Three Hours on a Horse
There are times when it's just best to just take a chance and go for it without looking back. This was one of those times.
I was staying at my favorite hideaway -- Hacienda San Lucas in Copán for a few days. It was time to get away, unplug and let the magic of tranquility, good people, beautiful surroundings with ancient history all around and fabulous food take the place of the whirlwind of everyday life.
I'd been wanting to visit Finca el Cisne. The farm produces coffee, cacao, cardamom and cattle. I'd heard about it since I first moved to Honduras and with three days available to me, Flavia, our host at San Lucas made it possible, but arranging for me to join a group that week.
This finca is known for its coffee, Cacao and Cardamom production and all with the environment and sustainability in mind and I was anxious to experience it all.
Flavia sent me into town, down the rough, unpaved road from the solitude of San Lucas into Copán Ruinas to meet up with the ride to the finca. Nine of us piled into the small bus and headed up to the farm. The rolling countryside was a lush green from all the rain as we rode past streams and creeks, beautiful palms and pines. We saw cows and birds and I knew that what lurked out there in the miles of jungle was all kinds of unfamiliar flora and fauna.
At one point, the family in the back of the van set into panic mode. One of the teenagers realized he left his money belt with passport and hundreds of dollars squirreled away under his pillow in the hostel they'd just checked out of.
I sprang into action, pulling out my cell phone -- we hadn't climbed too far off the grid at that point so I still had a signal and made quick call to Flavia to see if she could help. I hadn't planned on her running around town, I just thought she may have known the hostel owner and could make a call, but she got the San Lucas driver to help find the hostel and after a bit of time they had the wallet in hand and ready to hand off late that night.
Whew! It could have been a real problem had that passport gone missing. The nearest American Embassy was many hours away and their next stop the following day was the airport for a few days in Roatán.
After an hour we made it to the farm and were met by the most charming host -- Carlos. Everyone else was staying overnight and hurried to put their bags away so we could get on with our tour.
I was so excited to learn about the farm, but there was one problem; I was on the tail end of a wicked cold and could. not. smell. anything! I mean nothing. Nada. Nunca. Zip. Zilch. All those strong aromas and I'd get none of it. Next time -- because there will be a next time.
When everyone came out of their rooms, they were dressed for a tour in the mountains -- on the back of a horse. I was dressed for a quiet Thursday afternoon at the farm. Oversized flowing shirt, comfortable traveler's pants and Tom's shoes with iPhone in hand and DSLR over my shoulder, ready to capture all the wonders of the adventure.
I was NOT dressed for THREE HOURS ON TOP OF A HORSE! Yikes! What was in store for me? I was worried. I thought this horseback riding thing was a short ride, and quickly learned it was to be a three hour journey.
Carlos got the idea that I was not prepared for this and I think I saw a slight wave of, "Oh man, this woman is going to slow us down and cause all kinds of problems" come over him. But he took a breath and told me I'd be fine as he looked at my shoes.
Unlike the US, there are no forms to complete waiving anyone of anything in case of injury or worse. There are no mandatory helmets to put on. It's just flat-out, get on a horse and ride with us through our expansive property and see all the wonders of farming, growing, cultivating, and producing in Honduras kind of moment -- throwing caution to the wind. This is living outside the lines.
I took a deep breath and headed out to meet my ride.
I managed to make it up onto Luna without too much effort or embarrassment. It took just one guy to help foist me up there and I settled into the leather saddle and took the reigns in my hands.
Carlos explained the basics of riding, we practiced for a few minutes and off we went.
I met a really cool couple -- Jane and Duncan -- from Australia who I am very happy to have connected with. They're living the dream, traveling for the past 6 months, making an around the world tour with a long period of time in Central America -- no major plans involved. Just experiencing life outside the lines.
We made it to the coffee production area and Carlos explained the process in great detail. He took us to see the buildings where production happens, but we were out of season so we learned about the process, but couldn't see it in action. It was all left to our imaginations.
Jane's horse, Sonja, was a bit grumpy that day and seemed to want to bite Duncan's horse whenever she could, so I made a real effort to stay away from her. I did not want Luna to rear up if she was bitten.
Luna, I was told by a few, was a sweet horse, she would be great for my lack of horseback riding skills trotted. She cantered. And from time to time, this sweet girl would gallop! My mission, for the next three hours was to not fall off the horse for a few reasons:
- How embarrassing would that be -- fall off and then have to be helped back up while everyone watched and waited
- I had an expensive camera around my neck and a treasured cell phone in my pocket and didn't want to have to deal with broken technology
- The thought of potential injury in the city is scary enough, but out in the mountains with nothing around -- yikes! A broken anything would surely be disastrous
- Oh, and did I mention ... my jefe, Brian is a horse guy as well. Comes from a ranching family and I've seen him get up on a horse, well, not a real horse, but during "Cowboy Night" last year at our annual strategy conference, they brought in this huge, enormous, as tall as the Empire State Building, molded horse for us to get on and try our hand at roping a cow. Ok, so it was a small cow on wheels, but the horse was HUGE! It took two guys to get me up on said horse and I understand there is horrifying video of the event out there somewhere. Having to admit to Brian, the New Mexican Horse guy who roped that cow in seconds without needing a second try that I fell off a nice, calm, easy-going horse in Copán was something I knew I would NEVER live down -- it might even be a career-limiting move.
- And finally, if I fell off, I'd have to come back to San Pedro and to work on Monday and admit not only to the team, but to my compatriot, an avid horse guy himself -- he owns horses, rides horses, doesn't wear fancy cowboy boots and spends his home leave trips at home taking care of his horses and making sure he has enough hay for them to live on until his next trip home to Colorado.
So I held on for dear life and other than the stirrups pulling my ankles in at a most uncomfortable angle and the stiff, sore bones and muscles in my body the next couple of days, it was a really fun time and I got to see what I came for and to experience the incredibly beautiful countryside. And I made a couple of nice friends as well. We sat down to a delicious farm lunch with a salad from the garden and beef from the -- well... cattle on the farm and laughed about our adventures and celebrated the successes of our three hours on a horse.
If you ever have the chance to come to Honduras, I can't recommend a trip to Finca el Cisne enough.
Next up, another post about spending quality time at my favorite place with some of my favorite people at Hacienda San Lucas.