Journey America Part 2
Wildfires Ahead 02.03.17
My 2017 got off to a rough start.
On January 3, at 5:30 am with the sun still hidden under the horizon, I mounted Picasso and ponied Sapo with the pack saddle on his back. My new friends Luis and Roberto rode out of town with me along with other friends.
“Filipe if you need anything don’t be afraid to call,” Luis said giving me a strong hug from atop his steed.
Roberto gave me two books as a gift before we parted ways. One was the story of an Argentinian female Long Rider who made an extraordinary journey and the other was Tschiffely’s book about his car trip to Tierra del Fuego.
“I hope these books make your nights in the tent more enjoyable,” Roberto said as I shoved the books into the orange panniers.
Alone, I continued south.
At lunchtine I arrived in a little town called Argerich where a Uruguayan woman awaited my arrival.
“Welcome to my humble home,” she said with a smile on her face.
I unsaddled the boys and allowed them to graze while we entered her home, western store. My host poured me a cold glass of water and cut up some fresh ham and cheese for me to eat. It was delicious!
We talked about dreams, life and Uruguay. It was both intense and amazing. I loved it.
After resting for two hours I saddled the boys back up and continued towards Medanos, only 10 kilometres south. Smoke filled the air and the sky glowed a weird shade of orange.
“There are some horrible fires burning up ahead,” my host said to me shaking her head.
I knew that wild fires were burning up the province of La Pampa since christmas, but I didn’t know they had entered the province of Buenos Aires.
When I arrived in Medanos, it was as if I was entering an apocalyptic film. Breathing became a battle as smoke choked the horses and I, ash blew into our faces with force and the sky looked like it was on fire – the sun a ball of fire, covered with grey clouds of smoke.
“At this point we dont know if you will be able to ride out tomorrow son, the highway has been closed because the fire is burning up on both sides,” a big Gaucho who was friends with Luis from Bahia said to me.
As I untacked the boys loud sirens screamed, calling all volunteer firefighters to the fire station. My heart beat with force. I worried about my ponies and my own life.
“Two women were burned alive in their car an hour ago, they tried to turn around on the highway because they couldn’t see anything with the heavy smoke. A truck hit them as they made the u-turn,” a journalist who came to take photos of us told the Gauchos who were hosting me.
We all looked at the sky in silence. In sadness. In fear.