The ranch had two main sites: the main camp was the owner's homestead. It had a kitchen with its mesquite burning stove and the ramada with its horses. The ranch had some 30 horses, half of whom worked for a week while the other half were enjoying the week off in the pasturelands. The other site was the visitor's lodging compound, consisting of a central lodge with a kitchen and three large bedrooms. As well, there were two small cabanas, one of which was being used by Larry and myself. But here was the catch. The two sites were 30 minutes apart and the roadway was again that rock-strewn, mountain clinging, mud-covered, brain shaking path designed to shorten the lives of the vehicles but hopefully, not the lives of the passengers. And yet, after a major rainfall that night, the red clayish mud made the slip-sliding drive around those hairpin turns an extreme adventure. We were thankful to arrive safely at the main camp for a Mexican breakfast.
The staff at the ranch included three Mexican cowboys, a Mexican cook, and three young female wranglers: Lowry from England, Senka from Croatia, and Grace from Madison, Wisconsin. These girls were expected to do everything: from saddling horses to helping prepare meals, to building fires, to driving the 4-wheel drive vehicles. And they performed their chores efficiently with a friendly demeanor.
And so, that morning we were assigned horses and prepared for our first riding adventure. My horse was a palomino and was also known by that name. The horses were very well trained and responded immediately to the slightest pressure from the neck reins. For this expedition, there were six guests and two cowboys. Diego was a 2nd generation cowboy and at age 70, knew the ranch intimately. Cuarte was a younger cowboy but was also very knowledgeable about the ranch. Neither one spoke English. They lead us on some fairly easy riding, given that it was our first day. Yet, riding through the Sierra Madres was awe-inspiring as I experienced a part of God's creation unlike anything I had seen before. We stopped several times for short, very welcome, breaks at which time we were able to relieve our aching hip, knee, and ankle joints. All in all, that first trip went from 9:15-1:45 after which we were served a tasty Mexican lunch. The rest of the day included the tortuous return trip to our lodgings, a welcome warm shower, a siesta, a chili dinner, and a bit of a singsong, led by a guitar/harmonica playing guest. Larry and I felt a sense of accomplishment, having, at our age, survived a physical challenge which we were not at all sure about. And the cowboys said we did well enough that tomorrow they would take us on a more challenging ride.
We awoke to a clear crisp morning, feeling reasonably well for two old codgers who had spent four-plus hours on horses the previous day. Breakfast was served at both sites. But if you wanted a true Mexican breakfast, you’d wait until you arrived at the main camp. Larry chose the Mexican fare; I waited for the next day.
We learned that several horses had escaped the corral at night, including my palomino. I was therefore assigned another horse named Geronimo. I was told that I would like him and that he was a guest favorite. Well, where Palomino was lively and ready to move, Geronimo was the opposite. From the moment we departed, I knew that I was in for a long ride. Whereas the previous day, Palomino and I lead the group at many times; the next day was the opposite, as Geronimo simply could not be inspired to move beyond a safe, plodding pace. That day, the trip was much more challenging in terms of the terrain being covered, as the pathways were narrower and much more up and down. Again, the scenery was amazing and with my gentle nag, I had the opportunity to take in much more of the unfolding vistas. Huge, sheer, rock faces and narrow, dried up creek beds were all part of the day's experience. It was a vast country and the silence was a physical presence. We had ten riders that day, including two cowboys and one wrangler named Senka. Either one of the cowboys or Senka always stayed at the back. And with my unhurried ride, I was soon falling far behind the rest of the group. Senka stayed back with me and we had a lovely half hour conversation. She was a 29-year-old Croatian who loved horses and ranch life. But she was also very intelligent, having completed her college degree in applied linguistics. At the time of graduation, she spoke seven languages. She must have had a good ear for the various nuances of different languages because her English was perfect with no trace of a Croatian accent. We arrived back in camp a full half hour after the others and upon dismounting, I found myself staggering to maintain balance. The four hours plus ride had had only one break and with the extended time negotiated by Geronimo, I was barely able to walk. Simply put, everything from the waist down screamed surrender. I staggered to the outside table where lunch was being served and enjoyed some homemade tortillas with beans and a stew.
A hike was being planned for the afternoon and Larry and I agreed to give it a try. The hike took us through some interesting canyon country, but after an hour Larry and I decided to turn back as it was becoming too much for us. And so, two hours after starting out, we dragged ourselves back into camp, tired beyond belief. Senka drove us on that infamous road back to our lodgings and we treated our aching bodies to a nice warm shower.
Supper was served at 8:00PM and consisted of mesquite-burning, chicken barbecue with the ever-present tortillas and an actual salad. Not that I am big into salads but I really enjoyed this one. And so ended day two at the ranch. We hoped that a good rest would drive away some of the aches and pains.
Check back on February 22, 2019, to finish reading about The Adventures Of The Retired Guy - Part 4!