Argentina, Aguas Blancas : 6th September 2002

I had been asked so many times WHY I had bitten Tusa and my answer is the same as ever… "it was an accident". I prefer not to dwell on this matter (I can write books on men and their ability - or rather lack of - to handle pain) so before we get into a battle of the sexes, I'd rather share some more details of our adventure with you….

We officially left Los Lapachos on the 27th August, 2002 and it was with a heavy heart that Tusa, Miss M and I said goodbye to the Leach family.

Miss M was also given some very good maps by Sheila (a very informed woman who knows a lot about many things and who is originally from Zimbabwe but had to leave years ago because of a terrorist attack on their farm) of Bolivia and we were all relieved that at least our chances to get completely lost had been slightly diminished. Sheila also took pictures of Tusa´s sore back (oh how he loved the attention!) and one of the pictures shows how Caroline Leach treated the wound with an Aloe Vera leaf taped onto his back. He looked seriously comical to say the least!

Chito the gaucho on the Leach's farm escorted us to the main road and from there on it was just the three of us again. Miss M rode me and Tusa was on the leading rope, lazily trotting along behind me. The saddle-bags had been sent on with the Gendarmeria and it put Tusa in great sprits that he could travel lightly to our next destination.

Our first stop was with the Gendarmeria in San Pedro and from their we went to Fraille Pintado and although it was only 28km it took as a full day to get there. It was a terribly hot day (we were later told that it was 40 degrees Celcius in the shade!) and by 12 O´clock Miss M realized that we have to stop. There were not many trees to find cover under but Miss M spotted a little settlement in the distance and we went to investigate if there was any life at all. A very friendly and helpful man called Louis invited Miss M in while Tusa and I were given water by one of his workers. Well, it was so hot with a strong warm wind blowing dust in our faces that we only left around four that afternoon. Miss M got fed a tasty pasta dish and lots of home-made limonade (water, fresh lemon and sugar). Just outside San Pedro and again before you enter Fraille Pintado, we encountered two groups of picaterras, people who rebel against the poor economic situation in Argentina and who hold up and disrupt the traffic, but we had no problems with them at all and no-one tried to stop us. We got a few whistles from a couple of boys and just trotted through as if a 150 people obstructing the road was the most usual thing to see! Rio Zora was our next stop and when we arrived lunchtime hot and sweaty, Miss M with a few of the Gendarmeria men took us to the river for a nice wash. We were still bugged a lot by the midges and mosquitoes and Miss M´s ankle was very badly swollen from all the bites. We told her not to scratch but she didn't pay much attention to our warnings and the infected part took on all the colors of the rainbow for a few days. I just have to add as well that Miss M is the worst patient ever and I know Miss Caroline Casey will be able to vow for this. We heard via the grapevine about a certain incident just before Miss M left Ireland that basically involved the two of them having too many glasses (or shall I tell the truth and say bottles?) of champagne, dancing around to Cyndi Lauper and before they realized what happened, Miss M on the floor with a sprained ligament!

But enough gossip. Back to our travels…..

Yuto was about 130km from Los Lapachos and we started to get a bit tired from the everyday traveling and the only thing that kept us going was Miss M´s promise that we will take a short break once we get to Oran. The Perez family received us in Colonia Santa Rosa and everybody was very curious and intrigued about our travels across the america´s. The gaucho on the farm named Juan offered to accompany Miss M to Oran as he claimed to have knowledge of a short road. I am afraid "claim" is the appropriate word as our supposedly 15km to the Gendarmeria turned into a nightmare ride for more than seven hours. We went through a jungle for almost two hours with branches and trees hitting our faces and scratching our bodies while the gaucho like a real crocodile dundee cut his way open in front of us with a machete. After that it was hours along sugar cane fields and when it got dark and we couldn't spot any life or lights anywhere, we realized we were lost. Communication between Miss M and the gaucho was non-existent at this stage and the sulking gaucho started to trail behind further and further. At this stage Miss M was walking, leading Mise and Mise was leading me and we walked in the pitch dark on a dirt road for about 6 kilometers until we reached a police control and help finally arrived.

We had a great time with the Gendarmeria in Oran and Tusa and I got to roam the grounds as much as we liked. Miss M stayed in a room with her own bathroom and she couldn't stop talking about how friendly and helpful everybody had been. Jorge Lugo, a 1st Liteunant, spoke very good English and for the few days that we spent there he assisted Miss M with everything. He also organized for two lads who have farrier skills to give us new back-shoes, got the knives and machete sharpened, arranged so that she can use a computer, got the local doctor to give her an injection when she had an allergic reaction from the insect bites and acted as translator for two radio interviews. From Oran it was off to another Gendarmeria base and finally we arrived at Aquas Blancas, the Argentine border town.

That evening was very hectic as Miss M with the help of Eduardo LaRey tried to organize our smooth entry into Bolivia for the next day and it was quite late before Miss M had all the appropriate papers, signatures and stamps. She changed her Peso's into Boliviano's and had dreams that night about what lies ahead of us going into a new country all by ourselves.

Our departure the next morning didn't happen without its problems and 30 meters towards the Bolivian border, the pack on Tusa went completely lopsided (one of the men who did the tying obviously didn't know his elbow from his ass -apologies but I couldn't express this better) and with all the kicking and jumping one of the saddle-bags got damaged. We went back to base and Miss M went with some lads to Oran to get the bags fixed and also to find a better solution for tying up the pack. She arrived back later that evening, satisfied that everything is under control and set her alarm for a very early start.

Our next update will be from Bolivia so watch this space!!!

Before I forget…. Miss M reminded me to mention the websites of her friend and patron Caroline Casey who had been supporting the TATA Challenge from the very beginning. Miss Casey had a wonderful adventure last year when she went across India on an elephant, Go to www.theaislingfoundation.org and if you want news about her latest adventure, just click on www.aroundtheworldineightyways.com

And off course this also the ideal opportunity to mention two of our big sponsors... The one is DHL, the multi-national courier company who makes sure that all our films and important belongings arrive safely in Ireland and also that we can receive certain things we need over here in a jiffy. Recently a magazine in South Africa called Rooi Rose needed pictures of our travels for an article that will appear in October and again DHL was there with excellent service, ensuring safe arrival of these. The other company who supports TATA, is DELL Computers and they were so kind to give Miss M a wonderful, state of the art, lightweight and compact laptop, the Latitude C400. This laptop is ideal for traveling and great to do our daily diaries and off course all the updates for our website as well. A big thanks to DELL and DHL!!!!!!!!!!!

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