Monday, 2 April 2012

Stealing petrol from an ambulance

Argentina's a big place. Unmetalled roads are common and travelling long distances every day is considered the norm. Diego Fontenla regularly travels three or four hundred kilometres between farms in the course of a working day. This probably explains why Argentinians drive at all times at top speed, dodging round slow moving trucks and flying down dirt roads in a cloud of dust.

Friday saw Diego and me visiting another of the farms he manages. He had recently direct-drilled several grass & legume leys and wanted to carry out his weekly check for aphid infestation on the newly emerging plants. The farm was far from civilisation as we westerners know it (and indeed far from any recognisable landmark according to my 'Tom Tom' sat nav which was showing no roads in the area!)
Diego examining the newly emerging grass and alfalfa seedlings for aphid infestation. The larger green plants are volunteer barley seedlings from the previous crop and these were covered in aphids. The seed had been direct drilled after the ground was sprayed off with glyphosate

It was as we were drawing into the first field that Diego gave a curse - swearing is broadly the same the world over, a universal language - tapped the dashboard and said he's forgotten to put in gasoline. Sure enough, the fuel light glowed brightly and the needle was stuck deep in the red. Some Argentinian muttering followed, then a shrug of the shoulders and we continued into the centre of the field.

We got down on our hands and knees and studied the tender seedlings. Aphids were present but only, so far, on the volunteer barley plants. The grasses and alfalfa were free of them. The same was true  of the next few fields we reached. What brought a wry smile to my face was that, despite being low on fuel, Diego left the engine running each time he got out to examine the crop.

We finished the inspection and drove for a while to a nearby farm where the 76 year old female owner of the land lives. Obviously, Diego had a plan to get fuel from here but a brief conversation in Spanish, much shaking of heads and a shrug of the shoulders soon told me there was no petrol to be had at the farm.

We carried on until we reached a village. An inhabitant pointed us in the direction of a local mechanic but again, a shake of the head meant little interpretation was necessary.

We toured the various streets, hoping to find someone selling fuel but with no luck, until fortune suddenly smiled on us. A person Diego knew drove past. He didn't have fuel but knew someone who could help. That someone turned out to be the man who ran the local ambulance. With a smile, he gave us the fuel intended for use in the ambulance.

It was enough to let us limp home to Tres Arroyos. I just hope no-one fell ill that night in that small village far from normal civilisation.....

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