Journey America Part 2

A Locked Gate

In Rio Grande a local rancher loaned Toti a mare called Ona, named after the indigenous people on the island, so we could trek through the island together.
“Oh man this is going to be amazing,” Toti said when he went to pick up the chestnut.
Before we rode out towards the small town of Touhlin, we shod Sapito, Picasso and Ona with special horse shoes that had sharp spikes on the bottom.
“Without these, it will be impossible for you two to cross the island, there’s ice everywhere,” Julio Rocha, a local Gaucho who helped us shoe the horses said.
He was right! Just to walk the horses from their corral to where we would shoe them was a struggle. They tried to walk but slipped and fought to hold themselves up. In the heart of winter, the island had a thick layer of ice almost in its entirety.
On a chilly Thursday morning, Toti and I saddled our mounts and began trekking south. Instead of following highway 3, which runs down the coast of the island, we travelled down a dirt road that cut the island in half. It was full of Estancias and offered a more quiet ride with almost no automobile traffic.
Due to the extreme cold temperatures, anywhere from -5 to -16 degrees, the plan was to ride only about 15 – 20 kms a day. About 3 – 4 hours in the saddle. But unfortunately, due to a locked gate on our second day out, the plan went out the window.
At about 5:00 pm we rode up to the ranch where we would stay that night with the sun setting in front of us. When we dismounted our horses and walked up to the gate, my heart almost stopped. A large lock sat on a thick chain preventing us from opening the wooden gate.
“What the heck are we going to do now,” I asked Toti.
He had no answers. We jumped the gate and walked around the ranch calling out. Only a crippled dog came to greet us.
Our friends in Rio Grande had assured us all of the ranches we arrived at would be open, with people awaiting. We asked several times because with the short days and freezing temperatures, any mistake could cost our lives.
After a few minutes contemplating what to do, we decided the only option was to trek to the next ranch – 18 kms south. We were tired, desperate and frozen. Our fingers and toes burning with pain. With the sun now under the horizon, we knew the pain was only starting.
“Man, I hope the next ranch is open because we are going to arrive after 10:00 pm,” I said to Toti as we began our ride with our heads held low.