The challenge of plain, jungle,
desert and mountain had been calling to Swiss
schoolteacher Aimé Tschiffely for many
years, and in 1925 he set off with his two horses
from Buenos Aires in Argentina to New York, a
journey of more than 10,000 miles, covering eleven
countries en route. His companions for the trail
were two Argentinian Criollo geldings: Mancha,
a sixteen-year-old red and white overo, and Gato,
a fifteen-year-old buckskin.
Tschiffely has written an incident-packed
account of equestrian, topographical, and anthropological
interests in his Southern Cross to Pole Star.
In it, he relates the many dangers and hardships
he, Mancha & Gato endured throughout the 10,000
miles, as well as the joys and hospitality he
Leaving the civilization of a capital
city, the horses carried him through a wide variation
of terrain and climate, as it could be possible
to encounter. They did it alone, with no back-up-crews
tailing them with creature comforts for man or
horse; with little in the way of communications
available once away from the well-used tracks
and into almost unmapped wilderness that made
up much of their route. 1926 South America saw
many regions still unexplored, or relatively unknown.
Though just over seventy years ago, it was a very
different age, especially in the primitive areas
of the South and Central American countries the
trio traversed and which comprised the bulk of
the epic journey.
The horses used came originally
from the Patagonian pampas. Of the renowned tough
Criollo breed, Tschiffely had the faith in, and
the wish to prove, Criollo supremacy in continuous
work under harsh conditions. Bred almost wild,
they retained an inborn sense of self-preservation
and Tschiffely learnt to respect his horses' judgement
of safety, especially after Gato saved them all
from miring in quicksand and in dry regions they
gave advance warning of water ahead.
Being before the days of modern
veterinary science, old time herbal remedies proved
sovereign, and one item in Tschiffely's pharmacopoeia
was garlic. Used crashed with Indian pepper it
was reputed to keep the bats away, crushed with
alcohol it was a remedy against mountain sickness;
and by itself, again crushed, it was supposed
to be so noxious to snakes that they would stay
away. All three were hazards at differing stages
of the journey and likely to bother men and horses.
Throughout his tale, Tschiffely
pays tribute to Mancha and Gato, their courage
and sagacity; the sheer doggedness displayed in
conditions more often than not adverse. A lot
was asked of two chunky pampas horses and they
gave in generous measure, proving beyond doubt
all that is claimed for them by Criollo aficionados.
In 1974 Gordon Roddick completed
2,000 miles of Tshifelly's Ride and in 1989, James
Greenwood went as far as Peru, Lima, finishing
4,000 miles of the trip.