Week 37-2018. Sætre/Argentina on horseback. 1999, September 09-15.

01 New church in Spikkestad New church in Spikkestad.

On Sunday we went to a new church, in Spikkestad. The church is built in between three locations where my brother worked. Back at him the family of their daughter came to visit.

02 Spiderweb Spiderweb.

On Monday my brother planned to go shopping in Sweden, in a small nice town called Arvika. The neighbor of my brother came with us. This neighbor goes there regularly because he loves to shop at Lidl. My brother goes there also quite often, always for work on his car which is much cheaper there. It was a nice trip through torrential rains. After shopping we all three went for a swim in the local swimming hall. This swimming hall is nicely equipped with a variaty of baths and sauna. Back at home, we heard that my brother’s daughter will go to hospital on Wednesday to get her birth giving going.

03 Sweden, Arvika Arvika.

On Tuesday I went fishing, on my own. It was raining al day, but I did like it: properly dressed against the rain. Fortunately there was hardly any wind. I did not catch anything. Back at home I noticed that the thermoscan with coffee had been leaking. My cell-phone and my camera where all soaked in coffee. The camera was stored in a pouch and therefor the camera had no damage. I had to take my cell-phone apart and get the coffee out of the inside, from the chipcart and from the battery. I have been lucky, the phone works properly again.

04 Livingroom Livingroom

On Wednesday, my brother and his pregnant daughter and I go to hospital in Drammen for a check on my niece. When she is in hospital we drink coffee, eat cake and walk to the hospital where we wait for his daughter to return to the car. She tells that she has to be back in hospital for the birth on Friday. Her two daughters will stay here, with their grandparents.

05 Hospital in Drammen Drammen, hospital.

Thursday: we stayed at home, but walked in the neighborhood, as usual. I have been busy harvesting apples and cutting them in pieces for the production of apple juice.

06 View to Sætre from rowing boat View to Sætre from the rowing boat.

Friday: I went fishing, now with splendid weather, sunny and only little wind. Again, I did not catch anything not even a sign of a bite. My niece was brought to the hospital by her husband, while the two grandchildren came to their grandparents for the night. We played games, ate, had fun and they went to bed without problem. Around 8 o’clock the husband of my niece rings: the birth has taken place, a big boy is born. Details will follow later.

07 Company during fishing Company during fishing.

Saturday. With my brother and a specialist on the construction of fibreglass boats, we go to his rowing boat. When we have pulled it ashore, a plug in installed within 15 minutes. With that plug, it is possible to unleash water that has got into the double fibre glass walls and floor of the boat. Getting that water out, before winter, is necessary in order to prevent damage through frozen water inside. Later in the afternoon, my brother, his wife and I go to visit their daughter in hospital. We will now see her baby and hear his name. The baby is quite long and heavy and is looking very healthy. Tomorrow they will examine the baby in hospital and when everything is alright, my niece with her baby boy may come home. Everybody is very happy.

08 Work on the boat Work on the boat.

09 Drammen market square Drammen, Central square.

Argentina on horseback. 1999, September 09-15.

I dumped my laundry at a laundrette, went to feed and see my horses and sat down for a quiet evening at the television in the casino. Late in the evening I go see the shoe maker, where I see that he is doing the repairs to my equipment as requested.

17 Chos Malal 2

Thursday, 9th September. The weather is moist. I feed my horses. Pigs are giving birth, calves are dying. Dogs are noisy, like the many parakeets. I picture a ‘chiwa’, some large type of goat.

10-9-9 Chos Malal Chacra Galavanetsji troep parkieten Noisy parakeets.

12-9-9 Chos Malal biggetjes 3 dagen oud Baby pigs.

14-9-9 Chos Malal Chiwa Chiwa.

I go to the hairdresser, where I learn that people are knowing me. I drink maté and visit the shoe-maker. In the newspaper I read yet nothing about me. I picked up laundry and brought them new dirty washings. At the gendarmerie there is ‘inspection’. By they asked to look out for my lost tent in El Cholar. In the poolhall I drank gancia. The horse tamer does not manage to get Jil to lift his legs. It was a quiet day.

15-9-9 Chos Malal karakteristieke straat Street in Chos Malal.

Friday, 10th September. The sky is grey sky a little snow falls when I am up at 8:30. Around the corner, there is a tyre shop. There is take by surprise a little man who stands washing himself in his poor housing. I need a lot of explaining, before the man understands that the only thing I need is a cast of tube. When finally he understands, his cash register starts to ring in his mind: he asks me $2 for it but reacts immediately with lowering the price to $1 when he sees my astonished reaction. I realize later, that maybe this $1 is more then he earns most of his days, because I saw not a single action during days I have been here. With the tube I go to the ‘chacra’ where I find them busy feeding the cows and pigs with maize-pulp. They grind the maize in some sort of a large ‘coffee’ mill driven by a pully from an aged tractor. Daan en Nora are busy grazing behind the herd of cows. When I call the two horse heads shoot up and the hurry to me. Jut appears in full galop soon after and I have to get Jil. It is not easy for them to wriggle through all the cows and pigs, munging their way through troughs filled with maize. They are all four easy to handle and so I manage, without much adoo to get them into the coral where I feed them. After eating they hurry into the meadow and I go do some work with the gummy tube cutting lines out of it. Daniel arrives. The calf, I saw it yesterday, without ability to control its discharge, laying against a stack of hay, is now dead. Nobody bothers to remove it. I noticed that they hardly ever remove dead animal bodies from the place where they died. I have seen them everywhere, along the roads and on lands: horses, cows, goats and dogs. When you are interested in paleontology or in surgery, you can pick up a lot of material to study here. Young green and the rose of Japanese cherrie are sprouting like a flash now. While it looks a lot more friendly this way it can not hide the poverty of the huts people are living in here. Many of these ‘houses’, consist of a jumble of stones overlayed with a poor mixture of cement or clay. They often lack windows. The door is made of planks without a frame, sometimes a door from steelplate of just a roofpanel from corrugated steel. The roof is usually made of corrugated steel (sheer luxury) of corrugated plastic, or just from cut bags from animal food. These bags are very strong and watertight. The put old tyres on the roof to prevent it from being blown away.

23 La Fogata de San Juan

They don’t lack space around their huts. Often they have a horse standing there, together with a pig. The dogs are master there. Gardens are extremely rare, but mud with lots of stones is common as are all sorts of unclear remains, sometimes a load of timber for heating and an axe. They often have trees and sometimes a very old grape across an untidy construction of fencing, where, in summer, they can enjoy their maté in peace. The rate of unemployment is around 30%. The available work is done in a timeless slow pace. I am ready with cutting slings from the tube, Daniel goes to his farm and I walk to my lodging. There is nobody in the casino but the door is open, so I settle near the stove, watch CNN and write a bit. Now, at 12:30, it is raining and I get sleepy, so I go to my dormitory where it is dry and nice warm: I sleep till 15:30. Through the rain I go on foot into town, trying to find a new writing block. The two book stores are still closed. I come to a large building and I see that this weekend they are having their first exhibition of local produce.The building is closed. I ask a young man and he tells me that tonight there will be dancing, starting at 20:00. It is 5 minutes to 4 o’clock when I ask him also when the bookstore opens. He says: at 4 o’clock. He swiftly changes that into 4:30 when I demonstratively take a look at my watch. The young man works in the cultural centre, nearby, and I walk up with him.The centre shows some claypots, needlework, puppets and tapes with folk music (expensive at $10). They have three books about history, also the history of the local Indians. I have seen it all soon and walk along the pleasant city park with a large variaty of fur trees (fully green and dark) to a restaurant. I order a lasagna with beer and while there, I see them opening the bookshop at 17:30. On the other side of the road, there is a bakery from where they take two large cakes, unpacked and uncovered, into a taxi. A cake is expensive with $30, so they can affort a taxi ($2) to deliver them. Walking the cakes through the pouring rain is a bit silly. I buy a new writing block for $0,50 realising that the price so far was anything from $2 down. At the shop I wait a little, when the taxi arrives that took me before to my horses. The first time I paid $2,10 for a shorter trip. Now the taxi meter shows $2,50 but the driver asks me only $ 2. It puzzles me.

The farm is only guarded by a very old but nice little grandma. My four horses stand together at the gate to the small coral, where I feed them. They are all looking on expectantly and follow me to the door where they know the food storage is. I have to look good before I find the key. When they have their food, all the cows are at the gate, watching. A big boar knows the way through the fence, but the dogs know what to do and react to my action: they chase away, with a lot of energy, anything that comes close to my eating horses. They are marvellous, these dogs. After the feeding, I walk back to town through a soft rainfall. I continued straight to the shoe-maker who is busy with my gear. The first bag is ready and looks good. He makes sweet maté and he talks sociable, just like his much older employee. It is quite a mess in his workshop, with materials, items to repair, tools, a huge box with 12 turkey chickens under a lamp, a box with three baby cats crawling, smelling but alive. The mother of the shoe-maker, he tells me, is also joining in the exhibition of handicraft in the hall where local folklore will be presented tonight. He gives me the impression that he will be ready with my order tomorrow, but I doubt that. I went back to the casino and sat down at the place I like. behind the television set, near the stove with a glass of wine. The cook had my dinner ready early today. He is dressed in uniform this time, so he is not civilian after all. Tonight he serves me ravioli. A simple meal for a reason: they are tonight playing a card game called ‘Truco’ at two tables.

21 El truco

I go to my room after dinner, listen to the ‘world broadcast’. I do that regularly because that is the way people from Holland can reach me with emergency messages. I go to sleep till midnight and after that to the hall for the folklore happening. Strange timing they are used to here. It is dark outside the hall and at the gate to the terrain, there are two young guys. One of them aproaches me and asks $1 to enter. I am taken by surprise and give him the money. Indoor, logically, I run into a table with a motherly type with cashregister and tickets. I complain to her about the thief out at the gate, leading to her calling for the young man who guided me to this venue this afternoon. He does not know what to do, so he plays innocence, telling her I come from Holland after which he disappears like a flash. The woman reacts with a helpless gesture when I ask her if anything will happen about it. I guess not, everybody stays indoor. Inside the hall it is rather sociable with quite some people. The hall is huge and the music is too loud. The many people around are probably most family from the performing children, sweet, sociable and very amateuristic. The announcer is the young woman who interviewed me for the local television. The performances vary from sweet dancing groups, boys and girls, to singing guitar players. I like best a group of boys playing a variaty of instruments like panflute, drums, guitars, blockflute, singing and a small type of guitar unknown to me. It sounds good. The event will probably carry on till deep in the night, which I don’t understand with all these children. I have seen enough and go home at 01:00 o’clock. Now I see police at the door, so there was a reaction to my complaint after all. It is totally black and dark outside and I nearly break my legs stepping into one of these narrow but deep open sewers. These streets are, at night, rather tricky: very uneven, steps up, steps down, small stairs and slopes. It is an unruly mess realy. Back in my room I take a nice warm shower and finish my diary, because this is sent by post to Holland, tomorrow.

Saturday, 11th september. I did sleep well and got up early. The sky is half covered, pretty cool and the clouds easily drop some rain. I walk to the farm, where I see my horses far away but together in the field. When I call, Nora is the first to react and soon Daan comes running my way. It is all the time a feel good happening. Two boys are feeding the cows and pigs. To do that they have to pass my eating horses and keep asking: they don’t kick, do they? I assure them that they don’t. I stay with them, because Jut, Jil and Nora move all the time between one big, and two smaller manger while Daan is the silly one having to give way all the time. While Daan is eating, I write with my pad on his back. He allows that and Jil too, most of the time. After the feeding I hurry home to gather everything I want to send away. At 11 I am at the post office where I get a new experience. They don’t handle parcel to be sent internationally and they tell me that rather blunt. I guess they are ashamed of it. They tell me I will have to go to Neuquen for it, which is not true because from Zapala it was done easily! Anyway, it means that I have to carry 2 kilo’s extra, at least to Malarque where I will probably meet a Dutch contact. Back at the casino I prepare maté for the cook and me. The cook gives me the maximum score for it: well done. At midday I go to the laundrette where they have my cloths clean and ready. In a café called Bahia, I work out my travelplan for 2 weeks to Malarque. I work out my diary and prepare messages to sent by e-mail later this afternoon. I was 2 hours in that café so I ordered a meal as well. Back at my dormitory I change cloth before walking to the farm. On my way, Daniel picks me up: he fed the horses already. We go there again and when I whistle, they come running fast cutting capers all the way. I give them some extra grain as a reward. Daniel says he is going to his salt mine, on the other side of the river Neuquen and asks me to join. Of course I do. First we unload some cows from a truck. After that we leawve: Daniel, a cousin and me. First we go to another farm along the RN40. We pass many free walking horses. Daniel knows them and their owners too. I also see mules. With this beautiful weather it is clearly to see why this town is called ‘Chos Malal’, which is Mapuche language for ‘yellow table mountain’. The hills around town are yeloow colored. Beyond the hills you see all around, the snow capped mountains with also the volcano Traumen. It is a poor but spectacular view without much growth. At the outpost we are first met by a cute little gaucho obliging ticking his sombrero, which makes my host and his cousin laugh a lot. A bit further we meet a jolly fellow, European type and another gaucho busy with fire wood. They chase some cows of various sizes and colors into a gangway, where Daniel gives them an injection with some sort of an automatic tool. After the injection the cute little gaucho cuts 10cm off the tail of the cow. When done with all, he guides the cows to their grounds. We get into the car again and ride to another poor area, through a gate which was closed with a key-lock and via a winding road we arrive at his salt mine. I did not expect much and get that: it is a mess. There are some stone huts and even a weigh bridge. The mine has three galleries (passages) and we enter one using a flashlight. After 50 meters of gallery we arrive in a fairly large hall where they dig out the salt. In the light of the light, the crystals sparkle, red, rose and white. It is a wonderful sight and I take some samples for my collection. Outside the mine there is a mass of salt of course, all weathered through rain, to a sharp pointed moon like landscape. It is the sole saltmine around. There are other mines, for gold for instance. We are back in town around 19:00. I go around, to check on e-mail possibilities and on my shoe-maker. I have to come back tomorrow. Then I go to the hall where they now have a two day market for home products. It is busy there and many of the people I know by now. The variaty of products is enormous: trigo, bread, dulce de leche, preserved vegetables and fruits, pickled vegetables, jams etcetera. Further, woodcarving, pottery, painter, embroidery, needlework, jewelry, cardigans, puppets and much more. I don’t stay long, because it is late already for my dinner at the gendarmerie. When I arrive there, it is full with cars and they are busy preparing meat. I join the men at one of the fires, where they serve me well, with good meat, wine, salad and bread. They all want to hear about my journey and they ask thousands of questions. We talk about the economy, travelling, horses, soccer, jobs and politics. There is a lot of laughter, foolishness and I don’t understand all of it, but it is very jolly. A bit later I am called inside for a special occasion. A man who is 25 years in service, is being adressed. He gets a nice charter and is clearly touched, wiping away a few tears: sweet. After the ceremony follows the congratulations and a picture taken with his collegues. I have to join in and get a picture taken with the man. The party is starting well now, noisy, pleasant and interesting because I am fully enclosed in the whole happening. At 01:00 I retire and fall asleep like a log.

19 Chos Malal omgeving toeristische routes 8 sept

Sunday, 12th September. The weather this morning is gloomy and rain may fall. Chano, the horse tamer is around at the farm. The horses are near each other in the meadow. I don’t have to go for them; they come although slow. When I have them in the coral, I realise all of a sudden that they are without their new headsets. Surprised I ask Chano about it and he immediately suspects they have been stolen. That is a drag, because they did cost $20 each. The cousin arrives as well and they are both upset about it. This is a case for the police, they say. I agree but first I want to see Damiel about it. Daniel is in the field and expected to be back around 16:00, so I wait for him to return because I think it better to let him talk to the police. When I leave, Chano and the cousin say they are going to search the meadow. To me that seems useless, because losing one headset could be possible, but three together seems totally unreal. I think they have other plans, unknown to me. I will see. I need some time to get over it, take a nap because the casino is closed, and walk to the museum, a good looking and probably well kept large building at the end of the mainstreet. It opens its doors on Sunday at 15:30 and I am to early, so I walk on to the hall with the exhibit of home products. It is quiet there now. All the exhibitors are drinking maté, at ease. I buy a home made cake for $0,50 and a jar with ‘dulce de leche’ (sort of caramelised milk to use on bread), eat my cake and write diary at a table. People come to have a look. The mother of the shoe maker, she does wool spinning, comes for a chat and offers me her maté as well. After that I go home, have a nap and eat some. At 16:00 I go see Daniel and have coffee with him. He is sure about the theft of the three headsets. From his place I walk to the now open museum. It is small but neat. I get some postmarks in my writing pad, replicas from age old Indian sketches. In the museum I see a piano, an organ, a grape press, sables and guns, archeological finds, arrow points, jewelry, lots of minerals and pictures and paintings from the 19th century.

16-9-9 Chos Malal museum in voormalig fort The museum.

After the visit of the museum, I go to the police station where I denounce the theft of the headsets. The policemen are nice guys, but terribly slow. They are watching soccer on tv, drink maté and ask me a thousand questions about my trip, so I am occupied there for 1,5 hours. After that, with 4 policemen in their car to the farm where it all happened. At 15.000 inhabitants, there are a 100 policemen, quite excessive I think. At the farm the people are lightly alarmed, they are being questioned and pictures are taken from my horses. It is exciting for all, it does not lead to anything yet, but they all agree that it is absolutely necessary to have it denounced. It is late by now and the policemen drop me at the internet shop, where I enter at 19:00. Hotmail is terribly slow here, failing totally from time to time resulting in hardly any work done at 22:00. Now I have to go to the casino for dinner and it is too late to see the shoe-maker. This means that I can not leave tomorrow, but have to be up early, around 8 o’clock to meet at the police station. Dinner is served quickly and it is tasty: rice with two big pieces of beef.

20 De vuelta pa' Las casas

Monday, 13th of September. I did sleep uneasy. Logical, because I don’t have an alarm. I am early at the gate, drink maté with the guard awaiting Daniel. He takes me to the farm where we feed the horses. Then I go to the shoe-maker, who appears to be ready with my order. I pay him $90 for all the work done. I have lunch at restaurant Ruso, where I hear that Gessler has been waiting there two hours, hoping to meet me again. After lunch I go take a nap and pack my saddle bags. At 21:00 I made a phone call to a friend in the East of Argentina. He asks me to call him again when I am three travelling days away from Malargüe. I am back with Daniel at 21:45 for an appointment tomorrow morning. At the gendarmerie I go see the second in command to say goodbye. He hands me recommendations for the gendarme in Malargüe, which is very nice and welcome. At 22:00 I eat in restaurant Bahia and write diary. Today there was a strong and cold wind, but it stayed dry. Back in the casino I continue packing my bags and go to bed at 01:00 o’clock.

Tuesday 14th September. The 100th travel day (305 days in Argentina).

During the night I got neighbours, late and noisy which is habitual in Argentina. I am awake at 5 but stayed in bed for another hour, nice and easy. I get out of bed at 6:15 for breakfast. It is stormy outside, with fierce gusts of wind. At 7:15 I am at my horses, it is still dark but they come up to me without delay. I feed them and apply new headsets. They are turning their heads when I do and it cost some time. Just after 8 I am back at my dormitory and just eating when Daniel arrives. He waits patiently. When I am done eating, we load my luggage in the pick-up truck and drive back to the gendarmerie. We are allowed to drive the car onto the yard making it easy for us to load the saddles and other stuff. The weather has eased fortunately. At the farm I get my horses, who were waiting quietly and tie them up close to the truck. Preparing them with saddles and luggage goes fast and easy. At 10 I am ready, give Daniel a bag with obsolete materials, which he likes, say goodbye and mount. We have to cross the whole town and that takes a lot of time. Just outside of town there is a sign, telling me that Buta Ranquil is 97 kilometers away. Nora is going reasonably quick. Jut is tiresom, all the time wanting to go ahead and walking closely side to side with Jil who does not like that at all and laying his head on the behind of Nora. He is silly. It is all a waste of energy, all that hazzle. Daan is usually obediently walking behind the lot but every now and than they are going like a closed front, all four in line in front. The first stretch is still almost Austrian lovely, but nearer to the volcano Tromen is becomes awfully bad. We are winding up and down, with the ice cold wind sometimes suddenly raging through a pass, so strong that Nora is unable to carry on in a straight line. It is a wonder that I manage to keep my cap, because sometimes we ride in a lee and then, all of a sudden, the gale force wind hits us by surprise. The country side is terribly poor here with only sufficient water around. The rock formations are impressive and at various places the water seeps through very slow causing the formation of stalagtites of chalk, or is it ice? It is to cold and raw to stop, but for short periods. When I come across a sort of shop at 13:00, I stop for half an hour. Two guys are eating there, so I do the same: hot sausages, cheese, salami and home made bread. It is all the maid produces. After this, there is absolutely nothing like habitation until Auranco, a hamlet where we arrive around 5 o’clock, nice on time. There is a school and some 30 families live here, a hundred humans spread out. There is a large lake, but the salty water is not potable, not for the horses either. At the house, nearest the road, I ask for Mariano Fuentes. It is his home, a small shop. Mariano is away for four days to work. They however know about me, my trip and my due arrival. That helps. Mariano’s wife Rachel, a 14 year old son Mariano jr. and a 17 year old son Juan Carlos, live here and keep the business running with pain and trouble. We unsadle near a shed and get the horses into a fenced off area with a shelter. They get a bale of hay and Mariano digs a trench for water. Mariano thinks that I will have to sleep near my luggage, but Rachel decides otherwise. I can sleep in the house, where it is a bit warmer. The two boys are mature and wise for their age. At the stove we drink sweetened maté. Through the window I have a splendid view across the country and the beautiful sky changeing colors fast. The colors change from blue, to yellow, to green, to grey, to black and to deep red. They don’t have electricity, because a hydro electrical turbine does not function: this is Argentina. Rachel cooked a tasty meal, rice, chicken and wine. I ate excellent. We don’t talk much, because they don’t know much. They don’t read newspapers and I even ask myself if they learned to read. Juan Carlos of 17 years, maintains and drives the pick-up truck. In the evening he takes the cooling water out, because sometimes it freezes strongly, especially in the morning. The storm is still going and the boys tell me this is always the case with a ‘new moon’. After the dinner I go to bed soon. I got rather tired from this daytrip, in particular from that rageing wind. My bed is large, warm and comfortable. The wind is tearing and pulling and shaking everything, and I am surprised that things stay in shape.

22 Gaucho leunend op paard

Wednesday, 15th September, the 101th travel day. In the middle of the night I wake up. In my room there is a small window and it rattles. The window and the frame are metal like most windows and doors in this area. The fasteners are the self tapering type and they have come loose. Luckily I do have my leatherman tool with me. After 10 minutes of work, all screws are tightened and the window is thoroughly closed. After that I sleep very well. At 6:45 I wake up and feel fresh, so I get out of bed. Rachel and her sons sleep in an other part of the house, so I can move around freely, in the livingroom, kitchen and bathroom. I like it. I lit the gas lamp, washed myself and got dressed. I tried to lite the stove, but the chimney is drawing the air so fierce, that all my trials are blown out. I got fire wood from an large heap outside. These are like usual, the roots of bushes and extremely dry. They burn very well, but they are so wrinkled that they are difficult to enter into the stove. When they are lit, they burn fast and you will be very busy keeping the fire going. I am still busy with it, when Rachel pops up and lites the fire with the help of a lot of diesel fuel. She makes maté and hands me the key from the barn where my luggage and the hay are. The bale of hay I throw into the coral, is nearly completely blown into the fencing, giving my horses some work to do. My breakfast consists of ñaco with warm water and crackers with cheese. Mariano and Rachel keep me company with eating the crackers and the cheese. After that, Mariano helps me packing and saddling the horses. While we are busy with that, a large corrugated steel plate gets blown off by the storm. Daan and Jut panic and get themselves tangled up in their ropes and fixings causing some damage. Mariano gets hold of the steel plate and fixates it by throwing some beams and stones on it. After that we calm the two horses down and tie them up again. Packing and saddling is going fast with Mariano’s help enabling me to be ready to go at half past ten. The weather is strange. I have the gale force warm wind from behind. Yet I have my head fully dressed to protect it from the tiresome roar in my ears and flying sand with small stones. At a certain moment we are followed by two loudly winnying horses. When I look back, I spot a helplessly running little guy with a rope in his hands, so I stop. He is endlessly grateful, because he can now lead his horses into the direction he wants them to go, contrary to mine. The road is winding enormously, ascending and decending while the wind is roaring through the valleys with such a speed and force, that I need all my strength and attention to stay seated in the saddle. After half an hour struggling and fighting, I see oncoming cars with their headlights on. From a high location I see why. Deep down I see a plane like a real desert and the whole plane is blurred from sand, dust and grit being driven on with enormous speed and mass. I get a feeling over me from disconcerting paltriness and realize myself how powerless we people are against the powers of God. Tons of materials are, per hour, being moved here over great distances. Some of my equipment is blown away, no matter the fact that they were very well tight up. My solarpanel is by now hanging horizontally. Fortunately it can not get off, because accidentally I nailed it this morning to the saddle. I am unable to stay mounted because the wind has such a force that I am blown, with sadle and all, over Nora’s head. So I dismount. Yet we proceed quite well with me having to get into a trot in order not to be blown over. It is all togather a very tiring adoo, because solely staying on course takes a lot of energy. We too end up in a cloud of sand, stone and dust, where the sight is no more than 3 meters. After 15 minutes I seek refuge for a while into a gully where we are more or less sheltered, relatively. Our eyes hurt from the sand. The horses are clearly having a difficult time too, but they keep going. Roughly one and a halve hour we are struggling forward this way. Then, all of a sudden, it opens up, nearly totally calm and warm. After again a winding stretch of road where there is again some wind, I am taken by surprise when I have Buta Ranquil in sight. It then is 18:30. The streets, mud and gravel, are lined with many trees. A large teethless but welcoming man who nearly shouts me out of my socks, shows me a hostel. It appears to be closed, but when I am rattling the door, a jolly young man appears asking me ‘time out’. He unlocks the doors and I enter and I drop down into an easy chair, with a bottle of Gancia, soda-water and lemon. Two large cold glases disappear like snow in the sun, while the young man moves a millimeter of dust from bar, tables and the floor. The guy is hospitable, understanding and helpful. So it does not take long before I get a dorm with 2 bunkbeds, a very simple bathroom (all is there but nothing is completely in order) and masses of space. I take saddles and luggage off, of the horses tied next to the entrance. A third person is already on his way to buy hay and grain. I gave him $15 and my host asks me if I am not afraid that they might just disappear with that money. No, I am not I say and so much confidence is doing him good, I see. The horses go into a shed without a roof, sheltered from the wind but no door and heaps of broken glass. With a rope, a piece of tube, an old carseat and crates with empty bottles, we produce some sort of a fence in order to keep the horses contained. It is absolutely not ideal, but there is nothing else. The third man returns with 25 kilo grain. Hay he could not get. I get money back, its perfect. Feeding the horses the grain in the dark is an adventure in its own rights. Four hungry horses in a small confined area, moving around me kicking and biting to one another, is it a wonder, do they know to respect me or is it just shear luck? It all works out well. Later I feed them water from a bucket. The same ritual is repeated. The horses bodies push me from all sides. Especially Nora and Daan push me with their heads in all directions. It feels very funny and it is a very happy experience. After taking care of my horses I am, dusty and dirty, with a guide going to a restaurant. I only eat half of what was presented, because primarily it did not like the taste and secondly I did drink so much, that I am no longer hungry. Back in the hostel they try to keep my attention for talking, but first I go take an extensive shower: lovely lots of hot water and soap. At first the soap does not want to foam, due to the loads of dust on my body in all my pores. After the shower I dress and go to the hall where lots of youth are having fun with the pooltable and game computers. I go join an older man sitting alone at a table. The ‘boss’ comes with maté and we get into a lively conversation. Jorge, the older man, tells me all about the road for the next few days. He is full of enthusiam. The man who bought the food for my horses is also joining up and many others are joining, just listening and sometimes asking specific things. It is so pleasant and animated that I only at 01:00 o’clock see how late it is. I go to bed, tired, satisfied and with a recommendation for ‘free of charge’ lodging at Chuco Elem which is probably tomorrow in Barrancas.

27 xx-web wk 37 Neuquen


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