Cowboy Steve and Quicksilver

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Click here for pictures from Salta. Another sunny, beautiful day in Salta. Our last day and night before heading to Cafayate, the land of delicious white wine, particularly a variety known as Torontes. For a final fun experience, half of our group decided we´d go out for a half day of horseback riding, then a lazy afternoon in the city, hence my time to blog right now. Argentineans in this region are definitely leaning towards more of a desert-like frontier, and that means there are plenty of cowboys and riding to be done. They apparently don´t ride western style. I didn´t know what that meant. The short version is that they have diferent saddles, and use only one hand, rather than two on western style. I was quite excited to do this, in spite of the fact that I really have no horse experience. This will come into play later in my story, believe me 😉 The start to our day was a little confusing, as we hadn´t really been given much information on how the day was arranged, ultimately, we were picked up by two taxis at 9:30, and headed to a place called San Lorenzo, which I think is a rich enclave not far from Salta, the land is much more lush, and the houses quite large. As the cowboys put it, mucho deniro. read on.

We got to the beginning spot, with horses parked at the road side of a little structure where we signed in. Here, we were made to sign forms, likely releases of liability, but also telling us to listen to our guides at all times. We signed, and we were pretty much off. Yup, no real lesson, just a quick show how to mount the horse, and how to work ´the controls´. Seemed pretty easy. My mount´s nams was something like Palija, which I think is a type plant or leaf. Other horses included gringo, picasso, and other names I didn´t catch. My fella was the only white horse in the lot, and also the youngest at 5 years. I figured it would mean he´d be up for some speed and fun. He definitely was. Jody and I´s horses both made a point to stay at the front of the group. Cool. At first. However, I should now mention that I´ve never galloped on a horse. In fact, I think I´ve only been on horses twice in my life. However, here, they assumed we had some experience, so we broke into full gallops. Very cool.

At first.

Then, I had a touch of bad luck. Alan and I (south african adventure racer) had been chatting, and gone slightly off course. We tried to correct, and just as I was turning, Alan´s horse sort of cut us off, my horse dove for the only opening, a gap in two trees. What he didn´t calculate was the branches. There was a rather large one just over his head. Yeah, just at my height, I tried to duck as best as possible, but my backpack caught the branch, and off I went. No biggie. I calmed him down, while one of the wranglers laughed, and readjusted my saddle. I wasn´t too concerned, since it wasn´t really my fault. We went a little further, and broke once again into a gallop. This is when my body realized it really didn´t know what to do. For a bit, all went well for me. I rode (well, bounced) like the wind. Sadly, before long, I started feeling I didn´t have control, I tried slowing Palija down, and must have accidentally pulled slightly to the left, causing him to try and turn, I fell off the saddle. Half on, half off the horse for a while, until I realized I wouldn´t get back up, so I dropped myself. Yeah, you read right. I fell off again. Full gallop this time. Again, no big deal, didn´t get hurt, well, except my ego of course! However, I regained my cool immediately, and was right by my horse, rubbing his muzzle, and calming him down, they don´t like things like that I think. The wranglers were laughing again. Both at my bad luck, but also at my ability to bounce right back up. They were then informed I had never really been on a horse, and they communicated they were quite impressed with my first attempt. Hooray me. Thrown twice in the first hour! From that point, I decided I´d have to allow only a trot from ´quicksilver´ the new name I gave my horse. The cowboys laughed again at the name I christened my steed with.

I apologized to the group, because it ultimately meant no one really got to gallop much, but they were all pretty cool about it. I must say though, I definitely loved it. Something I´ll do again. The other horses also had personalities, with one of them constantly stopping to eat, then getting mad when the others kept going, and ran after them. It was a lot of fun, and good way to spend 3 hours. 4 would´ve been too long though. So we were glad we only paid for 3. We finished off, enjoyed a bottle of Coke, then cabbed back to the city. I think our swiss miss, Sabine, inadvertantly made a date with one of the cowboys for later this day. We´re all anxious to see if he shows up at the Pena Folklorica tonight. This is a cultural show we´re going too. Well, that´s it for now. I´m off to find somewhere that will burn my photos to CD for me. I hear they´ll do it for 2 pesos (about 75 cents). After all, I´ve already got one full card! Till next time, hope all´s well and the cold isn´t getting you down. I´m sweltering in 36 degrees here. I can´t believe they told us to bring thermal underwear. Oh well.

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