Having traveled west from the UK, I was awake before the cockerel could remind the songbirds to begin the morning chorus. I slipped from my bed covers and padded across the polished floor through cool fresh air to the window. Just the faintest paling in the sky lightened the deep blue of night. I snuggled back into the comfort of my bed and enjoyed the cozy warmth, dozing whilst I waited for sensible people to awaken and begin preparing breakfast.
A warm shower later, I headed out of my room. My route to the breakfast room meandered pleasingly past prickly pears, the flowers like sulphur yellow stars on fleshy leaves. Cosmos flowers showed their rose tinted faces everywhere. Already a jeweled hummingbird was darting from one scarlet bloom to another.
With fresh fruit, orange juice, granola, eggs, toast and coffee having fortified me for the next few years it was time to go and meet my steed, ‘Calypso’, for our day’s adventure. Our group of four were up for thrills and our guide was happy to oblige. The ride started with a gentle amble from the ranch to the river where the horses could cool their hooves as we crossed. Then we turned in a new direction, heading past small farms and groups of houses, crops and flowers coloring the land in a patchwork that tempted the eye in all directions.
Where the path was clear, our guide glanced back; his grin enveloping his face and his hat sweeping from his head as he held it aloft. ‘Ready’ came his call and the horses shifted and jostled. ‘Ok!’; the signal to go, that the horses know and love. No urging was required with these mounts, as Jenny knew we wanted to go fast and had picked them as eager, fit and willing. If we had felt more like a gentle ride, horses were available for that too. Groups were arranged to suit our mood and experience.
Our horses loved to run, and run they did. Exhilarating moments later our guide signalled a return to walking pace. Laughing with excitement we chattered amongst ourselves as the horses snorted and heaved their breath back. As the clock neared noon, the sun lifted heady aromas all around us; the earth and crops, with distinctive signature in the hot sultry air. Even the horses fell into a kind of walking torpor, just the twitch of an ear betraying their wakefulness. The smell and creak of leather, mixed with the sweet aroma of hot horse, filled the air as the land began to change once more. We dropped down onto green water meadow, the grass lush and fragrant. One sharp word to Calypso halted his sneaky attempt to grab a mouthful, his guilty start testament to his knowledge of his misdemeanor.
A short while later a new sound began to fill the air. Almost imperceptibly, the river’s path we paralleled became steeper. The water, urged on by the slope, started hurrying and chattering as it negotiated rock and gulley. Trees of great girth (the arm-span of five large men could maybe encircle one) lined both sides of the river bank that disappeared into a gorge. The trees gave away their origin with their rich coniferous resin scent; large pine trees that grew tall enough to shade the sun and dark enough to make it cool. A clearing opened to our delighted and astonished eyes. Somehow, magically, the staff from the ranch had brought all that was required for a lunchtime feast. We tethered our horses and they took rest, blowing through their nostrils in contented snorting sighs.
The happy, smiling faces of our hosts gave away their delight at our pleasure at this surprise. The food was delicious and plentiful; the drink cool and refreshing; all served up with generous portion of happy chatter.
After our meal, some of us sat on the warm grass, the sun playing on our faces. Others explored the twilight on the banks of the river under the trees; the pine needles softening the ground and filling the air with their heady musk.
Our journey home took a different path, new sights and sounds. The talk between us comfortable and satisfied amongst new found friends. A thank you to Calypso signalled my pleasantly weary return to my room. A shower, then refreshing margaritas or rich piña coladas, the prelude to our group evening meal with happy stories and luscious wine to accompany the food. Now sleep………
Written by Mark Sutherland from Wales