Journey America Part 2

Pack trip gone bad

When I arrived at Ronaldo’s ranch, I felt like I was in Montana or Colorado. It was like nothing I had ever seen in Latin America. The barn was huge and made of large wooden logs, the stalls were massive and the horses… the horses were the best Quarter Horse blood on the planet.
Constructed on the foothills of the Andes, his riding arena has the most spectacular view of Lake Nahuel Huapi and the majestic mountains behind it.
“This was a dream of mine for a long time,” the Brazilian cowboy said, showing me his installations.
Looking up at the mountain that climbed towards the heavens behind his ranch, he made an invitation I couldn’t refuse.
“We should take a pack trip up to the summit of this mountain together,” Ronaldo said.
Sure I was tired and sore from the past 11 months on the road, but I couldn’t refuse the offer. While I trekked towards Bariloche I imagined myself eating sushi and drinking cold beers while sleeping in a comfortable bed. But like many times on this journey, resting was only an option served to Sapo and Picasso. For me it was more riding and even more adventure.
On a gloomy day, Ronaldo, two argentinian horseman and myself began climbing the beast of a mountain behind the ranch. We used Criollos and Quarter Horses from the ranch to ride and carry our pack saddle.
Only a few hours up the harrowing trail we were hit with heavy rains and worst – hail. Large white pebbles fell from the sky with force and landed on our heads and our mounts’. We trekked silently through slippery and hairy trails.
Wet and tired, we found an old hunting cabin with no roof, and made camp. Over succulent meat and fiery whiskey, we found warmth and comfort while telling fibs. Everything was going to plan until our mounts ran away the next morning.
I dropped my jeans to my ankles and squatted behind a mighty pine tree. I had just drank my morning coffee and nature came a calling. Out here on the lonely road south, the woods is the only bathroom available.
In a daze, staring at the snow tipped mountains and the sparkling blue lake far beneath in the horizon, I was startled when the ground started shaking.
“Oh no, thundering hooves,” I thought to myself.
I quickly whipped my neck around just in time to catch a glimpse of three of our horses galloping down the mountain. They were running all out down the same trail we had fought our way up the previous day.
I didn’t know if I should start running or pull my pants up. We were 1000 metres above sea level in the middle of the Andes Cordillera and now horseless. Things were not looking good.
After two hours walking down the mountain following the horse’s hoof prints in the deep mud, we found our ponies happily grazing in a gorgeous meadow. We slowly approached them and carefully captured the sweaty beasts, only to discover that one of the horses had broken his lead rope on the way down.
“Someone will have to ride this horse bareback with no lead rope,” said Ronaldo while everyone turned their gaze to me.
Obviously, minutes later, I held the Chestnut’s mane as we trotted up the slippery and steep mountain. It was a hairy trail that took us across jagged rock faces, shallow rivers and scary cliffs. All while I fought to stay on my mounts back, slipping further and further back as we trekked up 45 degree angles.
“Wow, I don’t even know what to say, this is one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen” I said when we finally stepped upon the summit offering a gorgeous vista.
“You are one of a few humans who has ever stepped up here before my friend,” said Ronaldo with a strong tap on my back.