Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Book Review: How many thousand miles?

I ran across this book weeding the library shelves early last week, and I was immediately hooked (needless to say, the book isn't going anywhere!).

I'm not usually a fan of travel literature, but the sheer magnitude of what this particular traveler set out to do is... mind-boggling.

Tschiffely's Ride by A.F. Tschiffely
So basically, it goes like this: In 1925 A. F. Tschiffely, a young Swiss instructor of English, set out to do what no one had ever done - and the majority of sane people thought to be impossible: ride from Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina to New York City. He would take only what supplies could be carried by his two horses, Mancha and Gato, and his dog. (The dog's company lasted only hours into the first day, and was something of an adventure all by itself.)

In all, bu the time he decided to conclude his ride in Washington D.C., Tschiffely rode over 10,000 miles in around 2 1/2 years, all of it on either Mancha or Gato, two teenage Argentine Criollo horses he'd acquired from a supporter only a few weeks before the start of his ride. (Tschiffely's reason for breaking off his trek? He was concerned for his horses' safety as motorcars were increasingly prevalent and their drivers often did not respect his right to travel the roadways.)

What's truly amazing about Tschiffely's account is as much what isn't written as what is. In spite of the hardships and dangerous situations in which he found himself, he writes mainly of the people and places he encounters, glossing over many incidents which must have threatened to derail his trip entirely.

The book has a few black & white photos, mostly not of the horses, unfortunately. But I was somewhat surprised when I checked online for more information about the breed to find that a) there isn't much out there that's really credible, and b) as pictured, they aren't exactly.... Well, let's just say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's quite obvious that they're tough, hardy, and possessed of rare endurance, however they look!

When I think of the many reasons I've been known to postpone a ride..... An amazing story, even if you're neither a horse person nor a fan of travel literature.

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