The Long Riders' Guild

25th June 2002

Philippe has sent an email to The Long Riders' Guild with some interesting stories.

"My shoes are burnt!  Souvenirs of a party…

I’m taking advantage of an unexpected halt in the town of Tucumán to share with you a moment that is dear to my heart and which I have not written about before.  In fact, my halt was caused by an incident which I could never have envisaged – my shoes were burnt!
For three days we have been in a bitter, Polar cold.  I had to buy myself a new pair of shoes – it took three days and cost US$100.  And Flauca had the great idea of waiting for the cold from hell before losing her shoes – and those who have shod a horse, especially with frozen fingers, will understand my problem.  Luckily, Doña Rosa, in whose house we had taken refuge to do the shoeing, stoked up a good fire so we could warm up and dry our shoes.  I left my shoes in front of the fireplace all night, and discovered in the morning a pretty pile of cinders.  It was a minute before I realised that this was what was left of my shoes… So I set off to find new ones, wearing sandals in 4 inches of mud in a temperature only just above freezing.
But this was not what I wanted to share with you!
On several occasions I have mentioned parties, the ‘asado,’ evenings spent with Argentineans, especially agrupacions (associations) of Gauchos, but without going into much detail.
It was a Monday, I had been there since Saturday.  Enough time to wash my laundry, buy provisions for ourselves and the horses, take care of the last little details before setting off again, via the building where the association was having its party. 
There as a good fire, maté, and we were chatting about horses, the association, and our journey.  Little by little, more people arrived, men and women from all generations were soon gathered together, and in the end there were about twenty of us.
Pescados!  An idea sprang up, everyone put two pesos down, and in half an hour the table was laid, the fish was served.  Then, more people arrived with drinks, guitars and drums.
We ate, we enjoyed ourselves, we sang, we danced, we listened to great prose.  There was a smile on every face and, without any alcohol, I felt an incredible sensation of well-being.  They get together like this round the fire every Friday, and decide what they are going to do over the weekend.
 I would like to describe these 15-year-old horsemen, these mothers, these grandfathers, all united in their activities.  We were far away from the crisis which is ravaging this country, and from television.  Once more I would be sad to leave them, but it’s the price one has to pay for such delicious moments.
Tucumán, 24th June 2002"  

May 2002

The Long Riders' Guild has had a long email from Philippe;  here are some extracts.

For a description of the horses and mule, please click here

"On leaving Colalao in Tucuman, I met someone with a map (very rare in Argentina) and I was able to make a detour to avoid a large chunk of main road.  One day, while travelling across a semi-desert of sand and cactus, I met an Indian playing his drum to help his sow finish giving birth to her litter.

At los Zazos I helped put out a fire and I stayed.... for two days, in Luis Cesar's house.  I met Melvin, the president of an association to defend the Calchaiquies Indians, Veronca the singer...  there is a birthday tonight, a christening tomorrow... the horses are well... Why leave?

When I did leave, with difficulty, I had to cross the pass.  I had been told that there was a terrible area on the other side with a grass which was lethal to horses.  The climb was difficulty, and on the other side I found the Kingdom of Clouds - I pushed everyone one, I was afraid for the mule who loves browsing and manages to do so even on a lead-rope... 5 horse carcasses beside the road, this was no joke, and I had no idea how large this area was.  Clouds, cold, humidity, and at nightfall a Gaucho told me we were out of the danger zone and could safely make camp.

I woke up in Switzerland, surrounded by pine trees - it was so cold that everything was covered in ice.  In two days I had moved from burning desert to the damp cold of the mountains.  

The horses have lost a lot of weight, which I put down to the change in temperature, the mule has sore feet, so I have to re-shoe her - it is time for a break.  I got as far as Santa Lucia to discover a small town, mouldy from the humidity, which depends totally on sugar cane which has been in a crisis for four years.  It's damp, it's cold, it's humid - and there is nothing!!!  No boarding-house, no hotel, nothing!  The local policeman is watching television (it's the only thing the police ever do) and he does not know the area!  His boss isn't there!  He sends me to the church, but the curate isn't there!  Night is falling, I'm cold, I've been soaked all day, and I resign myself to camping beside the road....  But the magic of Argentina works - people approach me, we look for a solution, they find me somewhere for my belongings, a little bit of ground for the horses, a bed, hot water, food....

My new companion had not turned up, so I decided to continue with the three animals alone.   (Click here for a description of the animals.)

I packed the mule with barely 100 lbs., and loaded one riding horse, Flecha, with the oats and the saddlebags.  I set off, whistling, looking towards the mountains.  I ride Flauca who is the fastest, and I lead Flecha who is the boss, and to whom I have tied the mule.  I hear something behind me and turn round - the terrified mule has pulled back on her rope which, luckily, broke, but it upset the saddle onto which I had put the oats and Flecha is all tangled up.  He overtakes me on the left, and unfortunately I had tied the leather lead-rope to the saddle.  My saddle turns to the right (I had not tightened the girth very much) and unhooks my right saddle-bag which pivots to the left and smacks into my horse's leg.  Luckily the breast-collar does its job and stops my saddle from turning, I have all my weight on the left stirrup which is also pressing on the Flecha's leather rope which is holding me tight.  

I am between two horses, of which one has the saddle under it's stomach and the packing-rope tangled round its legs (a brand-new rope which I had only bought the day before).  If my saddle gives way, I shall fall between two horses galloping flat out 14 inches apart.  I speak to them, calm them with my voice, and pull everything over to the left...  They stop!!  I untangle the lead-rope, free Flecha's hind legs from the packing-rope, and look after Flauca whose saddle is only held on by the breast-collar.  My kit is spread over 200 yards, and my mule rejoins her companions by jumping a rocky ditch a yard wide and a yard deep - with her load!  At least the pack saddle had held and the panniers were unbroken.  

Miguel Angel finds me there and helps me put everything straight."

April 2002

The Long Riders' Guild received an email from Philippe with an update on his progress with Pia, a Swiss woman who is travelling with him for a while.

"After three weeks and 650 km of riding we’re having a little break at Cafajate in the south of the state of Salta.  I seem to remember that Emile wrote in his book that mules brought spice to journeys, and ours is certainly keeping up this tradition.  On the second day she demonstrated her ability to get out of a closed corral, which meant we had to go back 10 km to fetch her and her two accomplices.  The following day she committed a second offence.  Apart from that she is perfect, acquits herself honourably at her work and if we are not rough with her, it seems as though she is smiling.  The hardest part was putting on a new headcollar because madame does not allow her ears to be touched (although it was very tempting!!!). 

We left the valley in Salta with the river in flood (there was water half way up the packs, I thought the mule was going to float away) and climbed up through incredible canyons where the hardest part was crossing other convoys with a ravine 300m deep on one side.  Here they pack high, and the packs scraped the rocks on more than one occasion.  After five days in torrential rain we entered a semi-desert for the rest of the way.  With one exception – two days when we got lost in the clouds, unable to find the farm which was 1km away.  

Crossing the Parc de los Cardones was difficult because only the old ones know where to find the ancient water courses, and we covered 70 km in one day with the wind (and the sand) in our faces.  The scenery is magnificent, punctuated with guanacos and wild donkeys, but caused eye irritation in the horses.  From Seclantas we found water again in the Rio Calchaquies and pasture. We climbed to the Brealito Lake, a dream setting with red granite mountains, birds, nature in its purest form, where we rested until the tourists arrived (it was a four-day public holiday), and they disembarked with their own generators and a miniature town.  We fled and descended back onto Route 40 which we followed as far as Cafajate.  

We had an unforgettable stay in Ramon Rodó’s Finca where we rode his Peruvian Pasos, but the Argentinian variety (they are huge!).  They are amazing, these amblers – you can pour yourself a glass of champagne while trotting without spilling a drop.  I considered changing horses again, because with these monsters I could ride across Argentina twice in six months without tiring.

We travelled from Paso breeder to Paso breeder, which was not only extremely pleasant but also very useful, because since Angastaco it had become very difficult to find food for the horses.  The plan is for Pia (the Swiss woman) to leave us soon, but I will probably carry on with the entire team, because in Cantamarca and Riojavont it will be hard to find food and water (I have been warned there are several stages of more than 100 km with absolutely nothing), and by redistributing the packs I can cover these distances in one day. "

February 2002

Philippe sent The Long Riders' Guild an email to let us know that all is well.  He has spent two months in Bolivia and Peru, and has been helping Marie-Emmanuelle Tugler and Marc Witz who will soon be setting off on their own adventure (see their pages under Current Expeditions). 

Philippe has been staying with Eduard van Brunschot - who has coincidentally been writing to The Long Riders' Guild!  Visit his website at  

Philippe is going back to Argentina to buy some more horses from Salta in northern Argentina.  We hope for much more news very soon!

16 December 2001

Philippe emailed The Long Riders' Guild to let us know how he and Saskia are getting on.

"After ten days we have halted at El Calafate.  After a departure in which it was difficult to explain to our horses that there were other things than the pasture of their estancia...

"The landscape is gigantic, and several Nandus (ostriches) and guancos came to amuse us - all the more so because Luna, the pack-mare who is left free to roam, always wants to play with them.

"The gauchos are really nice and welcoming (we've already eaten more lamb in ten days than we would normally have in a year) and they show us the way.  It's vague, it's easy (to say) and always very close (somewhere between ten minutes and three hours), but what with the compass, a sense of direction, and horses who are good about trading on the fences when we lay them down for them, we are managing quite well.  Condors flying overhead are a great encouragement not to make a mistake!


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Er - we don't think this is Philippe or Saskia!  This gaucho is riding not only bareback, but without reins .....

The wind is really unbelievable - we are a little burnt and dried out, but the horses are well!  Criollos refuse to eat anything except  grass, but they are staying fat, and as long as we give them regular days off, they don't complain.  They camp close by, around the tent, accept hobbles and tethers and are coping better than we are with this extreme climate.

These first ten days have shown Saskia and me that our dreams have diverged, and we are going to go our separate ways.  We will continue to send updates for the site and let you have our latest news." 

October 2001

They left behind their jobs, their home, their friends and family - everything familiar - and journeyed around the world in search of adventure.   Their departure point - France.  Their port of arrival - Argentina.

Philippe and Saskia are now at the southernmost tip of South America, choosing four Criollo companions.  The hardy breed chosen does not come as a surprise to anyone who knows about the rigors and dangers of Equestrian Travel.  

Aimé Tschiffely, who made the most famous equestrian journey of the 20th Century - riding from Argentina to Washington, DC, in 1925 - used two tough Criollos.  Those horses, Mancha and Gato, are now equine travel legends.

Philippe and Saskia emailed The Long Riders' Guild to say that they have located a herd of semi-wild Criollos in the remote region of Argentina known as Tierra del Fuego.  They are in the process of selecting the best horses from this 200-plus remuda.  

"One horse launched a big foot print on my upper leg, so we prepared a lesson in 'how to behave properly'.  We want the horses to understand that to be with human beings means an enjoyable experience." 

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If it's fantastic, inexpensive horses you are looking for, then go to Argentina!  Philippe is shown trying to make up his mind from this vast herd of Criollos.

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A tired Saskia after a long day of riding a series of barely-broken Criollos.

Saskia has discovered that even the preparations for their journey have their exciting moments.  

"Life is wonderful.  We spend the day together with the horses or fixing the saddles.  We are getting acquainted with our mounts, and savour this new life!  Excellent!"

For more details regarding this expedition, please visit the following French websites: and

Philippe's main page

  Back to Current Expeditions