THEY ALLOW HORSES
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14
The nearest pollution must be hundreds of Ks to the north. I am struck by the clarity of light and the extraordinary depth of blue in the sky. The blue is reflected in the lake on the approach to Sarmiento. The lake at Villa del Chocon was the same amazing blue. So was Lake Titicaca. I have seen parrots today. I have seen flamingos graze in ponds alongside sheep and Hereford cattle. Awareness that flamingo breed in the Andes fails to make their presence any less surprising. Those long thin legs should freeze and snap.
Now, in evening, I pass cars parked by a bridge on the outskirts of Sarmiento and Sunday fisherman walking with their fly rods along the riverbank.
I turn off the road at a sign offering B&B. Dogs greet me kindly. A woman shows me a bunkroom. She rents the room with its six beds and use of a kitchen for $20. I don’t have use for six bunks. Nor can I use the kitchen. My logic confronts her prices. My logic fails. I take a room in town at the Hotel Ismir for $15. The room is miserable. So am I. I am tired. I have ridden 600 Ks. I have hay fever or a streaming head cold. I shower and walk a couple of blocks in search of a restaurant. Joy is foreign to Sermiento in a gale. People huddle and watch TV. Bungalows shrink within themselves. The Hotel Colon is a rarity. I spy six men at the bar. I guess that they missed out on church serviced and have been at the bar much of the day. How will they view an intruder? A Brit? I pass half a dozen times before getting my courage up. A set of aluminium doors leads into a porch from which more doors open to the bar. The doors are ill fitting. They grate and squeak and clatter. An army tank would make less noise. Conversation ends. The six men at the bar turn on their stools and inspect me. So does the owner. So does he wife.
I hold my hands above my head in surrender. “I am a Brit,” I say. “Am I allowed?”
“They allow horses,” says a man in a flat gaucho hat.
Posted by Simon Gandolfi at October 26, 2006 01:16 AM GMT