A Travellerspoint blog

Riding an Equine.

Being hell brave in Guatemala.

This holiday wasn’t originally about facing my fears but it has turned out to be quite an adventure. So after my marine encounter I was feeling that maybe this animal thing isn’t so bad. I mean sausage dogs are funny. And pictures of them in a hot dog bun are hilarious.

A few days passed and I had said catch ya mon to Caye Caulker and Belize and headed south to Guatemala.

The beautiful Spanish colonial city of Antigua just outside Guatemala City is nestled in amongst a series of volcanos. We headed to get a closer look at one that had erupted just last year in May.

It was a mountain and a rather hefty sized one at that so we began the climb. There was an opportunity to take a horse to the top. For those who read my previous entry on marine fears you will know that horses and dogs scare me more than spiders and crocodiles. I had of course chosen to walk.

Within moments everyone else had passed me in their hiking boots and khakis. I was of course just going to do it in my blue boots, bought because they were blue, not because they were of any use in a hike.

Within moments my lovely Guatemalan morning coffee was stirring in my tummy as I was slipping and sliding on the volcanic rubble as I tried to climb. I was trying to look at my feet so I wouldn’t slip on the gravel and roll off the mountain edge but also looking left and right for approaching equines, keep up with the freakishly fast walking group and try to remember to breathe. Scaling volcanos probably wasn’t on my fitness level as it is substantially harder than walking around city streets or having a solo song and dance party on the overnight bus to Guatemala at 3am.

The back-up parade of horses and locals were all around me.

One asked if I was ok and then casually reminded me that we still had two more hours to go.

I could tell he was thinking, ‘she aint gonna make it’

And I wasn’t going to make it.

I looked at the horse following me up. He looked more like a donkey, only about 2 feet taller than I. He was old and his hair was greying. He looked like he should have been wearing a bowler hat, a bow tie and leather patched tweed coat.
He wasn’t a massive stallion that would kick at ya as soon as look at ya. He wasn’t tall and proud with a puffed up chest like those jock racehorses, he was miserable and tame.

We looked at each other. He wasn’t as scary as he could have been. I was sick of this stupid hike already only 10 minutes in. I was going to have to do it. I wasn’t going to be able to climb a volcano considering I was struggling to stay upright within the first kilometre.
I got a ‘taxi’ as they call it, and ole grey mare trudges over and stops beside me. I inelegantly and with the help of a few people get on the horse. I look to the ground and figure I could make an easy emergency dismount and commando roll from this height. Satisfied it trotted off led by a young Guatemalan boy.

We worked our way up, up and up to the top of the volcano. I led the group for a while, the most athletic I had ever been. El Capitan, said in the Spanish way, did me no wrong, ole surefooted beast. Along rocky paths and down steep hills. I had my eyes shut several times and by the time the excursion was over every muscle in my body ached because they were tense the entire time. I stressed myself a six pack.
I made it, on horseback to the top of the volcano. With a dismount like Nadia Comeneci I fell to the ground, my jelly legs sunk into the igneous rock (thanks you year 9 geography) and I nearly fell over. The recent rains, as it seems it rains a hell of a lot in Central America, had made the entire top of the volcano steam.

It was one of the coolest nature sites I have seen. We walked around on its surface, into a steaming cavernous space and makeshift sauna. I blocked out my entire experience with Capitan, the only reminder a sore leg from being about 2 foot taller than your average Guatemalan thus my leg being bent into the stirrup.

In the distance were two more big volcanos, the second shooting out the occasional puff of smoke. In the valley was solidified lava flowing into a coffee plantation from last year’s eruption.

It was rather amazing and by then I was like, hell I’m practically National Velvet so I jumped back on Capitan, well hauled myself up and almost back over the other side of the saddle and we trotted back down the hill. I think I had already outdone myself and could have comfortably just walked back down, instead we rocketed down the hill. Some regret at my own bravado slash laziness began to brew. Down steep, rocky hills and cutting through the scrub and down little trails. Every time we went steeper my eyes closed tighter because I didn't want to watch my own death from toppling off the saddle, over the horse and rolling down a volcano. Going down is a lot more terrifying than a steady climb up. I didn’t realise a sports bra was a horse riding requirement. By the time I got to the bottom I had lost my necklace in all the bumpiness and my entire body was tight and sore as it turns out I was clenching my muscles from fear the whole way down.

What a relief to be at the bottom. My body was all wobbly and I wanted to finish this mountain activity, return to the safety of town and sit down to a coffee and a bagel.

I did it. I rode a horse. And I didn’t die of fright.

So it was more a trail pony ride than any great Clancy of the Overflow sort of thing but if I hadn’t been so grossly unfit to climb a mountain I would never have had to get on the world's most terrifying creature, a horse. See being unfit can pay off.

I said adios’ to El Capitan, he was a good horse, not scary at all but the ride sure was. I think I can happily go back to a life without horses and my fear of them returned the minute I saw one of those giant police horses patrolling the streets.

Even so that is certainly enough extreme activity in one holiday for this old mare.



Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 08:00 Archived in Guatemala Tagged volcano antigua horse_riding

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