December 20, 2013
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Buena Onda Backpackers
There was a succession of heavy rain showers that kept us up most of the night. Our room has a metal roof that boomed with each downpour and just when you thought it was over and you’d start to fall back asleep, another rain cloud would open up and dump even more. When the roosters started we had already been awake for a bit so we decided to cut our losses and head into town for an early breakfast. We hit the same area as yesterday but decided on a different place for breakfast. Each day we’ll try a new place and pick our favourite at the end. It was Comedor Tona Dinarte today and though it was a bit more expensive than yesterday (by $2), we did get more fruit.
After breakfast we went to meet one of the hands from Rancho Chilamate who would take us to the ranch and get us all suited up for a day of horseback riding.The ranch is about 20 minutes outside of town and is run by a Canadian expat, Blue. She promised a day of riding in style, finishing with a gallop on the beach and a shot of rum. We pulled into the ranch and up to a set of beautiful blue doors.
When we had suited up Blue matched each horse to their rider and we set off as a group of 8. I was paired up with Cappuchino, a new horse to the group with a saucy personality. Jeff was on an all black guy named Uncle Mort, an older horse that still loved to run. We made our way through a small village, down steep embankments and through streams. The horses mainly knew where to go but still enjoyed testing your resolve with sidetracks and splashes in the river.
Eventually we came to a large field with the ocean just in view between the hills. The field was covered in grass as high as the horses heads and they couldn’t resist stopping for a snack. Pushing them on we ended up on a small, totally empty beach with lots of room for the horses to stretch their legs.
Before it was time for a gallop it was time for a beer and a rest. One of the couples that had come with us were celebrating a birthday and we found out the guy was planning to propose right there on the beach. It was very sweet, she “found” a message in a bottle and when she looked up he was down on one knee! She said yes and as we drank our beer they popped a bottle of champagne.
Leaving the couple to bask in their newfound engageness, the rest of us saddled up and led our horses down to the water. With very little prodding they took off like shots, galloping through the surf and splashing water everywhere. It’s like they had been waiting for that moment all day and given the opportunity they ran like their lives depended on it. Then Cappuchino, the horse I had been riding all morning, changed course suddenly and veered to the right, off the beach and into the tree line. He caught me off guard and I slipped from the saddle a bit. Righting myself and choking up on the reins I tried to steer him back to the beach. We ended up spinning in a circle and he pulled hard into the trees again. I’ve only ridden a couple times before and was nowhere near experienced enough to deal with a horse like this so I pulled back on the reins and got him to stop for a moment so I had the chance to collect myself and figure out what to do. Slowly, I managed to point him to the beach and as I tried to assert my dwindling confidence, he started to listen. We made it halfway back to the beach before Cappuchino pulled again and took off towards the trees. Frustrated I pulled the reins again and he stopped. It was like a game of tug of war, except I knew that between me and a horse, the horse would definitely win.
I was about to give up for the day when one of the guides offered to switch horses. She recognized Cappuchino was giving me a hard time so I traded for Colorado, the biggest in the stable, but the most gentle and one that, “loved to run.” Eagerly I switched over and with a light hand Colorado trotted toward the ocean, lined himself up in the surf and waited. I gently dug my heels in and we were off. I had never galloped before but with an experienced horse he almost made it easy and effortless. I loved the thumping rhythm and the salt water spray that soaked us both. When we reached the end of the beach we turned back and did it again. In all we probably made 4 or 5 passes on the beach, each just as fast as the next. On our last run we were trotting along when I heard a couple horses galloping behind us, Colorado must have heard them too because he started to pick up speed. A horse came up on either side of us and for a brief moment we were galloping three across. It was an adrenaline pumping experience that lasted just long enough to really enjoy it.
Blue is a professional photographer and took pictures the whole time. I’m excited to see them in a couple weeks but I can only imagine the expressions on my face as we ran across that beach. Pure joy mixed with sheer terror.