Thought I'd practice "riding" this wagon before getting on a horse....but it didn't do much to bolster my confidence
We decided to rent some horses near Merida on the island of Ometepe and ride to the San Ramon waterfall.
Isla de Ometepe, formed by two volcanoes
The trip took about four hours in total, including a short hike on foot up to the falls and some time to relax and possibly swim under the waterfall (well, stand, really, since the pool beneath it was a shallow).
At the last minute, Mike decided to stay back at the hostel and try to beat the cold he had been getting. Truly, I think he was feeling sicker about the cost of the horses (a hefty $8 USD per person per hour), but we let him stay behind anyways.
Mom, Terry, and I set out with Harry of Harry's horses and his helper, Carlos at about 1:00 pm. Five minutes in, Harry was telling me my form was good but I needed to loosen up. I tried to untense my muscles, but it just wasn't happening. Every part of my body was clinging on for dear life. Fifteen minutes in, my entire body seemed to be cramping up. I was looking at my watch thinking How the hell am I going to make it four hours? This is painful!
. I continued checking my watch every 3-5 minutes for the first hour, thinking this was some sort of crazy torture and wondering if I could just jump off my trotting horse and walk beside him. Given what I figured was the high probability of falling or being dragged from this action, I decided to power on. Then, something changed. Despite my sore butt, I felt like I fit better in the saddle and could finally relax my aching muscles. When we broke into a canter on a flat stretch, I actually couldn't wipe the smile off my face.
Terry's horse, checking in at the entrance to San Ramon waterfall
After about an hour and a half, we tied up the horses and hiked a short but steep path to the waterfall. Since the horses had brought us most of the way up, I didn't find the hike so bad, but I had a few volcano summits under my belt. Mom and Terry struggled up the path behind me, unaccustomed to the steep slopes that you can't find back home in Saskatchewan.
Me and my horse, Pinto
Finally at the waterfall, we took in the beauty of the spot.
The sun even came out from behind the clouds to show us the rainbow in the falls.
Mom and Terry rested, dreading the hike back down, I think.
Tired out from the hike
Back at the horses, I slid into the saddle and felt immediately comfortable. I was given the option to go ahead with Carlos, while Harry stayed back with Mom and Terry's slower horses. The two of us cantered and galloped back, slowing down to give the horses a break, to check out the amazing views, and to chat in Spanish (much needed practice for me after so many months in English-speaking Utila - I believe I told him I had been married for 27 years before correcting myself).
So was it worth the cost? The jury's still out. At $32, I found the price tag quite a bit higher than I would have liked. If seeing the waterfall was my only goal, I would have been just as happy hiking there. And there's cheaper horseback riding options in other parts of Nicaragua. But Harry and Carlos were great with us novices and I gained a newfound confidence on horseback. I was really happy to get past the discomfort of the first hour with the longer ride, though Mom and Terry (and their butts) would have been happier with a shorter ride. Would I do it again? Probably not ($32 can go a long way on living expenses here), but I don't regret it at all.
I still have a long way to go before riding across Mongolia, but I'm getting there. As I told Mike after... I'm still not sure that I like horseback riding, but at least I can now see how people might like it. That's definitely progress.
Pretty flowers on Ometepe
One of the things that Mom and Terry wanted to do on their journey with us was go horseback riding. Now, given my propensity for falling off things and my slightly irrational fear of riding horses (stemming from my first ever attempt to ride by myself - I was about 13 or so - when my trail horse took off at a gallop along a busy highway and I couldn't do anything but hold on for dear life), I was a little less than gung-ho about the whole idea. But I figured now was as good a time as any to try to get over it. Especially since one of Mike's biggest goals is to ride horseback across Mongolia.