Continued from Fair winds…
“…I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul…”
From the poem, Invictus, by William Ernest Henley.
During the night, I would occasionally waken to see Tina and most others, snoozing to the sound of tires on the road. I remember looking out the windows at check points or toll gates…I’m not sure because there was no one to ask. I had to assume though that all was well. Argentina seems like a safe place to travel as long as you are using your head and not flashing large wads of money, cell phones or are a woman hitchhiking alone. I felt safe although thirsty on the bus but that was my fault. Next time, instead of one of those botellas de vino (bottles of wine)…I would bring snacks and water. Still learning…
I pulled the curtain back from the window, the blackness not giving me any indication of what lay beyond. In the heavens, stars were so many they blended to a hazy cloud of light. I have never seen stars like that. Was it my southern position? I live out in the country back in Texas and there isn’t much light pollution, but I believe there was none here. The only visible outlines were clumps of grass on the periphery of the bus’ headlights which made me anxious for sunrise. I wanted to experience the new scenery.
Upon our arrival in Zapala, a small town where we were met by a driver arranged for ahead of time…we transferred our small amount of baggage to the trunk of his car and began our four-hour trip to meet the horses. Tina and I laughed during and after the trip at how annoyed the driver became at my constant barrage of questions. I was interested in the birds, plants…he didn’t know the answers and finally told me in broken english to quit asking him. I made mental notes to ask our hosts because sometimes…a girl just has to know…hahaha….
The landscape began to change from high desert to craggy outcroppings of volcanic rock and a few trees. We spied a house on the horizon, a rock house with a small group of trees and upon further inspection, horses, an artesian spring and our guides for the horse trip to the estancia. I have learned, as I’m sure you have, life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen. At this point, I reminded myself of an agreement I had made with myself before the trip…just say yes. Getting on an unknown horse in Patagonia and riding three hours to an unknown place with people I didn’t know…there was a lot of potential for adventure especially on animals with minds of their own and I didn’t want to miss anything by trying to meet my preconceived expectations about how this should all go.
We met a woman who would be joining us plus the two women who would be guiding us and one of the daughters of the owner of Estancia Ranquilco, her name is Skye. Probably not a closer thing to a female guacho will I ever meet, she is fully capable of all things needed and lived in the rock house, the outpost or meeting place for guests and guides.
So, it was here that we got our first glance of the tack and equipment used in this part of the horse culture of Argentina. A halter and lead rope made of rawhide, saddle covered with a thick sheep fleece and the Criollos, the compact, tough little horses that have been developed for this part of the world. Possessing a Lusitano or Andalusian head, a shorter back which can also be a spanish breed trait, large weight-bearing feet and a mane and tail cropped to guacho standards, the horses were endearing. Some of them were all business while others, as Tina would find out…could really grow on you.
After a small but filling lunch of salami, cheese and homemade bread, we filled our water bottles in the spring and got mounted. Leaving the rock house behind us we began a gradual climb into the hills which are foothills of the Andes. Everything was new and the wind and dust did nothing to curb my enthusiasm for what I might find beyond the next rise in terrain. Cell signal lost, my phone quickly became nothing but a convenient camera and the battery silently slipped away before I knew it. I turned it off so I might have a shot of our first view of the estancia. That would be pretty much how I functioned the entire trip, saving my battery for a special photo. No battery chargers or desire to carry the heavy batteries in my saddle bags, I missed a lot of photos but I told myself, the memories would be spectacular even if they were not captured in a single digital moment.
Hours passed and as we began the steep descent to a fast flowing river, I saw smoke coming from the side of a cliff. An open-pit asado was being prepared in honor of our arrival, I was told, and we heard a cry of “hello” from an unknown source as we reached the river’s edge.
No one came out to greet us as we entered the main house yard. They were doing chores or cooking, maybe last-minute preparations…so Tina and I unpacked and became familiar with our new surroundings. As we rounded the corner, walking toward the asado smoke, a New York accent speaking english and castillano greeted us. This voice belonged to Ethan, who would prove to be our comic, friend, entertainment and teacher while at Ranquilco.
He was one of the highlights of our trip. We still laugh and talk about him. Welcome to Ranquilco, he said loudly. A mischievous twinkle in his eye, he asked…how was your trip?
Next: Learning about the daily life at the estancia…