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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Argentina - 3 January, 2002

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Hostel, San Martin S4009.475' W07121.567' 650 m 10 km (by pick-up)
Horse riding ranch . . . 10 km (by horse)
Hostel, San Martin S4009.475' W07121.567' 650 m 10 km (by pick-up
Horse riding ranch . . . 10 km (by pick-up
Finish Hostel, San Martin S4009.475' W07121.567' 650 m 10 km (by pick-up)

Leg 2 Total:

1,113 km

Leg 1 Total:

9,010 km

Galapagos:

771 km

Grand Total:

10,893 km

 

Weather: Clear, sunny and hot.  In the afternoon became partly cloudy and cool.  Cool at night.

 

 

After we had a light breakfast at the hostel, we headed into town to see what we could do about changing money.  We first checked out the banks - they would only exchange dollars one-to-one for Pesos.  That was no good.  We then headed over to the official exchange place (there was only one in town) and we were pleased to find that they were offering 1.15 Pesos per dollar.  Now that meant that we could save 15% on everything we did.  So we changed some money, but only what we needed for today and overnight - we were not sure what would happen to the currency over the next few days.

 

Back at the hostel we left a note for the others, along with a note for the co-driver suggesting that she change the dollars into pesos to pay for the bus tomorrow and to pay for our hotel.  (Later on a bit of an issue came up, as she refused for various reasons to do so, costing us and Dragoman a material amount of money.)

 

Once we had done that, we were met by the owner of the horse riding ranch that we were going to go to to go horse back riding.  Right away we knew that he was a quite a character.  He looked like and acted just like John Cleese, and he was just as funny.  He did not speak English, but he loved the fact that Paolo spoke Italian and that was how we communicated (his grandparents came from Italy).

 

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We were met by his wife upon on arrival, and she was what he needed to keep him under control.  A petite and attractive, but tough, lady that took no nonsense and held her own in the friendly banter.  The horses were ready and we got up and headed off.  After a short ride on some roads, we were up in the forest weaving on a steep and narrow trail between the trees and bushes.

 

Along the way, the guide kept us entertained with various stories and how to ride our horses.  The part that sticks best in my mind was that he explained that we needed to hold the bridle in our left hand.  When we asked why, he explained that we needed our right hand free to hold the sword or pistol to fight with.  He then went on to demonstrate with an imaginary sword how he would charge Paolo on the horse and dissect him into many pieces.  He explained that he had been in the cavalry.

 

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Our horses were very comfortable and fit.  The saddles were covered with multiple layers of sheep skins thick with wool.  The horses were happy to gallop and race along.  There were flowers all along the trail, in particular when we came above the tree line and there were only a few scattered trees covered in old man's beard.  A few of the owner's dogs followed us as we went.  They would run ahead, behind and in between the horses legs.  By the end, they were covered in burrs.  I think they had the most fun.

 

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We took a break on the shore of a picturesque lake.  It was a wonderful spot and we sat on a log and admired the view.  If we had our swimmers, we may have jumped in - the water was surprisingly warm.  We headed back down and along the way we stuffed ourselves with, believe it or not, wild cherries.  The mountainside is covered with cherry trees and the guide would just grab up and get us a branch that was laden with them.  At times he would stand up in his saddle to reach up and get the best ones.  We stuffed ourselves.  We made it back to the ranch after 3 PM.  We dismounted and the wife invited us into the guest house for a snack.

 

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And was it a treat.  She makes homemade jams and they were delicious.  She must have had over a dozen varieties and she had homemade bread to put it one.  We made sure that we sampled everyone of them, but I think our favorite was the cherry.  In the end, we bought two jars and she gave us a third as a gift.  During the course of our snack, where we were joined by the husband along with a bottle of beer (I was surprised that he was not fat with all that great food), we asked if they could recommend any good steak place in town.  Instead of telling us where to go, they invited us over for a cook-out that night.

 

We tried to refuse, but they insisted.  He even got up and opened the fridge and took out the head of the sheep that they had just slaughtered for tonight's dinner.  In the end, we just could not refuse.  He agreed to come and pick us up at 8 PM.  He then drove us back into town.

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon taking it easy.  We took a short nap (too much jam and bread), changed some money and had a coffee in town.  Back at the hotel we washed up and hung around until Aldo came to pick us up.  He was exactly on time and off we headed.  It was another lively conversation along the way and you could tell he had Italian blood - he talk and drove just like them using both his hands either to steer or to gesture (but not both at the same time).  We could tell that he knew just about everyone in town as he waved at every passing car or person.  As we drove by the army post, the guard even saluted him.

 

We were greeted by the wife upon our arrival with a kiss on each cheek and shown into the garden where in the back corner there was a wood fire with the beef and lamb was cooking.  He had apparently started cooking the meat at around 5 PM over the fire.  The sheep had been cut in half and was stretched out upon a metal rack slowly roasting.  We brought 4 bottles of wine with us and they already had a couple on the table.

 

It was a very relaxed and nice affair.  But at first the wife showed us around their ranch.  They were pretty much self-sufficient with pigs (including one huge wild one they had raised from a baby and was about to have her third set of piglets), cattle, sheep, chickens and, of course, horses.  She was, rightfully, very proud of her garden (the salad we had over dinner was grown there and it was delicious - now this is organic).

 

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Back in the garden, we started right away with the wine and the food slowly came.  There was bread and cheese, a couple of salads and then the meat.  First the sausage that was wrapped around a skewer.  Following that was the steak which was good, but nothing too special.  The lamb was, however, unbelievable.  As he cut it straight off the spit with his razor sharp knife (kept in his belt), the juices poured out.  He would then pour some special, salty sauce over it and plop it straight on our plate from his knife.  Then when we ate it, we did not even have to chew it.  It just seemed to melt in our mouth.  I am usually not a big fan of lamb because I often find that it can be tough and fatty.  But this was heavenly.  We ate until we could no longer stuff anything else in.

 

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This whole time we are, of course, drinking the wine.  By the end of the evening we had gone through five bottles (withy Aldo drinking beer for a good portion of it).  And the conversation - we were laughing the whole time despite (or because) it all had to be translated from English into Italian in Spanish and vice versa.  We heard about how Aldo was kicked in the balls by a horse (he even demonstrated how he rolled around on the ground) and how he was in a coma for months after an accident.  He had been declared dead by the doctors.  He put his head down so that Jacqui could feel all the scars from the 45 stitches.

 

Finally at around 10 PM, we excused ourselves.  We knew that they had to get up early in the morning.  On the way out they showed us their house that Aldo had built himself.  After many kisses, we bundled into the pick-up and headed back into town.  Along the way we were asking Aldo if there was a good ice cream shop in town, so rather then tell us, he showed us where it was.  We decided to have some dessert (my Mom always said that you can fit in ice cream as it seeps into the cracks of the food you ate).  We bought Aldo half a kilo and then we each got a quarter of a kilo (Lars was going to get a half kilo, but everyone thought he was crazy - he regrets it to this day).

 

It was fantastic ice cream - they had some amazing flavors using the local mountain berries and nuts.  We sat around in the room back at the hostel and enjoyed it very much (despite others trying to get as many samples as they could).  What a day.

 

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