Of La Sierra Cavalcade
decided to write this chronicle as a present to my friends,
Lucia and Pepe, so they could use it for their web page.
Since I'm a rather private and reserved person, this chronicle
will appear under the alias of Paloma Palomino, rather
than my own. I have ridden horses all my life, but always
inside the arena. For years and years, Lucia and Pepe
had been inviting me to join them on one of the several
horse treks they make, but I had never accepted. Finally
this last spring of 2001, I joined a group of international
riders that had also gone to enjoy this "cavalcade", as
my friends call their horseback-riding vacation. I was
pleasantly surprised to discover that this "first world"
horse trek is run with "European accuracy" by two horse
lovers who really enjoy what they are doing, which is
why they do it so well.
chronicle is a brief collection of my daily impressions,
which I took to writing each evening before going to sleep.
Readers will find many of the Spanish words used by the
hosts to name local concepts. I hope these paragraphs
help foreign riders have a better idea of how great a
vacation one can spend in Mexico, especially when one
is lucky enough to come across such excellent horses and
coming from abroad arrive to the Mexico City International Airport
on a Saturday and after passing the migration area should go to
Gate "E" to find the shuttle service that departs every 15 minutes
to "Hotel Aeropuerto Plaza". Reservations have been made with anticipation,
so riders can go directly to the front desk with their confirmation
number and ask for their rooms. This day's meals are not included,
but a nice restaurant with Mexican food and music can be recommended
by someone at the front desk. Taxis taken inside the hotel are safe
and someone at the front desk can even make arrangements for a guide
to take you to the Saturday Bazaar in San Angel, or to the Zocalo
area where you can visit the National Palace, the Cathedral and
the Aztec ruins. A longer trip can be made to the Teotihuacan Pyramids
or to the floating gardens of Xochimilco, but what is most recommended
is a tour of the great National Museum of Anthropology on Reforma
THE CAR TRIP
breakfast is not included, but the service at the hotel restaurant
is nice, cheap and quick - which is important, since riders must
be ready with their luggage at 8:00 a.m. to meet the outfitters
in the hotel lobby, to begin the car trip to Valle de Bravo. The
trip is two-and-a-half hours long and crosses the west side of one
of the biggest cities in the world. Just before the entrance to
the Toluca toll highway, the route passes through "Santa Fe", a
new development filled with slick, modern buildings. While one section
of "Santa Fe" is composed of educational facilities with private
universities and schools, another boasts the largest and most exclusive
shopping mall in the city. An incredible assortment of business
and residential high-rises, as well as individual homes that stand
side by side in a strange competition of modern architectural design.
The highway continues climbing into the forest that surrounds the
western side of Mexico City. With a little luck, from there, you
can see the eastern side of the big valley with its two magnificent
volcanoes: the "Popocatepetl", which is still active, and the "Ixtlacihuatl"
or "La Mujer Dormida" ("Sleeping Woman"). The road continues climbing,
reaching altitudes of over 10,000 feet above sea level. It begins
its descent toward another valley and the city of Toluca, the capital
of the state of Mexico. A great statue of Emiliano Zapata on horseback
welcomes you to Toluca and its impressive industrial landscape.
Rows of factories, separated by magnificent gardens and trees, line
an impressive eight-lane highway . A great deal of internationally-known
firms have established factories in this area, such as Corona and
Sol beer companies, pharmaceutical giants such as Bayer and Pfizer,
and even major automotive firms such as Daimler-Chrysler, Nissan,
and General Motors.
After surrounding the outskirts of Toluca, the road goes into the
forest, reaching, once again, altitudes of more than 10,000 ft above
sea level, where fir trees grow at the foot of another volcano,
"El Volcan de Toluca". With an altitude over 15,000 ft, this inactive
volcano has a great lagoon inside its crater. It is also called
"El Nevado" (nevado means "snowed-on"), because it's the only mountain
in the region that shows off a snow-covered tip during certain times
of the year. After this last climb, the road descends definitively,
sloping through dense fir tree forests that begin to mix with different
varieties of pines. As the road continues its descent, the fir trees
disappear and many different varieties of oak emerge, resulting
in a breathtaking mixture of colors within the pines. With such
beautiful views, two hours seem like ten minutes and one barely
notices the time. Suddenly, a stupendous golf course appears on
the right side of the road. The name "Rancho Avandaro" was given
to this place by its owners in reference to their first golf course,
hotel & spa resort called "Avandaro", which hosted the equestrian
sports of the 1968 Olympic Games. Some houses lining the roadside
let you know that you're arriving to Valle de Bravo. After passing
a curve, all of a sudden, a wonderful blue lake appears and the
road becomes a cobblestone street, typical to Valle de Bravo.
in Valle de Bravo, the brief and pleasant drive up to "Finca Enyhe"
crosses the town from end to end. Narrow streets, white walls, balconies
with flowers, Spanish tile roofs, and all kinds of shops keep your
eyes and mind entertained, as you approach the "downtown" or central
area of town. Contrary to other Mexican towns, where the main square
is called "La Plaza", locals in Valle de Bravo call the main square
"El Jardin" (the garden). A "kiosko" (kiosk) and a church sit amid
a garden which in turn is surrounded by several old, two-story buildings.
After a right turn, more shops, some hotels and several restaurants
adorn and liven the roadside. Most of these establishments only
open for the weekend, when visitors from Mexico City travel to Valle
de Bravo in order to rest for one or two days trying to recover
from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
In 1521, shortly after the Spanish conquest, the "conquistadores"
heard of a village where the Aztecs made sacrifices in honor to
their god of the sun. Worried that these Aztecs could also use this
location as a gathering place for rebellious warriors, some Spanish
soldiers were sent to the village. This was the way the Spanish
began to settle in what is now Valle de Bravo. For over four centuries,
local people earned their living by plowing the rich land of this
region, naturally irrigated with the melted snow from "El Nevado",
which springs out in the form of rivers and streams that run into
In 1945, modern technology arrived to Valle de Bravo. A new road
was made to communicate the town, and a dam was built in its agricultural
valley to feed a water-powered electrical plant. As a consequence,
a beautiful artificial lake was created, close to an old settlement
next to "La Peņa", an ancient rock for Aztec sacrifices. The use
of the water that came through the rivers into the valley changed.
Instead of using it for local irrigation, it was used to generate
electricity for Valle de Bravo and for some other nearby towns.
People from Toluca and Mexico City could then travel by car to visit
the town and the new lake located in the middle of evergreen forests.
After some years, the calm and isolated old town had become a touristic
weekend resort. People came in, bought land, and new weekend houses
were built in the town, on the hills and in some far-away places
inside the woods. A big change came for the peasants who now began
offering different types of services as builders, housekeepers,
gardeners, cooks, etc. Today, Valle de Bravo is one of the most
important touristic lakeshores in Mexico. Many families from Mexico
City come every weekend to enjoy the town and practice one of several
sports. Sailing, water-skiing, kayaking, golfing, horseback-riding,
mountain-biking, hand-gliding, or just walking and mingling around
the town are all popular activities.
the car continues through a wider street and climbs up into the
hills that are in the back part of the town. After climbing a while,
you can catch a different view of the lake, as it peaks out from
behind the Spanish tile-roofed houses. The big rock, "La Peņa",
with magnificent houses built all around it, can be seen clearly,
as a peninsula that enters the lake. The street curves left and
right, climbing and descending. Finally, a black gate with a stone
horse head appears on one side. This is the main entrance to "Finca
Pulling the chain that hangs from a pole, the classical ring of
a bell announces your arrival. Immediately, a man comes running
down, opens the gate, and lets the car in through a narrow access
bordered by huge bamboo trees on one side and a great variety of
bushes and trees on the other. Once inside the property, the first
thing you see is a big working patio surrounded by high stone walls
and a magnificent white, two-story building with balconies adorned
with wrought-iron railing and a blue frame around each window. Blue
letters spelling the word ENYHE
curve over a
huge arched gate set in the center of the building.
The two and a half hour drive has finally come to an end. The appearance
of the finca is marvelous, but the car doesn't stop there, it crosses
the patio and continues again through another pathway. This time,
you feel like you're entering a jungle. The path is shaded by huge
trees and runs alongside the bottom of a depression. On either side,
a wide variety of lush, tropical shade plants grow without restraint,
leaving only a narrow path for the car which continues along its
way, brushing against the leaves, occasioning a flower or two to
drop. A short, steep, last climb and a house appears.
The front view of the house is imposing. A white, fifteen-foot-high,
facade supports an antique wooden door. Six vertical windows are
both protected and beautifully decorated by handmade wrought-iron
gates. A row of "macetas" with different types of flowers are shaded
beneath a huge avocado tree. At one end of this terrace, a spectacular
view of the lake shows through the vegetation. The car stops next
to the door and the passengers get down and stretch their legs.
Once again the sound of a bell is heard and the hosts open the door
to welcome the visitors.
Entering the house, one's soul and mind is transported to bygone
times. A breathtaking and colorful patio is surrounded by four corridors
with arcs. Hammocks hang from column to column, making a silent
invitation to rock oneself on them. The noise of the water dripping
in a fountain catches your attention and makes you turn your head
to the center of the patio where the purple flowers of the bougainvilleas
mix with the pink flowers of two great bushes called "Pata de Vaca"
(cow hoof). Multicolor geraniums in "macetas" mark a line dividing
the patio from the corridors.
A glass of water and the opportunity to use the restroom is offered
to the riders while the luggage is taken down to the rooms. Each
room is decorated with Mexican handicrafts and regional furniture
from different towns in Mexico. All rooms are wide and comfortably
furnished, with spacious bathrooms and hand painted tiles and accessories.
An appointment to meet in the living room is set for half an hour
after arrival, in order to allow the riders to rest a while and
arrange their belongings. During this initial gathering in the living
room, the hosts explain some rules and the way they work to riders,
in addition to going over schedules for the different days, and
the details of the route. Useful advice on how the horses are handled
comes in handy. Afterwards, a lunch is offered on a large, thick,
one-piece, wooden table, set in the garden beneath the shade of
a "pergola" that supports five magnificent purple wisterias.
Once the lunch has finished, the riders are introduced to their
horses. Walking across the spectacular garden where, among other
flowers, paradise bird flowers grow, a hidden gate located in a
corner leads to a second garden with a small pond, an orchard with
lots of different fruit trees, and a terrace with "barro" (Mexican
clay) floors with a panoramic view of the town, the lake and the
surrounding mountains. Completing this scenario, just beneath your
feet, you see a great tile roof that shades a line of stalls. On
the left you can see the riding arena encircled by a bamboo fence
and, at the end, a line of arcs supporting more stalls with the
houses of the grooms over them. On the opposite side you see a beautiful
building where the office and the tack room are located. The fourth
side, a wall covered with different types of plants, completes a
square in which the grass grows wildly and in the center, a strange
tree with a spiny trunk, a "ceiba", is waiting to one day shade
the eight poles from where eight magnificent horses are tied.
Walking down a stairway, the riders find the patio with the big
gate with the word ENYHE painted above it. Coming in through this
gate, you find the tack room. It is astonishing!!! A big white saloon,
longer than wider, with wooden beams supporting the roof and the
classical "barro" floor. At the center of the room, three pairs
of long beams filled with different types of saddles hang from the
roof. A host of saddles hang down from the beams, whether Western,
English, Mexican, Spanish, or Australian-style saddles, used or
new, for men, women, or children. A few empty spaces reveal that
some horses have been saddled. Near to the entrance, three beautiful,
old-fashioned, hand-made, strange leather dresses called "anqueras",
used for breaking young horses, are piled one over the other. The
four walls are filled with horseshoe hooks from where bridles, reins,
bits, halters, spurs, whips, ropes, and all kinds of horse stuff
hangs. Below the hooks, as if on exhibit, a line of wooden saddle
stands with many Mexican saddles stand erect. All of them have different
types of leatherwork; some with silver, some others with an embroidery
called "chomiteado" and others with the famous "piteado" that is
done with the maguey fiber. In one corner sit two big leather boxes
and an enormous saddle bag with all the "arreos" used by the pack
mule. The smell inside this marvelous room is fabulous, or at least,
that's what we horse-lovers say!!!
sound of some horses make the riders come out of the tack room.
From there, more horses can be seen standing inside the twelve wooden
stalls that are shaded by the same tile roof that can be seen from
the terrace. Each horse is saddled according to its rider's preference.
The match of each rider with the horse he/she will ride during the
week is carefully decided upon based on the knowledge, experience,
and preferences specified in the bookings.
Tied from one pole, stands a buckskin quarter horse saddled with
a black western saddle with silver ornaments. On the other side,
stands another quarter horse, this one a roan, saddled with a Mexican
seat with a "machete" hanging from its left side. The next horse
is a chestnut trakhener, about 17.5 hands tall, and its English
saddle is a Stübben! A bay trakhener, as big as the first one, has
a Mexican saddle and some nice-looking saddle bags are hanging from
each side. The most spectacular horse is a palomino with a reddish
Western saddle that shines as much as the horse's golden coat. Another
huge bay trakhener, this one a mare and saddled with a Crosby, peeks
out from inside one of the stalls. An appendix horse, tied to another
pole, shows off a Mexican saddle with a "machete" on the left side
and a "sarape" tied to the back. Two bay horses, maybe quarter or
appendix, inside contiguous stalls, are saddled Western and English
style. A big, strong, light buckskin quarter horse with an old Mexican
saddle has a "falsa rienda" on his head instead of a bridle and
bit. The hosts explain that this is only used while the "caporal"
finishes breaking and training the horse. Tied to the last pole,
a gray mare, almost white, has a black Western saddle; it looks
like a Spanish horse because of her long mane and tail. The hosts
explain that she's an "Aztec" horse, a new Mexican breed achieved
by crossing a Spanish horse with quarter or criollo mares. A chestnut
horse is inside the stalls, saddled English style. It looks like
a tall thoroughbred. Last but not least, a big black head with long
ears peeps out of his stall. It is "Don Sabino", the mule that will
carry every day's lunch. Today, "Don Sabino" is resting because
the ride will be short, but as of the following day, riders will
have to keep an eye on him, especially around mid-day. Some more
horses are inside the other stalls. They are unsaddled, waiting
to see if a rider has a problem with the horse that has been selected
for him or her.
by one, under the supervision of the hosts, the riders mount their
horses. Two grooms take care of the length of the stirrups while
the hosts give a short explanation to each rider about the horse
he/she will ride. When horse and rider are ready, they are led into
the arena, so that they can become familiar with one another, and
if necessary, the riders receive some more advice. First a walk,
then a trot and, at the end, a short canter is done by each rider
before the next one comes into the arena. Waiting for their turn,
some of the horses that are still tied to the poles are eager to
join the group and nervously begin turning to one side and to the
other. Others are almost asleep, paying no attention to the group
working inside the arena. Grooms come and go from one horse to another,
helping riders get mounted. Some turkeys are running away from the
movement of the arena and join a group of hens and a silver-colored
rooster that are digging on a horse's manure near the empty poles.
One of the riders goes inside the arena with his camera and takes
pictures of the already mounted ones. Lots of movement, familiar
horse noises and smells, a mixture of languages, the emotion of
riding a new horse, and maybe the surprise of using a different
saddle, make of this moment an unforgettable one.
Once all the riders are ready and on their horses, and after being
sure that nobody has a problem with the saddle or the stirrups,
the hosts get mounted and, with two grooms, lead the group outside
"Finca Enyhe". The cobblestone street has almost no car traffic,
so horses walk quietly until they reach a path that climbs up to
the mountains that are located on the back part of the town. The
path is wide and riders assemble into groups of two or three, talking
about the horses we are riding, sharing doubts with the hosts, or
asking for some extra riding tips .
This day's ride is about three hours long and takes the riders to
the top of "Monte Alto". From there, hand-gliders jump out to begin
flying to later land on the shore of the lake that lies close to
the foot of the mountain. Every time the wind blows with enough
strength, one by one, the fliers jump off the cliff. A great panoramic
view of the whole lake with "La Peņa" and the tile roofs of the
town keep the riders' attention while the hand-gliders begin their
flight. On the way back to the house the group is taken through
a beautiful narrow path that makes its way below the forest and
riders have to be careful not to bump their knees against the trees!
A canter is performed for some minutes and the descent from the
mountain surprises the riders as we see our horses' ability to walk
downhill. It's quite evident how familiar this type of terrain is
Back again in the stalls, we dismount inside the arena and, immediately,
the grooms receive the horses, unsaddle, and refresh them with a
cold-water bath. The riders go to the house for a shower (though
perhaps not a cold one), and after changing clothes the hosts take
us to town. In town, one can visit the arts and crafts market, the
food market, the two churches and a great variety of shops and small
stores. After a good day with lots of new experiences, a delicious
dinner with traditional Mexican food is served in the dining room
of "Finca Enyhe".
day, the hosts plan to begin the "cavalcade" early in the morning
so the riders may have some free time in the afternoon. Breakfast
is served at 7:30 in the morning and by 8:30, riders must be ready
to board the car that will take them to the place where they've
left the horses on the previous day. In the afternoons, riders can
be dropped off in town when the car is returning from the daily
ride. They can return to the house by foot, or if too tired to climb
up the hill, look for a taxi to take them back to "Finca Enyhe".
This way they may once again visit the town, do some shopping, shine
their boots with a "bolero" in one of the benches at "El Jardin",
or have a massage session at the SPA of the Avandaro Resort (very
recommended). If the riders prefer to go back to the house they
can lay on the hammocks, rest in their rooms, walk in the garden,
or talk about Mexican history and customs with the hosts while drinking
a strong "tequila" or a soft, fresh, home-made "margarita". Dinner
is served every day at 7:30 in the afternoon and, usually around
nine, most of the riders are more than ready for an energizing sleep.
day, the ride is completely different from the day before. The trails
and paths, as well as the vegetation and panoramic views change
from one place to the next and, obviously, from one day to the other.
Each day and each route has its own special and particular story.
8:30 appointment of this day is directly at the stalls. All the horses
are saddled and ready to start the journey. "Don Sabino" has the boxes
already loaded on him and the "vaquero" that's walking him has to
stop here and there to let the visitors take some pictures. One of
the riders has a last-minute change of heart and decides to try a
Mexican saddle. Another rider is lengthening his stirrups to avoid
problems with his knees, and the others decide to do the same. Two
grooms come to help and, immediately, everything is solved. The guide
wears his "sombrero charro", a nice-looking short leather jacket and
multi-button deerskin Mexican chaps that almost cover his spurs. He
takes care that all the riders are well-mounted and have no problems
with their saddles or horses. Finally, the guide mounts his horse,
walks a while inside the arena, and makes some turns to one side and
to the other. At the call of "vamonos" the group heads out of the
Finca. The "caporal" is also very well dressed. His noisy silver spurs
let you know that he's still walking from one place to the other and
that he'll be the last rider of the group.
Initially using the same route as the day before, we go out of town.
After climbing the first hill, we turn left and the route goes into
the forest. An ostrich farm appears on one side of the path. The horses
don't remove their eyes or ears from the exotic animals, and as soon
as one bird moves, one of the horses jumps to the opposite side. A
big, brown, wooden cross in the middle of the road announces to visitors
that they have arrived to "Acatitlan". Nice-looking peasant houses,
as well as spectacular weekend ranches with horses in the pastures
appear on the scene.
After crossing the valley with its many different types of crops,
the route goes into the forest again for the first rest stop of the
day. The group has been on horseback for exactly one hour and it's
time to get rid of some fluids. The grooms help hold the horses while
the riders run into the bushes. Back on route again, the group continues
climbing, reaching an open space where a distant view of the lake
lets us know how far we've ridden and how much the horses have climbed.
A small village appears and the children from school come out to say
hello. It's time to canter and the guide announces it to the group...
and off we go!! Some of the horses begin a quicker canter and, after
a few minutes, the whole group is in a big run, leaving "Don Sabino"
far behind. The path narrows again and the horses have to walk in
single file. A few minutes later, the pack mule appears at the front
of the group... the "vaquero" really knows the shortcuts!
The smell in the woods is magnificent, the humidity is high, and with
the sun, the soil begins to evaporate. Four bluejays begin their flight
when they feel the proximity of the horses and some meters ahead two
squirrels jump up into a tree and disappear. The white tail of a rabbit
shows the direction in which he runs away from the noisy riders. Huge
pine trees grow alongside the path and three or four different types
of oaks mix within the pines, making for a delightful scenery.
A white barbed-wire gate establishes the limits of one of the biggest
ranches in the region. Another village is crossed. This time, the
children in the school are studying and they don't come out to say
hello. A lady is cleaning outside her house and happily answers back
to each rider's "buenos dias". Two men are drinking beer, probably
to forget Sundayīs "fiesta". A group of six "burros" loaded with wood
approach from the nearby forest and the guide tells the riders to
beware, since the horses may suddenly turn around, frightened by the
"strange moving monsters" that are "charging" toward them!
After three hours of riding, the horses come out to a meadow and the
guide walks toward a small hill. There he stops, dismounts, and ties
his horse to a tree. Itīs lunchtime. After helping some riders to
dismount and some others to tie their horses up, the grooms easily
light a fire and begin preparing lunch. Meanwhile, the guide and the
more spirited riders walk down to "El Hoyo", the old crater of an
ancient and extinguished volcano. Other riders prefer not to walk
at this altitude and just lay on the grass enjoying the sun. Half
an hour later, the group of brave scouts returns. Sweaty, breathless,
and excited, they share their wonderful experience with the rest,
talking about their downhill climb and about the 300 foot-high solid-rock
walls that conform a perfect circle, about 600 ft in diameter. It
seems that they deserve all the sodas in the cooler and the entire
lunch may not be enough to restore their lost strength!
After an excellent lunch, we get mounted on our horses and the guide
takes the group by a fascinating path near the edge of "El Hoyo".
This way, the ones that didn't make the trip by foot can also have
a look at this spectacular place. A few minutes later, just enough
time to digest lunch, another canter is announced. This time, the
group follows the tracks left by a car next to a pond-looking swamp.
Midway, a halt is made in order to cross, one by one, a log bridge.
After crossing it, the horses continue on a short canter until they
reach the end of the meadow.
The horses climb to the top of the mountains once again, and the group
reaches the peak. For the first time in the day, the path begins to
descend. Walking downhill is easy for the horses and all the sweat
accumulated during the canter dries up. At this point, all the horses
have salt marks on their faces, on the sides of their necks and on
their hind legs, making them look kind of funny.
The village named "Los Saucos" rests down in a valley. The horses
know they are close to the stalls and begin to walk faster. The voices
of some people can be heard, and a couple of peasants that are plowing
their land remove their hats in a gesture "hello". A detour in the
path takes the horses out of the woods, and some meters ahead, a large
black wooden roof appears down by the side of the path. Nearby, the
van is parked and the truck has some hay and grain still loaded into
it. The grooms approach the horses and begin helping the riders dismount.
After unsaddling, they lead the horses to drink some water from a
big canoe made from the log of a pine tree. The riders also go to
the canoe in order to wash our hands and faces with the fresh, running
water that springs some meters above and is brought into the canoe
through a plastic pipeline.
The riding has finished for the day. The grooms are unsaddling, refreshing,
cleaning, feeding, and in summary, taking care of the horses. The
riders hop into the car and go back to town via a bumpy road.
riders are ready and the car departs from "Finca Enyhe" at exactly
8.30 a.m. After crossing town, the car heads back out to Toluca, taking
a brief detour to "Los Saucos" and the bumpy road that was used the
previous afternoon. As soon as the grooms see the car, a couple of
them come to help with the baskets and bags that should be loaded
onto "Don Sabino". Some riders are putting on their chaps and others
make a quick run into the nearby bushes or to the back part of the
stalls. A new rider is mounted on a black, nice-looking mare. He's
got a funny way of talking and his constant laughter reveals bright,
white teeth. He's the owner of the rustic wooden stalls where the
horses spent the night, as well as a professional guide of the Monarch
Butterfly Sanctuary. Today, he helps lead the group up to the sanctuary
to see the butterflies.
As soon as the grooms finish loading the mule and all the riders are
mounted on their horses, the new rider begins leading the group. His
black mare makes a special type of "over-walk" and advances quite
fast. Most of the horses have to trot so they're not left behind.
The paved road has to be crossed twice but the guide easily stops
the cars by flapping his hat, letting the group of horses cross without
any hassle. A big meadow springs up along the way. There, we come
across thirty or forty small criollo horses tied to the bushes, alongside
a group of men seated on the grass, talking and laughing. The men
raise their hats "hello" and bid the riders "buenos dias", in an almost
perfectly-synchronized chorus. They're tour guides waiting to take
visitors on horseback, to see the butterflies.
The path veers off into a dense forest, and an amazing descent begins.
Riders have to be careful that the trunks of the trees don't bump
up against our knees. We also watch out for bushes that may brush
against our faces. We can feel the horses' great efforts to climb
the hill. The heavy breathing and the thumping heart beneath your
legs, makes you grateful you're mounted on a good horse, rather than
on your own legs. The path continues this way for several minutes,
then onto a flat and wider path. But it only lasts for a few meters
and then again, climb, climb, climb. The horses reach a point where
they can't continue climbing. The riders must dismount, tie our horses
to the trees and continue on foot.
Then, five basic questions come to mind: Can I continue climbing this
mountain on my own feet? Am I going to breath as heavily as my horse?
Will I feel my heart as I felt his? How long is the climb? Can't the
butterflies come down here to say hello? The two guides begin to walk
slowly upwards and the whole group follows them. Carefully breathing
through their noses and checking their heartbeat every 13 seconds,
some riders aren't sure if they'll make it to the top!!! But, ultimately,
riders realize it's not as hard as it seemed at first. The key is
to walk slowly and constantly.
Far ahead, almost at the top of the mountain, the two guides stop.
They are having a good time. You can see it in their smiles. The riders
reach the spot and the guides point toward some dead oaks in the middle
of the fir trees. We can then see some butterflies flying around the
dead oaks. Suddenly, the sunrays stream into the woods and hit the
oaks. Immediately, hundreds of butterflies begin flying and the entire
sky seems to go from blue to orange. When the calm returns, we see
that the dead oaks are gone, and, in their place, some fir trees have
appeared. We are then surrounded by thousands of fluttering butterflies
that have been warmed up by the sun. Only then do we realize that
there were never any dead oaks at all, but rather thousands of butterflies
hanging from the branches of the fir trees.
We spend several minutes taking pictures and more pictures of the
butterflies. The guides have to work hard to convince everybody to
return to where we left our horses. Going downhill is easy; people
say that even rocks can roll down!!! The grooms untie the horses,
check the girths and help the riders get mounted. The guide begins
descending and, some meters ahead, he takes a different path than
the one used going uphill. This path is easier and although it also
goes downhill, it's not as steep as the one used in the morning.
A nice lope is started as the group reaches the foot of the mountain
and we encounter a beautiful meadow. The wind is cold, faces are red,
manes are flying, and the view of the forest-covered mountains, with
huge rocks scattered here and there, is breathtaking. Following the
guide, the horses leave the path and the pace slows. Some minutes
later, we arrive to a river where the horses have some fresh, cool
water. The riders are hungry and soon after, we stop for lunch on
the top of a hill shaded by huge pines with a peaceful view of a valley
and a pond.
The route continues along another valley called "Corral de Piedra"
that goes up into the forest. The smell of the pines and the fir trees
is delicious. The horses have to form a line until they reach another
meadow where once again, a canter is performed. Five minutes later,
we enter the woods. Some branches have to be cut with the "machetes"
hanging off the Mexican saddles. A wider log that's obstructing the
road is also cut with one of the two axes that "Don Sabino" carries
The noise of running water announces a river with a trout farm next
to it. After crossing the river, the path continues alongside it.
The path is rocky and with steep descents here and there. The horses
easily walk over the rocks and they never mind about walking downhill.
The riders keep silent and we can only hear the breathing of the horses
and the noise of the water jumping among the rocks. Everything we
see during the next half hour looks wonderful with the evening light:
the river, the forest, the flowers, the birds, and the horses that
are walking in front.
In "San Simon", some cabins and small huts lie close to the plowed
soil and green crops. Irrigation channels give life to sweet peas,
corn, potatoes, wheat, oats and "habas". The guide chases some cows
off the path, when a group of barking dogs approaches from the direction
of the houses . The horses are well-trained and don't mind the cattle
or the dogs. One can also feel how they begin to walk faster. Surely,
home is near. Ahead, a golf course emerges. The lush green and well-kept
grass seems to invite the riders to perform the greatest gallop of
our lives. Unfortunately, the path turns to the left and we're are
left to imagine how great it could have been!!!
At last, after a long day, the group arrives to Rancho Avandaro. The
pink clubhouse looks inviting with its wonderful indoor swimming pool.
A racetrack with white rails surrounds a show jumping arena. The yellow
walls of the stalls can be seen behind some huge elm trees. The grooms
are waiting for the horses. The van is waiting for the riders. The
riders anxiously get inside it and can't wait to arrive to Finca Enyhe
and have a hot, an invigorating bath!!!
third day is the best day! There's no more pain after the third day!
After the third day, one is certainly ready to continue for the whole
week! That's what experienced riders say, anyway, and it seems to
be true for all the riders in our group. But, just in case, the hosts
have planned a shorter ride for this day. Once mounted, the group
passes by the pink clubhouse. Riding along the edge of the golf course,
the horses arrive to the cross-country area. Walking near some of
the jumps, it's easy to imagine how hard it must be to go over them...
and none of the riders attempt to do so.
A narrow gate that was once white, opens into the front "patio" of
a white "hacienda". The "patio" is really big and the house can take
your breath away forever. The group has yet to recover from the lovely
surprise, when some mares with their colts begin running in a nearby
pasture. A group of antelopes also begin running when they hear the
horses. Some buffaloes raise their huge heads in order to see what's
going on. Three zebras make a short canter and stop to see who is
comming. The English red deer just remain alert, waiting to see what
happens. A big camel with a mean look on his face, moves his tail
to scare off some flies, while he walks slowly toward the gate that
separates him from the horses. Down the road, a beautiful pond surrounded
by trees, becomes part of the landscape. Walking along its edge, the
riders reach a meadow where some sheep are grazing. It looks like
a good place for a short canter. Further ahead, a second pond appears.
This one has lots of flowers surrounding it. Finally, a huge, wide,
black iron gate beneath a tall tile roof shows you out of this paradise.
Are all Mexican ranches like this one?
After two and a half hours, lunch is served in "Peņa Blanca". The
spot has a magnificent view of the town and lake. From there, we can
see most of the areas we've ridden through over the past three days.
We spot some white towers in the far-away mountains. The guide explains
that these towers, built in the 1980īs, have pumps that carry water
from the lake to Mexico City. He says it was during those years that
the government closed the water-powered electrical plant, and in it's
place, built the biggest system to supply Mexico City with water!!!
After lunch, we ride through a tiny little village where most of the
houses are built with wooden planks. Three gates are opened by the
guide at the front of the group, while the "caporal", in charge of
the back, closes them. Two valleys separated by a small hill are an
inviting place to race the horses. After it, the path descends and
some riders still continue galloping downhill. Once again, the route
veers off into the forest. The path climbs a little, and at the bottom
of the mountain, we can hear the noise of a river which prepares the
thirsty horses for a refreshing drink. After letting the horses have
a sip of water, the guide crosses the river and takes a wide road
into a village settled on the foot of an isolated mountain called
"Cerrro Gordo". It's only two in the afternoon, and the grooms have
already prepared, next to a saw mill, the place where the horses will
spend the night.
On the way home, the car passes by "Avandaro", a wealthy development
area with beautiful houses built around the Golf and Spa Resort. Three
riders are dropped off at the resort for a massage session. The rest
of the riders decide to shop in town. Who do you think made the best
in the morning, before breakfast, some riders take a walk in the garden
to stretch their legs. Lots of birds are digging in the grass, searching
for worms. You can see five thrashers with their long, curved bills
and four orange-breasted robins. A couple of strange big birds covered
with dark blue feathers and a darker mask over their face are singing
loudly. These last birds are called "mulatos".
The riders show up ten minutes late, so the driver decides to take
a shortcut and give us a tour through small and narrow streets located
in the highest parts of town. The view is breathtaking and we thank
God we don't have to do the driving, especially after a 120 degree
turn with a steep descent which, incidentally, offers the driver the
opportunity to prove his capacity and expertise!
As usual, the horses are ready and within a few minutes all the riders
are mounted and we ride through a forest with huge pine trees. These
are "Pinus montezumae", explains the guide, named in honor of the
Aztec emperor that received Hernan Cortes. The noise of a bird singing
"cuaaa-cuaaa" is heard and the group begins looking for him. We never
see it and the guide explains it is a tricolored bird named "Trogon
elegans" who the locals call "Cua". Having ridden for one hour and
after crossing a log bridge with a gate at the end of it, we make
the usual stop, so everyone dismounts and rushes behind the bushes.
The path is wide and the riders spread out in groups, talking and
enjoying their horses. A long canter is performed before reaching
a white gate. The gate opens. It appears to be the entrance to a ranch,
and we enter. Some meters ahead, we come across quite the "post-card
view". A house built on the edge of a big lagoon is surrounded by
towering pine trees. Despite its clean, fresh water, the lagoon looks
black, this being the reason for its name: "Laguna Negra" (black lagoon).
After going past another white gate, the horses pass by some barns,
a water tank, and a pasture where, it is said, a mean stallion who
was a menace to any rider that dared trespass the property, once roamed.
The guide entertains us with anecdotes of past encounters with the
stallion and, although he assures us the horse is now dead, all the
riders prefer to move quickly ahead, in a tight group. A stream crosses
the path and the horses can refresh, while some riders dismount and
wet their bandanas. The sun is at the cusp of the sky and the heat
is well-received by some of us, although others wet their bandanas
to soak up some sweat and relieve themselves from the sun.
The "caporal" opens the "falsete", a gate made of barbed wire and
branches. He holds it open until the last rider has passed through.
The path narrows. The pines diminish and a great variety of oaks are
now the predominant vegetation. Some huge rounded rocks, about 20
ft high, lie alongside the path. The landscape seems dry, with almost
no vegetation with the exception of a few oaks shading the path. You
can feel a delicious, hot wind blowing from the south. Up ahead, the
guide dismounts and ties his horse to the branch of a "madroņo". He
then helps the riders dismount and tie our horses to trees. Although
it seems to be lunchtime and the "vaquero" has tied his own horse
as well as "Don Sabino" to an oak, he doesn't unload the food. Without
saying a word, the guide walks ahead and we follow in silence. It
seems that a rock is obstructing the way and the guide must surround
it. As we approach the rock, the group can't help but express our
awe and admiration. The view is amazing!!! The rock rests on the edge
of a cliff, 3000 ft above the small town of "Zacazonapan", located
in the big valley below. The mountains surrounding the valley are
far away and seem almost like giant shadows touching the white clouds.
The clarity and luminosity of the air is incredible!!! It's really
a fantastic place!!! On the left side, three immense rocks perched
on the tip of a row of mountains, catch our eye. The rocks are called
"Los Tres Reyes" (the three kings). The group is "busy" sitting on
the rock on the edge of the cliff, enjoying the view, when the delicious
aroma of charcoal and onion announces that lunch is cooking. The "caporal"
and the "vaquero" are preparing it in a pot behind the rock. After
lunch, it's even more difficult to part from such a beautiful place;
all the riders wish we could stay in "El Divisadero" forever.
Four new gates have to be opened by the guide and closed by the "caporal"
before the group reaches another big rock. This rock faces north and
has a large, flat surface, wide enough for the horses to stand on.
From there, in the distance, we see "Monte Alto", behind Valle de
Bravo and the lake in front of the town. On the opposite side, we
see two other small towns, each with their own little lake. It's impossible
to decide which rock is more spectacular!!!
The route continues through another village with houses built far
away from one another. A new gate is opened and the route continues
as we enter the woods. After some time, the path starts to descend
and one can see the lake drawing near. The guide makes a stop and
explains that riders should form a single file and keep a safe distance
between the horses. The descent is spectacular, with the lake on one
side and a green valley with a chapel on the other. The horses are
really good!!! We simply enjoy the view, while the horses take care
of the descent, moving along calmly and slowly through the narrow
path, avoiding holes and ditches. Twenty minutes later, the descent
is concluded and the horses continue walking on a wide, flat road
that crosses the town of "Atezcapa" and ends at the shore of the lake
where a village called "El Cerrillo" is located, and where the horses
will rest that night.
We are dismounted with the help of the grooms and after drinking the
last sodas from the cooler, we walk to the shore and get in the boat
that will take us to the other side of the lake. The trip across the
lake is a relaxing one for all of us, especially after that amazingly
steep descent (where the horses nonetheless demonstrated a high level
of training and fitness needed for this type of terrain). From the
boat, a 180 degree view reveals many of the places where the "cavalcade"
has taken place. The other 180 degrees will have to be covered the
breakfast, the car takes the group to the official deck of the lake.
People that see us getting on the boat probably think we're a crazy
group of sailors using boots, spurs and hats instead of shorts, sneakers
and caps!!! The boat trip is half-and-hour long and we use the time
to compare notes on which day we've enjoyed most . The answer isn't
easy, since we've seen so much over the past five days. One rider
comments that each day has been better than the previous one. Another
says all the days have been so great, it would be impossible for him
to choose only one. The unanimous agreement is that today the guide
will be with the challenge of improving upon what we've seen over
the past few days... or even in just fulfilling our built-up expectations!!
Riding along the shore of the lake is great and some riders decide
to do an early morning canter that gets them completely wet (as well
as their horses and saddles). After this early bath, the guide leads
us across the village of "El Cerrillo" and continues by a path that
runs some meters above the shore. Six fishermen fix their nets at
the edge of the lake and their children play on a boat while the adults
start their daily work. Some meters away, hundreds of ducks are having
a noisy bath, eager to see what the nets pull out. Two or three weekend
houses are the only ones built on this side of the lake. The guide
has predicted a hot day, and at that point, starting to feel a difference
in the temperature, we pull out our lighter jackets. The sound of
some cars lets us know there's a road up ahead. We cross it easily,
with the help of our guide's flapping "sombrero".
We then ride just beneath the back of the dam that supports all the
water of the lake. We notice a sign, with the date "1944", on one
of the walls of the pumping house. The horses walk next to a pipeline
made with gigantic white tubes which don't seem to bother them. Some
meters ahead, a big blue tower appears on the foot of a hill and,
in the middle of it, sits another tower. These are the first two of
a line of pumps that take the water from the lake up to Mexico City.
It's a 150 km-long pipeline that has to elevate the water 2,500 ft!!
The horses pass by the side of the first tower and begin climbing
until they reach the base of the second one. We make a stop and the
"caporal" checks all the girths. The guide tells us that when the
horses begin their ascent on the mountain, we may hold their mane,
and that we should beware not to hold or pull from the reins. We all
look up and, within a few minutes, the horses have managed to climb
to the top of the hill. Once there, at an altitude almost 300 ft higher
than the valley of "Tilostoc" (where the girths were tightened), they
are loosened again. The horses are sweating and we can also feel the
heat. We drink some water from the thermos that each one carries in
our saddle bags.
The route continues along the top of the mountains that surround the
lake on its northern side. The temperature on this side of the lake
is completely different; drier and hotter than the previous days.
Few pines grow there and the vegetation is mostly comprised of small
oaks. Lots of bromelias grow on the bark of the oaks and some are
blooming with beautiful yellow and red flowers. Groups of hummingbirds
are delighted with the nectar. The view of the lake on the right side
is incredible!!! On the left side, we see the valley of "Tilostoc"
with its quadrangular, multicolored parcels. It's a wonder we don't
develop stiff necks, turning in so many directions to see so many
The path turns onto a cobblestone street alongside an exhilaratingly
beautiful and gorgeous house with a blue swimming pool. It belongs
to the owner of "El Santuario", a new residential development literally
cut into the mountainside. Far below, next to the lake, you can see
the cobblestone street that leads up to the house. What a place, and
what a house!!!
The street we're on turns and begins to descent, so the guide takes
a different path that runs along the top of the mountain. The path
is narrow and the low branches of the oaks hit the legs of some distracted
riders, occasionally lifting their hats away. The path goes up and
down with the ascending and descending profile of the mountain. Far
away, there is another white tower on the top of another mountain.
A stop is made and the guide opens some barbed-wire fences to lead
the horses down a wider path. A few meters ahead, the group reaches
the spot that has been chosen for lunchtime. The horses are tied to
some pine trees growing in a lonely spot in the middle of the oaks
and some of us lay on a great bed of dry pine needles.
After lunch, we stop to give some water to the horses. Women from
"San Gabriel Ixtla" who wash their clothes there, help to fill the
buckets from the big tank that has been built for their use. The children
also help and, within a few minutes, all the horses have been refreshed.
Though we've had no opportunity for a canter the entire day, we then
come across a great meadow, and at the count of three, everyone begins
cantering. At the end of the meadow, the guide shows us the lake and
the exact spot where the ride began that morning. It seems that more
than three quarters of a semicircle has been covered.
Some dogs barking let us know there are residents in the area. First,
only a few houses pop up here and there, then a church, and then lots
of houses with family orchards that conform the town of "Mihualtepec".
The horses move through the streets in the company of packs of barking
dogs which have come out to find out what all the fuss is about. Children
playing with a ball on the street stop their game and run away, afraid
that the horses might kick them. The noise of the bells of the church
announce a service is about to begin. Noise and movement everywhere.
But the horses stay calm and continue walking as if nothing. Either
they're extremely well-trained, or they're just plain tired after
a week of hard work!!???
A big "adobe" wall and an aqueduct are part of the facade of "Hacienda
Pipioltepec". The horses go in and we all dismount to visit the place.
The guide tells us that the construction of the buildings began in
the first half of the 16th Century. It's a fascinating place where
one can only imagine all the stories seen and heard by those old walls.
After visiting the "patio", the "casa grande", the "graneros", and
the "molino", the riders, below the shade of a big elm tree, drink
the last beers and sodas from "Don Sabinoīs" cooler. Mounted again,
the group crosses through the village that surrounds the "hacienda"
and goes by a path that allows us another canter. Peasants are plowing
their fields like in the old days: a pair of oxen tied by their heads
to a piece of wood that pulls the plough made with the curved branch
of a tree. Lots of irrigated fields give a multicolored shape to the
valley. Another village, "Rincon de Estradas", appears at the end
of the path. It has only one main street with ten or twelve peasant
houses sitting on either side. The guide announces the last canter
of the ride and we join him cheerfully.
The last surprise of the day occurs almost at the end of the ride.
The riders have to dismount and lead our horses down a 15-ft-long
rock which is as slippery as it is bumpy! Having ridden the horses
for a week, everyone seems to have confidence in his or her horse.
Regardless, the guide and the "caporal" help the riders. After passing
the rock, everyone claims the walk was "a piece of cake"!!! We continue
along the path until reaching a cobblestone street that leads us directly
to "Finca Enyhe".
It looks like this is the end of the ride. The grooms unsaddle the
horses and refresh them with a cold water bath. The riders take off
their chaps and empty the saddle bags of personal belongings. The
guide and the "caporal" check all the horses. They make a list with
all the things that need doing, such as repairing some "bosalillos"
or curing slight injuries on some horses. The riders snap their last
pictures of the horses, some of which are still saddled, while others
have been unsaddled or are busy having a bath. Finally, a picture
of the whole group is taken in front of the stalls, with different
cameras, of course, so everyone's got a picture.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, amazing music streams in, causing all of
us, horses and riders alike, to turn our heads in the direction of
the "mariachis". From the entrance, a group of elegant, black-dressed
"charros" walk toward us, blowing their horns, playing their guitars
and singing "La Negra". You can feel the strings of emotion are being
plucked in your body. The music is simply the best farewell to this
marvelous Mexican "cavalcade" !!!!!
THE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES
words can describe in it's full dimension what this natural phenomenon
is like. Not any photograph or video can compare to seeing something
like this for oneself, in this fir tree forest. A picture or even
a moving image can't do for your soul, what being there can. Being
there, you understand that there's nothing like experiencing the
phenomenon in person... it's really the only way that one can truly
Thousands and thousands of butterflies. Some are lying on the floor,
looking for the warm rays of the sun. Others, already warm, fly,
in search of food or water. Many more are hanging from trunks and
branches, transforming the trees in such a way that the human eye
is easily deceived; the fir trees wear a disguise made of butterflies
that makes them look like oak trees.
The orange color of the Monarch Butterflies' wings shows up brilliantly
when they are flying. When they're not flying and close their wings,
these turn into different shades of brown. So, what initially looks
like dead oak leaves, are in fact bunches and bunches of these marvelous
insects piled one over the other, in an effort to keep warm and
protect themselves from the wind and rain. They don't move until
the rays of the sun stimulate them to shake their wings and fly
That moment when the sun streams into the forest and the butterflies
begin flying is beyond description. One can even hear the sound
of their wings. It is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience!!!
You don't dare talk or move; all five senses are focused on witnessing
and enjoying the grandiose nature of what you are living. The truth
is that the only way to know what this is like is to experience
mentioned before, the hosts do a great job throughout the week and
really give visitors the best they have to offer. They most certainly
couldn't make it without the help of a crew of workers that really
deserve some lines in this chronicle.
The chauffeur that picks up the riders in the hotel in Mexico City
is also in charge of moving the truck and trailer that are used
as barn, tack room, and grooms' bedroom. Although he doesn't speak
English, he manages to answer most of the riders doubts during the
trip, through signs. He also helps with the horses and one can easily
see that he is the "chief of chiefs" among the grooms.
Mounted on his young horse, the "caporal" is always ready to help.
During the trek, whenever a stop is made, he easily finds a place
to tie his horse and help. He does anything from replacing a lost
shoe if a horse has dropped it along the way, he starts the fire
for lunch, and even makes a pretty good cook for those occasions.
toughest job of all belongs to the "vaquero" in charge of leading
"Don Sabino". Mounted on his own horse named LAP (because of a white
brand in his left hind leg), the "vaquero" leads the mule during
the entire day. He has to make sure that the loaded boxes arrive
safely and in one piece, through narrow paths in between the trunks
of the trees, steep mountains and across rivers. I imagine his right
arm alone must need another week to return to its normal position
after holding the rope for hours and hours. He has to pay special
attention and make sure that it doesn't get caught beneath his horse's
tail. If it did, a real rodeo would begin, right smack in the middle
of the forest! As if this weren't enough hard work, the "vaquero"
is always ready to help a rider in distress, or even to lend a hand
Every night, other grooms also help take care of the horses. They
are always smiling, eager, and helpful. They feed and clean the
horses, take care of saddling and make sure that the saddle bags
are ready. When riders mount, they help by tightening the girths,
holding the saddle, and helping the riders get mounted. They work
silently but efficiently; one could say that they are the souls
of the "cavalcade".
Back in the house, another group of workers are always ready to
serve visitors. In the kitchen, the cook's always got something
on the stove, brewing some magnificent treat in one of her huge,
beautiful "cazuelas", while two waitresses are busy either washing
dishes or setting the table. Once it's all ready, the three of them
emerge from the kitchen and serve an invariably amazing meal in
the marvelous hacienda dinning room. While everybody rides, they
also take care of cleaning the corridors and bedrooms of the big
hacienda. I happened to catch a glimpse or two of a couple of them
attempting to make heads and tails of some pretty messy rooms, with
riding clothes, boots, and hats hanging from anything and everything.
The last to on my little list, is also likely to be the most...
how should I put it... "popular" one. The barman. Every day, from
5 to 9 in the afternoon, he appears in the most unexpected corners
of the house, always with a big smile and notebook in hand, offering
"tequilas", "margaritas", "coronas" or whichever drink quenches
your thirst, soothes your muscles, or makes you happy . By the second
day, he remembers all the names of the riders and their drinking
preferences, so it's then only a matter of raising your hand and,
immediately, he pops up with your drink in hand!
special chapter must be dedicated to the food that is served in "Finca
Enyhe". Concerning this sophisticated delight, the hosts make a perfect
couple! She not only enjoys, but really knows how to cook excellent
Mexican and international food, while he enjoys eating it (although,
of course, he claims it's just his way of encouraging her hobby!).
No matter who you believe, the only truth you need to know is that
all the food that is offered to the riders during the six days of
vacation is simply delicious. If you plan to lose some weight on this
vacation, don't count on it. Rather, be ready to gain some pounds
in the most delicious way possible!!!
During the first day's gathering in the living room of the house,
the hosts emphasize the fact that they only use purified, bottled
water for anything from cooking, to filling the saddle bag thermoses
with, and to prepare the "agua fresca" that's always ready for thirsty
riders upon their return. They also explain that all the vegetables
they use are fresh, bought locally from a well-known peasant, as well
as rigorously washed and disinfected before preparation, especially
in the case of salads. I bet none of the riders thought they would
be eating fresh salads in Mexico!!! Another thing that may worry the
visitors has, happily, been foreseen by the hosts. Large amounts of
spicy chile that is common to traditional Mexican food is used in
very small quantities in the finca's kitchen. They only use what's
necessary to give the specific flavors to the "guisados". For the
bolder riders who may be unafraid of "picante", there's always a "salsa"
or two on the side, which visitors are welcome to try at their own
risk. The hosts have taken all the precautions necessary, so that
riders can forget about all the warnings they have heard (including
digestive ailments otherwise known as "La Venganza de Moctezuma"),
and focus on enjoying all the dishes that are offered during the week.
Breakfast is served buffet-style. To keep the body fit, you can find
the typical coffee, toast, yogurt, and cereal. In addition, typical
Mexican "almuerzos" are offered. You can try a different dish each
day. Eggs are served in a variety of styles. "Huevos rancheros" and
"huevos a la mexicana" are great. The "chilaquiles" with beans and
sour cream are unforgettable. If you like fruit, a delicious variety
is offered every day. Depending on the season, you might find exotic
Mexican fruits such as "guanabana", "chirimoya", "mamey", or "chicozapote".
There's always the more conventional but no less delicious fruits
such as papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon, mango, plumb or grapefruit.
Juice is made with freshly-cut oranges from the orchard. The taste,
though slightly tart, is truly refreshing. Each day, a basket of sweet
breads sits in the middle of the table. The favorites are some with
names like "conchas", "polvorones", and "campechanas".
The first day, at lunch, a delicious salad with nuts and brie with
apricot jelly is served beneath the "pergola". During the week, lunch
is served after three or four hours of riding, always in a perfect
spot, especially selected for amazing views. At times, a cold lunch
is served, while at others, a fire might be lit to cook a hot meal.
"Don Sabino" carries huge leather boxes filled with a great amount
of food, as well as a cooler with cold sodas and beers. To the delight
of some riders, (particularly European visitors), a bottle of wine
is occasionally brought along. From the cold lunches, the "tortas"
are really good. They're a Mexican sandwich made with a bread called
"telera". The "tortas" are dabbed with mayonnaise, mustard, and avocado,
then filled with a few marinated onions, a bit of "chipotle", and
a variety of cheeses and cold meats. Preparing these sandwiches can
make anyone feel like a perfect chef, even if in fact you may not
even know how to boil an egg!! The hot lunches are sensational; the
first task at hand being a search for dry branches. Once the items
have been unloaded from the pack mule, the colored blanket is set
on a flat spot for the display of all the ingredients . Finally, the
preparation of the food. A delicious assortment of chiles, onions,
cheese, "chorizo", meat, or sausages, go into making anything from
"choriqueso", to spicy "butifarras" or an aromatic "cecina encebollada".
A variety of salads (previously prepared in the kitchen of the house),
are also delicious and always available, whether one made from cactus
leaves, from fresh fruits, or nuts. On the last day, a gourmet-style
lunch with smoked trout and "alcaparras" is served with a delicious
Each day, dinner is a banquet that includes a soup, three or four
different "guisados", salad, rice or beans, a dessert, and a good
cup of decaffeinated coffee or tea (so riders have no problem getting
to sleep). The "tortillas" are always hot and served in a special
basket, ready to wrap into a "taco"...after the hosts explain how
one is made and eaten without dropping it onto your shirt! Among the
soups the riders will never forget the "sopa de cilantro", the "consome
de pollo" with its aromatic spices and the "sopa de habas con nopales"
with the unmistakable flavor of the fresh cactus. The different "guisados"
are placed in beautiful "cazuelas" on the table so the riders can
have a taste of anything they wish. You can try "chicharron en salsa",
"cochinita pibil", "tamales", "tostadas", "pozole", and many other
delicious dishes that would be too long to detail. Believe me, it
really makes a difference to try the real thing, as opposed to the
strange concoctions that can be found in the so-called Mexican restaurants
outside of Mexico. Big jars of "agua fresca" are emptied once and
twice by some riders, while some others prefer to have a delicious
cold "corona" directly from the bottle, or even a glass of good Chilean
wine to refresh their palate.
Keeping in mind and respecting the fact that not everyone shares the
same eating habits, the hosts are more than willing to accommodate
special requests, whether this be for a vegetarian diet, or any other
kinds of restrictions. This, by no means, translates into dull dishes.
Many times, this type of food will include traditional dishes such
as "tortitas de platano" or "pastel de queso y rajas". Even those
who prefer to eat less elaborate foods will be eagerly accommodated
(they may live longer, but the rest of us will definitely enjoy our
perhaps shorter lives!!!)
BACK TO THE CITY
the last day, riders are allowed to wake up half an hour later (granted,
it's not much, but it's something). After having another excellent
breakfast, this time without worrying about riding on a full stomach,
a short questionnaire regarding the quality of the services is filled
out by the visitors. This activity is followed by the time to pay
drinks and special services. In a dash, the luggage is taken to the
car and, after exchanging addresses, phone numbers, and e-mails, the
hosts bid good-bye to the group of new friends.
While the town begins to prepare for the next busy weekend, the car
crosses it and takes the same road used only one week before. Lots
of images come to mind as one goes by familiar places. The conversation
revolves around the adventures and experiences of the week, recollections
of the lovely spots that were visited, and the extreme quality of
all the services offered by the hosts. Once again, the trip seems
to be only five minutes long and the car enters Mexico City.
A half-hour stop is made in "Talabarteria La Herradura", a fantastic
Mexican tack shop, where riders have just enough time to buy some
of the things they saw during the "cavalcade". Afterwards, a second
stop over at a hotel, to drop off a couple that will continue their
vacation in Huatulco. Finally, the last stop is at the international
airport "Benito Juarez".
It's time to get on the plane and go back to our daily life. Although
it may include riding our own horses, it will never be the same as
it was during this week. The help of all the staff and the knowledge,
experience and hospitality of the hosts has made this trip an unforgettable