reduction on everything, because the shop had a ‘closing-down sale’. I did not find much there, but at another shop nearby I found something nice and easy to take with me on the trip over to Norway. Also on the Eemplein, I did see a supermarket with exclusively foodstuffs produced fully natural, without detergents. I bought vegetables ready cut for my wok and some fruit, two apples and one pear. For my evening dinner I cooked the vegetables, with a large piece of so called ‘plof’ chicken. The amount cooked is sufficient for three meals, which will take me to the day of departure. On Saturday I don’t cook, because I enlisted for the BBQ at my church.
That BBQ was at the end of the afternoon, a pleasant occasion in lovely weather. There were not many people, something like 20 persons. I was introduced to a number of them and had enough to talk about, meanwhile eating good food and drinking some red wine.
It has been a busy week.
Argentina on horseback. 1999, August 26-September 01.
Gérard showed me lots of pictures in his camper. After that I went to my ‘ladies’ and had a quiet evening. The day has been exciting and laborious, unforgettable. Julia gave me snow boots, nice warm and dry, for tomorrow.
Thursday, 26th of August. Caviahue. Beautiful weather for a day of ski.
After a quiet breakfast, I went to the tourist information office. Veronica, the information lady, rang to ask me to come. The provincial news paper ‘Rio Negro’ asked for information, so I served them. Then I go to see Gérard. He is in distress, because he suffers from a sore swollen knee. He is unable to go skiing. I have to go it alone. I take a taxi to the ski slope. At the foot of it, there is a large and well-equipped hotel with an excellent café and a shop where you can hire equipment. I hired the necessary things and a ski-pass for the afternoon. A ‘first-aid’ hut is present and also a place where you can hire a trip with a dogs-sledge. All the ski-lifts are in use.
Lake Caviahue and Araucaria trees.
There are just enough customers around, to make it a pleasant place to be. The chair-lift of 600 meters, goes straight through the Araucaria primeval forest. At the high end of one of the lifts, school children are playing. The slopes are easy and the snow is fabulous. I go up and down a number of times. Going ‘off piste’ is no problem when you don’t mind ending face down in the snow from an unspotted bump or hollow. Halfway my activities, I sit at the terrace of the café and eat an excellent Wiener schnitzel with salad, onion, tomato, red beet and a soft drink. After this lunch, I go up as high as I can. From there, there is no slope marked so you go through virgin snow with a terrific view at Lake Caviahue, the primeval Aruacaria forest and surprising slopes. The only, but roaring sound comes from the nearby geyser.
Ski slopes and customers.
g Gérard visits and I tell him my adventures. He is still in distress, because of his knee.
Friday, 27th of August. Caviahue. Cold and wet. I did not sleep very well, possibly due to drinking to much bad wine. At 12 o’clock I meet Gérard and he want to go skiing. We take a taxi to the lifts. The snow today is frozen solid. Gérard is a much better skier than I am, he has to wait for me. We come past the geyser, with its 30-meter diameter where the steam comes roaring out with a pressure probably as high as 500 bar. It scares me, because it is like going through a funnel.
I did not want to end up in that roaring hole and it required a lot of my guts. It starts snowing and it is very cold at first, but later the snow becomes wet and that makes us stop for today. It was, no matter the scare at the geyser, a pleasant day. Gérard knows everybody and he introduces me. We return by taxi to his home where we drink coffee with a liqueur. He tells me about circumstances in the three northern provinces, where I will end up later. In the afternoon I take a nap. The evening is quiet, discussing all sorts of issues with Julia and Cecilia.
Julia, Cecilia and her dog.
Saturday, 28th of August. Julia writes me some in Spanish, during preparing torta fritta for me. All goes fresh and warm in a big bag for me. After a warm farewell, I walk through the sun to the ready bus. I just have time to buy a lot of ‘Turron’, bars of hard nougat with nuts. I eat that when travelling, Jil is sometimes stealing it from me taking it even out of an inside pocket of my suit. The bus trip to Loncopue gives me spectacular views of the country, mountains with snow on tops and slopes, later through valleys with lots of water and a very strange wall of extremely freakish rocks in the middle of the plain. In Loncopue I buy foodstuffs and a coffee-liqueur for Liliane at El Condor. I go there by taxi, hand over the liqueur, am welcomed with hugs and kisses, put my belongings in my room and go join Carlos and Pablo on an inspection tour. First, we go north, via the road. Just when we arrive at their land, another car enters. They know the car to be from a policeman from Loncopue. He has permission to enter. Apparently, they go fishing (outside the season, I think?) and I ask carefully ‘and hunting’? Carlos says that they did not agree on hunting, but they like that too. Pablo keeps still. Later, when he has probably forgotten my remark, he tells me that the pigs and piglets residing here, probably worth approximately $10.000, are wild. Visitors, like the policeman, get a key from the gate and then they can easily reach the banks of the river. We enter the land high at the plain, across an extremely rough path. After a few kilometres we leave the car behind and climb up a hillside. Up the hill we arrive at a canal. There are many of these canals. This one has a length of 8 kilometres and was dug with dynamite and by hand around the year 1930. These canals are cleaned every year, by hand, to avoid damage to the canal walls, causing loss of water. This canal is dry and we look for the cause. The position of the leak is easily found: a few large puddles and wet places in the slope. The location in the canal shows some black plastic sheet sticking through the cement, from an earlier repair trial. I suggest to apply a cladding with corrugated steel and they seem to like the idea. An often-used method locally is to apply cement bentonite. According to me the leakage is too big for that and will not last long. During our walk, we come across the nest of a wild pig. Five piglets are free ranging but there is no mother to be seen, and that is good for her because the shotguns have been prepared to fire. These pigs are detrimental for the canals, because they damage the walls through their rooting for food. On our return we see one of their gauchos. He changes his course and they talk about his observations: apart from the policeman with his car, there seem to be 2 cyclists. At the edge of the high plain, we stay and watch down into the river valley. We spot many pigs and many tracks of pigs of all sizes, holes from the TucuTucu, a large buzzerd (Aquila Morria) and a herd of calves they bought from Mercedes, where I stayed two weeks ago. It was a very interesting afternoon, no less due to the varying flora and many different geological formations often perforated by gas, from volcanic activities. Back in the farm we enjoy torta fritta, gancia, empanadas, whisky and wine. We talk, discuss. Another couple appears and so it becomes a pleasant lively evening. This farm is situated at a height of +1200 meters above sea level. Pablo is itching and when he spots some dogs fleas in the abundant hair over his body, they grab Gaucho, the brown Doberman pincher and treat him with a large sprayer with anti-flea solution: Gaucho is not pleased. About life on this farm, one could write a book, easily. When I go to my room around 23:00 it is nice and comfortably warm. My bed is there the way I left it on Tuesday.
Sunday, 29th of August. Just after 9 I am out, in the sun. My four companions stand in the meadow, watching at me. Pablo and his family are still asleep, but father Carlos is out, starts the car. He invites me for mate and after that I join him into the car. He drives to Loncopué at first, where everything is still dead silent. We drive on, past the place where the landslide was, past Santa Theresita, past Juan Carlos Destefanis and past the soft drink factory. We end up in Huarenchenque. We enter a well-maintained terrain. Inside the building we meet a joyful female gaucho and an electrician with his son. They are placing and installing a new radio. We drink mate. This joint is also from Carlos. On the way back, in Loncopué, Carlos copies the sheets with characteristics of Criolla. They only apply for Jil, the one and only Criollo in my herd. The three others are mixtures. At the bakery he buys large quantities of cakes and cookies. It is raining all day. At 13:00 the radio at the other settlement is working perfectly well. I have a lovely siesta after dinner from spaghetti, meats, bread and wine. The chief from the gendarmerie, Pablo Eduardo Morales, comes to visit, with his wife and little daughter, a niece playmate for Aluminé. The chief is madly enthusiastic about my trip, asks me a hundred questions and even return for a while to Loncopue, to pick up some information for me, like from his family in Chos Malal where I will arrive later. We have diner together, meanwhile talking about corruption, politics, unemployment, ways to change, especially education and, for the farmers in these remote areas, ways of communication. With enthusiasm we discuss the possibilities to develop tourism here. It is really big fun with the women joining in as well. My horses did find their way into another meadow, which is no problem because Pablo will have them available tomorrow morning, for my departure. It was a lovely day.
Monday, 30th of August, 94th travel day. My horses are awaiting me in the coral. The sun shines and there are no dark clouds in the sky. I drink mate with Pablo and Liliane. Then I go to work. First, I get Daan, brush him, saddle him and feed him. After that I get Jut, then Jil and finally Nora. It is nice to see how they dislike it, being separated. They show it with a lot of whinnying. Around 11, I am ready and dressed in rain suit. I make a family picture, without Carlos because he is already away for an hour. Aluminé hugs me compassionately.
Pablo, Liliane and Aluminé.
The tarmac stops and from here to close to Chos Malal, the road is just dirt packed, gravel and earth. There is only very few traffic. Water is readily available everywhere while the roadsides vary a lot, from totally barren with volcanic debris to soaking swampy grassland or sandy with prickly tough bushland. The road is constantly rolling. In any case, it is primarily green country littered with gullies, many cows and surrounded by snow capped mountaintops and high plains. After an hour riding, Pablo comes from behind in the pick-up truck, to check if everything is alright. Not much later, when he is just left, a jeep stops. That is Walter, the husband of Mercedes, met in La Porteña. They lost my where a bouts: people are keeping an eye on me, so much is clear. With a large smile he produces the map I had lost in Zapala and that is a relieve because this one is a lot better than the one I am using now. Between El Condor and my next stop, Pino Andino, there is no habitation what so ever. Jil is the only one who is not going to well, I have no idea why not. But we proceed very well and soon enough I see the farm, Pino Andino, in the distance. I seem to remember that Andrès, in Zapala, mentioned this farm. I enter the country side. The first group of trees does not hide any building, but two gauchos riding away from me. One of them returns, attracting my attention. This is a somewhat older and good-looking man with a beautiful poncho. He tells me, that the farmhouse is 6 kilometres further up the land. That is pretty far. On the other side of the road however, there is a settlement close to the road. There is a gaucho and for me a better option, so I return. The settlement lays all the way down in the valley, along the river Pino. It is a very modern but uninhabited house. I see nor hear dogs, but a large white horse and an axe ready for use. On the back I find a door and through the windows I see that there is someone living here. All is firmly locked, but I decide to unsaddle my horses. It is still early, so I suppose that the gaucho is at work. The white horse approaches curious but careful. I put all my luggage at the doorstep and leave my horses walk free. After half an hour, the white horse suddenly sprints away, through the river. Ten minutes later my horses all of a sudden take off as well, in full gallop through the river: no hesitation what so ever: I love the sight of it. I go take a look where they went: not far, because the terrain, lushly filled with trees and juicy grass is very well fenced off. I see that Jil lost a 10-meter rope. I start looking for it and while doing so, concentrated, a dog appears and not much later I nearly bump into my host who, dead silent and dark, sits on his horse looking at me. He is a gentle, friendly young gaucho. Staying with him is perfectly alright. His living is something different again: dark, no electricity, barren but clean, sealed and dry. The kitchen, also barren with only a kitchen sink unit with cold and hot (dependant upon the heater) water. The heater is of the usual Istallart type, producing soon after lighting a lot of heat. I get the storage room to settle, where I will sleep on the floor. There is a fully equipped bathroom (don’t mention the iron wiring applied everywhere to hold things together) and the bedroom of my host. He chops wood, admires my horses (his are not so tame) and after the maté, continues with the work on a cow’s skin. That skin was afloat in the water of the river and now he is scraping the surface. When all the meat and fat remains are scraped off, he produces leather for slings and straps. It is tedious work, time consuming but time is free here. When night falls, he comes inside where I, in the meantime, installed my battery with a lightbulb. With maté we consume the cakes and cookies from Liliane. At 21:00 the gaucho heats a pan with soup, water with Canelones and some onion. Together with torta fritta quite a minimalistic meal. Soon after that meal, we go to bed.
Tuesday, 31st of August, 95th travel day. I slept on a hard stone floor, but slept well. I have been awake a couple of times, because of the two shepherd dogs barking. They kept the door free of horses and my horses are going everywhere, especially always looking for me. At 3 o’clock I was up for a pee and saw all four of them walking past. I am ready to go again at 8:15 without rain coat but with a scarf because there blows a very cold wind. The scenery is fascinating, a rolling landscape surrounded by snow covered plains and the 2500m high Cordillera de Mandoleque. We pass the river Agrio and many more, smaller streams. Nora always hesitates a short moment but then crosses the bridges without problems. We also cross a stream where the horses get their bellies wet, but also that goes without any complaints. The first stretch is uninhabited, with after two hours of riding a shed far away in the land. For some time, I have seen an antenna and around 14:00 we are there. At the foot of the antenna there is a small building with only well locked doors. I stop here for a while, with the possibility to sit protected from the constant hard wind. Soon after the restart we pass through a wall of hills into a valley. Still rather far away I see many cows uncontained walking across the road, horses, meadows full with geese, ducks and other wading birds. Soon I also see the farm called ‘3 de Fierro’, after a notorious regiment of cavalry. This regiment used exclusively white Criollo horses, to let the Indians know with whom they were dealing. At the farm they are taming horses but they stop that for a while, to drink maté with me. I don’t feel well; my eye sight gets unclear and I am developing a headache. I have to be careful and maybe I have to eat more or better. The weather is nice now, only few winds and a somewhat watery sun. The air temperature is low. On the basis of my map, I know that I am not far away from the farm owed by Martin Camps, Las Vertientes. I spotted the farm already: many trees, fir trees, green and orderly. Riding onto the grounds we are accompanied by a large group of green and yellow noisy parakeets, nice birds. This farm looks very well maintained. I parked my horses and walked into the direction of a house where I see a plume of smoke. An Indian woman comes up to me. She is informed about my possible arrival. I get tea with bread. She talks and laughs. I write a letter for Martin, because he went to Holland indeed (to Venray). We travel on, to El Bosque. I see that farm soon enough, totally different from Las Vertientes: threadbare, worn and barely painted, Argentine. A world of difference. At the roadside there is a shed with laundry on a line. I ask there if this is El Bosque and yes, it is. When I come walking back from the shed, Walter arrives in his Jeep. He was on his way to Loncopue, but reviews his plans because he expects me to stay also tomorrow. I had not planned that, but since I feel a bit weak and he has some ideas about the packing of my luggage, I decide to stay. So we follow him. To reach the farm we have to cross a deep stream. My animals do it without hesitation. Walter provides the horses with good food. They are housed in a corral with a large shed where they can rest under cover and protected from the cold wind. I am given an apartment with two beds, wood fired stove and bathroom with a tub. Hot water should be available. All evening we discuss all sorts of subjects. At 22:30 I go to bed.
Wednesday 1st September. I wake up at 2:30 from storm and heavy rain. The light goes off. I hear a car and see its lights. I went out to have a look around. It is bitterly cold. Back to sleep and awake at 8 o’clock. Walter is busy outdoor. I have a bit of breakfast and after that I go write my diary in a pleasant warm living room with gas stove. Later, in Walters’ office, he tells me stories about the family with pictures from the year 1913 and prints of Molinos Campos drawings.
The interior of the house is simple but efficient. The external walls are at least 60cm thick. That should give sufficient insulation, but there are many windows and doors with large surfaces of single glass, so it often feels uncomfortably cold at places. The ceilings are from very nice timber laths. Flooring is with red unglazed tiles mostly, but otherwise again timber laths. The weather today is changeable with often North-Westerly stormy winds and ice-cold showers.
At 11 I get my horses out of the coral and put them into a large meadow with plenty water and grass. Most of the time I can see them, quietly grazing as a group. When one of Walter’s horses approaches them, it is exciting to see how they behave, working out who is leading: heads and tales high up galloping, kicking and trying to bite. Walter produces a nice meal, simple, with rice and meat. He does not have bread because he does not eat that: he eats crackers only. In the afternoon he and his gaucho, Toto, busy themselves completely reorganising the decks for Jil. I have to make it very clear to them, that they have to organise it in a manner protecting the still sore spot where the wound on his back was. When they are done, the result looks a bit tatty, but their intention was good. Walter shows me all the kitchen ware, because he is leaving to another part of his lands. I stay behind, alone in the big house. I do some work on the pack-saddle and after that I take a relaxing chair in front of the television set, with a beautiful view at the snow-capped mountain range, the meadow with my horses in front and the fast-changing sky, sometimes a splendid blue and then a poisonous black, threatening grey. After the news on tv, I take to cooking; rice and meat. I prepared sufficient to have a good warm breakfast tomorrow morning. I completed the meal with two Kiwi’s and a pear. After my dinner I got lazy and watched further on television what happened in the world, on CNN and on Deutsche Welle. At 22:30 I went to bed, listening to the Dutch World Broadcast. Outside it is now dry and calm.