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…
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."
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.
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!!!).
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.
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.
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.
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 www.perolchico.com.
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!
|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."
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."
|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.|
|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:
www.thecourtot.com/argentina and www.worldtrailrides.com