It is summertime, meteorologically. The clock was set one hour in advance, so last night was a short one. I met my friend Hanke in church. As usual, I drove her home, where we enjoyed coffee and the company of her dog Toets. After that I went to Eemnes, to watch the first Formula 1 race of this season, with Kenneth. I heard from the radio already the results, while Kenneth was still unaware of it. So, I had to play innocence. The race did not give much sensation and no unexpected results either. During the race we had lunch. After the race, I travelled on to Leiden, to see my family there and discuss certain private matters. My sister was attending a cooking workshop with her son, so I had dinner there with my brother in law and a long-time friend.
The ditch of my childhood.
On Monday, I quietly packed my car. I finished my income-tax return. After some more shopping, I left Amersfoort around two o’clock. A quarter of an hour on the way, a radio bulletin informed me about an accident on the road where I had to go. The traffic jam resulting from it, cost me one hour extra. Driving on a bypass I saw what caused the problem: a large bulk carrier on its side blocked the complete highway. After that, I had only one further delay: In Germany, near Bautzen at the A4, I was ordered to follow a customs car to a petrol station.
Stop in Germany.
I was on my way to that patrol station anyway, but it annoyed me nevertheless. They examined my car, obviously looking for drugs. I carry a blue linen bag with me, filled with anything to do with body- and health care. The searching female picked a casket carefully handing it to me, with the request to open it. The content is floss, to clean between one’s teeth. I told them: you may keep it, because I don’t have any teeth left. She was not amused.
Somewhere in Poland, around three o’clock at night, my back started aching and I got tired. So, at a patrol stations parking, I made up my bed and went asleep. For approximately three hours I slept, not very deep however. When I went on my way again it rained with wet snow as well. I was praying that it would not start really snowing, but I did not expect it to. After Krakow, the TomTom sent me off the E40, into the country.
South-East Poland country side.
From there onwards, the speed of travelling was considerably reduced. I have done this trip before and I recognised various views as well. Entering Slovakia was undisturbed.
Slovakia country side.
Around eleven I arrived at my destiny in Humenné. After the logical welcoming ceremony, I went to the apartment, unpacked my car and went to bed for a couple of hours. In the evening I walked into town to find it virtually dead. Fortunately, the one café I know was open. This café is really ideal: they serve a terrific pizza, good beer, soccer on a wide screen and an ashtray to smoke. This is what I like: old fashioned. After having eaten most of the pizza, it is much to much for me, and after watching some soccer games, I went back to the apartment and to bed.
I slept like a log for 12 hours. On Wednesday morning around eleven I was up and done with my daily early morning ritual.
My early morning view.
It is a splendid day, blue sky, no wind. In the clinic they are busy with 4 dogs, three puppies, a pigeon and 4 cats. I am asked to walk the dogs and the puppies, which I do like a lot. walking the
Walking the puppies.
At Tesco’s I do some shopping and revalue the credit on my cell-phone. I am invited to have supper with Ivan and Helena, parents of my friend Lenka.
On Thursday, they call it Green Thursday here, Christians are supposed to eat ‘green’ without meat. Fish is okay and so are eggs. Shops are open but busy, because tomorrow is ‘Big Friday’ and many people have 4 days of, with shops only open on Saturday. I did the shopping for my friend Lenka, at ease: I had plenty of time. Asking to staff, for items I cannot find, is always a rather funny thing: the youngest of the staff are usually the ones to approach for their knowledge of English.
Friday went by, with a busy morning at the clinic. The children are on holiday, that is clear. They arrive before opening hours, to be the first to walk one of the four dogs or to play with the puppies. A stray cat is brought in, from a town 30 kms away. The animal is being registered here, including a picture from an instant camera. Half an hour later this cat is sleeping off his sedation: he is now castrated.
Castration of a stray cat.
It is nice to see how fast and secure Lenka and her assistant work. Around midday the clinic is closed for today. Later in the afternoon, I am informed that my friend is on her way, with her daughter and aunt. We meet at Ivan’s place for coffee and talk. After that we go to the flat where I reside for something to eat: home-made salad and cookies. Lenka, aunt and daughter leave for home in Medzilaborce after a while. I spend the evening watching TV.
On Saturday I am up in time to go to the clinic and later go to Tesco’s for some shopping. In the afternoon I go to Medzilaborce, to see about pruning the fruit trees there. I examined the fruit trees: they are dead.
Next week I am remove them completely. We had a joyful afternoon, with spaghetti and sausages. Hana, Lenka’s daughter is taking much of my attention.
Argentina on horseback. 1999, March 25-March 31.
Wednesday the 24th ended with an invitation to have supper with the three ladies running this hotel/café/restaurant in summer. In winter it closes down, which is now: Next week they are leaving.
Daylight comes around 7 o’clock. To the bathroom I have to go outside, then through the kitchen where Ana is having mate by candle light. I join her for a while. The land is white from frost. I carry on preparations to leave. We have breakfast with good coffee. The bill for everything is $10, I pay them $20. I feel well treated, satisfied and grateful for it. I am riding Jut for the first time, which feels good. It is beautiful weather, a few clouds cover the sky, wind is only light. Jil, carrying the luggage, is not to happy with it. The road is rather awkward with lots of cobble stones. Near Punta del Lago I steer into the dunes and onto the stony beach. It is difficult for Jut and Jil to deal with this loose packed gravel but when we reach the water, the horses can drink which they do. Back on the road and after the turn to El Chalten I planned to do another 10km, but Jil is not going so I stop, at half past five, in the middle of nowhere at a huge plane. Far away I can spot the planned destiny. I set up my tent, but I cannot use the tent pins: its either too loose sand or large stones. There is no wind: total silence. I hear my cigarette burning, nothing else. Every now and then I hear a horse’s tail sweep. After a meal of Presto Pronto it is dark and I go asleep.
Friday the 26th March, the 28th travelling day. Some time ago I knew that I would never reach Venezuela at this pace: I don’t care. I just travel, taking what is coming. I slept until 3 at night, ate a bar of nougat (Turron), drank some water and smoked. After that I went back to sleep. When I am having breakfast and packed the horses, I am watched by a curious silver fox. Jil is again holding back, so I leave him on his own and ride behind him, actually kind of chasing him into the right direction. Near Tres Lagos there are trenches dug and rows of trees planted. Jul and Jil together hurry into a trench where they drink a lot. I come to a petrol station where I buy and drink a beer. In Tres Lagos I intend to stay for the weekend, until Monday. I get help from all sides now. Many of the inhabitants know me, from Rio Bote and from ‘the road’. I shake hands a lot and have to tell more about this adventure: all of it. On of them drills for water, for everybody who pays. The water is found at 100 meters deep. No wonder this is a desert with only yellowish dry shrubbery. Nearly all the livings, one can hardly call them houses, have a disk antenna and very good television. The whole town seems to be kept together with steel wire, wood of all sorts and corrugated steel plates. I reside at the one and only ‘hotel de ville’. Most of the time however I am the guest of Sr.Barres and his wife. She rings a couple of people and ten minutes later a car arrives with food for my horses. Payment is not accepted. I turn a meal down, because I had a good meal at the hotel. They are eating horse meat with ‘torta frita’. Torta frita is flower with some salt, a hundred times thrown up and down, kneaded and finally rolled out until the mass is half a millimetre thick, then folded once and cut into pieces. Those pieces are cooked in sheep’s vet, they blow up like a tiny balloon. The backing smells very well and these tiny balloons are taken for food on the way across their endless estates: they can be kept for many days without getting bad.
I am very busy with the maintenance of my horses on Saturday. First, I went to buy fruit in the only store they have. In the shadow of one of the few trees, I sit down and enjoy the fruit, when a young woman arrives by car. She takes me to my horses. Three youngsters and the horse-food provider arrived. These men are treating Jil with new irons, on all legs. They also tell me that Jil does have some problems, like a sore back and an inflamed wound just above his hoof left aft. They give me clear instructions how to deal with these problems. Both Jut and Jil were behaving exemplary during the treatment, I rewarded them with some extra food. The men and I go to the bar for a drink, where I want to know what I have to pay them: they refuse payment. The food supplier promises me to mark a place along the road for Monday, where I will find water and a good place for camping. The evening falls, with splendid coloured clouds. I ride Jut and Jil, without saddle or mouth piece, just a piece of rope onto their head-set. I go to the river to allow them to drink. Jut reacts a bit surprised, riding without a saddle. They both take it very well, even in trot it is no problem at all. Back at the hotel I go to bed, totally happy.
Sunday morning. The sky is grey, no wind. During the night it rained a lot. The locals are very happy with it. The silence is rarely disturbed by one of the rattling cars they possess. These cars are really something: no lights, sometimes no brakes, broken windows, bumps everywhere. The only thing that matters to them is: does the machine go. Police does not look at anything, only when there is an argument. The car from my food provider consists of an engine, wheels with worn tires and bodywork without only one switch: to switch on or off. In the sickbay, it is neither hospital nor pharmacy but its all they have here, I meet again the young woman, who picked me up yesterday. I need things to treat the wound on Jil’s leg. I get everything I need, again, free of charge. I donate $10 in the box for donations. In the evening, in the hotel, I listen to my radio: world broadcast in Dutch.
Monday, 29th March. Jut and Jil broke out of their confined area, after having stolen the rest of their food. I find them back, 100 meters away from my hotel, quietly grazing. I take my time for breakfast and packing. The youngsters who treated jil came along to say good bye. They show me the way: into the wild country a long way along a fence, and then I will hit road 40 again. Oh wonder: it appears to work well. It is warm, few wind only and we proceed very well, I think, because there is no way measuring my progress: gravel, coble stones, rocks and again the same. Depending on the terrain, we go in trot. Early in the evening I spot a heap of gravel with some sort of a wooden fencing. Jut just walks straight through it, where Jil is always a bit nervous about fences. I erected my tent, thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful purple and blue sky and the silence. Nightfall goes fast, so I have to cook my meal in the dark, with the help of a clear full moon. It surprises me, that my self-made meals are tasting so good. My ribs are by now feeling nearly normal, so my attention is now drawn towards muscles aching in my back. I wonder, will I ever overcome that situation? Today I saw, from afar, 6 cars, no animals at all and even no birds.
Tuesday, 30th of March. At 7 in the morning I have breakfast. It is still dark, very clear, very cold and totally silent. No sound to hear. Condensed breath is dripping into my tent and the land around me is frozen white. We are underway early and both Jut and Jil are going very well. I don’t have to use the rope from the headset, I don’t use reigns or bit. I don’t even have to guide and have both hands free to study my map. I have no idea how far I am and how far we still have to go today. We come to a stream with crystal clear water. This must be the stream as given by my friends in Tres Lagos. This means that I still have to go ~24 km to estancia La Lucia. Soon however, I come to a confined area with 6 horses and two groups of 10 guanaco’s each. That’s why I expect to be close to La Lucia and that appears to be the case. We reach La Lucia at 4 in the afternoon: it’s an oasis with healthy green grass and with people. La Lucia appears to be a place for so called ‘agritourism’. So, I hire accommodation for $15. Within two weeks, the staff will close the facility for winter. At first the staff is a bit at a distance, until they learn that I am Dutch. Then they relax and we have an enjoyable evening. I have seen this before: Argentinians don’t like the English, because of the Falklands war.
Wednesday, 31st March. 31st travelling day. It is again a beautiful day. I travel in T-shirt, because my overall is much to warm now. The surface is dreadful, loose stones and Vulcanic material, black and sharp. I have the idea that we go slow, probably because of the terrible terrain. For the first time I spot a herd of cows. The first sign of their presence was a dead one, crumbled in the bushes. After numerous heaps of stone, we come into flat lands with grass again in the afternoon. We come across a herd of 30 horses many with foals. They follow us for a while and that is very funny, a running herd beside you. I was told what to expect on my way to estancia Siberia which gave me a fair idea of my progress. I get a view of Lago Cardiel, deep blue, dead silent and cold. Siberia is again one of the Agro tourism places. Tourism is their only source of income. The only person present is an old and very grumpy person, busy burning the last debris. I am not invited inside. Later I learn why: he is closing down and leaving tomorrow. So, I should not have arrived here one day later. I am shown a place to erect my tent and a place for Jut and Jil.
Progress in Santa Cruz Province