Thursday, July 2, 2009

El caballo negro

As if the trek on Cerro Arenales wasn´t enough. Not having been on a horse in about 15 years, and given that the last time I was on a horse I had an allergic reaction that kept me in chronic hayfever for a day, I decided to brave up and go horseriding. It´s one of THE things to do in Argentina. Horses were introduced to La Pampa when Argentina was first colonised, and they thrived. Now horses are everywhere in Argentina and are an incredibly important part of what Argentina has become. They were necessary for so much of the exploration of the south, and even San Martin, hailed as the liberator of Argentina (and much of South America) from Spain, crossed the Andes on horseback to do so.

So I was in good company.

We drove out to the foothills of the Andes on a stunningly beautiful day. I met Almanegro (Black Soul) who was to be my horse for the day, and we set off walking through the hills, through some stunning scenery, and past Cerro Negro, one of the higher mountains in the first Cordillera (this part of the Andes is made up of three main ranges). While I don´t think I was the most skillful rider on earth. And at times I don´t think Almanegro wanted much to do with my instruction, we had fun. It´s a great way to see this part of the world.

We were led by Favel and Orlando, two of the most quintessential Argentines I´ve spotted during the course of my time in this country. When I put some photos up you´ll see what I mean. They also took along morning tea for us so we could stop for mate. In Argentina you never need an excuse to stop for mate. I´ll talk about it a bit more in another upcoming post, but let´s just say, if you haven´t had mate, you haven´t been to Argentina (I´m not really sure how one would manage to avoid it). Personally I actually quite enjoyed it, though again, I´ll leave a fellow traveller´s description of the taste to another post coming very soon... stay tuned.

Argentines ride differently to most of the world. In most countries, you hold the reins with both hands. In Argentina, you hold them with one, usually with the left. I read that this leaves the other hand free for a lasso. As if I´d be that coordinated. But in a way it feels a bit more natural doing it that way.

In short, a great way to spend my last day (sob) in Mendoza. I love this place - there´s nothing like a town that combines wine, mountains, snow and horses. I´ll be back.

Oh... and I´m no longer allergic to horses it seems.

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