Tuesday, May 19, 2009
HORSE TREKKING DAY TWO
The next day started off bueno. We had a good breakfast and said our goodbyes to Noah who we really enjoyed talking to from the night before. Renato got the horses ready remembering my issue with a ring on the saddle which rubbed against my knee and lisa's sore butt. Our saddles now came equipped with sheepskin pads. So New Zealand! Cazoomba, my horse, took off from where he left off the day before - doing his thing regardless of what I wanted to do.
Today we are headed up. Up the crater wall to the rim. A hill climb!! Trekking in the ANDES!!! Our plan is to traverse up in the morning, have lunch, then head down, walking our horses in the tough spots, in the afternoon. Sounds like a plan.
The riding was initially easy and our backs and legs were good. Soon the horses started to labor as we gained altitude. The trail was muddier than anticipated and sometimes the horses slid. As a result, the girls got a bit skiddish. So we dismounted and walked our horses awhile (up the mountain) till we got to more stable ground - which ended up being all the way to the TOP!...of the trail. In some ways I got "closer" to Cazoomba by walking him as his head would nudge me and I would turn around and pet him. Nice boy! Renato said we only had a short way to go (South American minutes: Five minutes promised equals thirty minutes in reality).
Finally, at the top (exhausted) we gladly remounted and proceeded along a dirt road to around 10,450 feet. We stopped when we found a nice lunch spot. We had Rento's ham and cheese sandwiches and watched the clouds go by below us. A magnificent setting. Best lunch seats in the house!
Afterwards we headed onto a trail, into the cloud forest. It was mystical, kinda like a "Lord of the Rings" filmset. But the mystical feeling was soon broken. All of a sudden Siena starts crying...She's been kicked by Tarzan, Avocet's horse. I jump off, go to her, take her boot off and examine her left leg. She is in a panic so I just hold her leg. She is letting me touch it so it's not broken. It must have been a glancing blow and she starts to settle down. Renato infers that Tarzan, might have kicked back because Zeus, Siena's horse, could have bitten him. Horses are unpredictable animals. Renato tells us now to keep our distances between horses (a bit late in telling us).
We soon get to a point where the trail gets tougher: narrower, steeper and very muddy. Since there hadn't been heavy rains for a week, Renato thought the trail was going to be dry - WRONG. This isn't a place for beginners! A joint decision is made to go ahead and dismount and walk until it gets better. Renato walks his horse and Tarzan while I walk the other three. lisa and the girls walk last.
Ready for more excitement???? Tarzan, a seasoned horse of at least sixteen years, slips on the narrow, muddy trail and his 800+ pounds tumbles down the hillside into a thicket of bamboo. I am the first to see him with his head bent between two bamboo stalks. My first thought, "What if Av had been on his back when this happened?" Renato calmly ties up his horse while I tie up the remaining three. He decends the hill, assesses the damage and finds Tarzan OK, with a slight cut on the left side of his head. Renato starts to cut the bamboo with his machete attempting to clear a less steep way out, while I amble down to hold Tarzan's reins. Tarzan is agitated and ready to get out of there. As Renato whacks away, Tarzan gets more excited. Is he going to stomp on me or what? Thankfully the cleared trail to the top is ready and Tarzan scampers up, like a cat, stretching his legs and finally leaping to the top. Cheers go up from all. Just another day at the office, right? Renato is having a bad day: never had a horse kick a kid, never had a horse fall off the trail, never had to have his riders walk the ENTIRE WAY DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. Let's get the hell out of this mystical forest!
The girls are unhappy. We are spending more time off the horses than on. Renato is stressed because this is the worst day he has ever had doing this. Let's just get back to level land and go home. After an hour of walking in boots that are designed to protect your legs and not to be hiking boots, our feet are getting sore. Great!
We arrive at the crater bottom and decide to take the longer but easier dirt road back. All remount except me. I try to get back up on Cazoomba but he will have none of it. Clearly he has liked my almost two hundred pound butt off his back. I try another time...up and over...and down I go on the other side. I'm OK, but Siena, after being kicked and watching Tarzan fall, starts to freak out. I quickly run over to her, raise my arms over my head and give her a big grin. Doesn't help.
Renato and I switch horses. Nice saddle. You get one of those when you are the boss. Cool. Nice horse Noel, much more sedate than the skiddish Cazoomba. But he won't budge on the downhill. lisa and I are what appears to be a quarter mile behind the girls and Renato. Finally he moves, but almost immediately gets spooked by an imaginary animal off to the left. Great, now this. He starts down the hill and I can tell he's not comfortable. He does this little nerveous thing with his feet and I decide I'm off of this dude. I walk another quarter mile until we get to Renato and the girls. I remounted and a half an hour later we reached the stable.
The horse trek in the Andes was supposed to be our coup de grace of Ecuador and the whole trip. It didn't quite turn out that way. Today was a tough day. It was supposed to be a blast. It wasn't. It was dangerous. The girls were scared a lot and lisa felt that bad decisions were made. What a way to end it. But it was a real adventure.