Posted on Friday, January 3rd, 2014
Mexico’s Majestic Peaks
After doing more than 100 horseback rides in foreign lands over the last 40 years, I never cease to be surprised and delighted by the tremendous diversity of opportunity available around the world with horses. This ride in Mexico was a great treat for me. It highlighted the best of Mexico and belied the tawdry image many Americans have of the country. Our hosts, Pepe and Lucia, are truly gracious in the old world sense and made us feel like friends and honored guests in their beautiful home.
They speak flawless English and are extremely well informed on a broad range of subjects. They can tell you almost anything you would like to know about the history, culture, flora and fauna of the area. Both are expert horsemen.
The route has been meticulously planned to make a complete circle through the mountains and valleys which surround the jewel-like lake on whose shores stands the picturesque colonial town of Valle de Bravo. The hacienda sits at about 6,000 ft. while the forested mountains around go up well over 12,000 ft. Each day we would leave the horses at a different spot and transfer back to the comfort of the hacienda for a delicious margarita and a mouthwatering meal.
Most days we spent about six hours in the saddle and covered a wide variety of landscape. We traversed pine, oak and fir forests as well as patches of farmland with absolutely spectacular and ever-changing views. I had been prepared for excellent horses, but our mounts surpassed my expectations. They were about 16 hands, well trained and with amazing stamina.
A broad selection of excellent saddles is available. Each day the horses climbed and descended several thousand feet, but they were still keen to make the fast canters we had quite frequently. They were sure footed in the most difficult places and we would have been glad to add any of them to our herd in Wyoming.
Every day had its special appeal, but the visit to the monarch butterflies was outstanding. Our horses made the climb to one of the remote and rarely visited sanctuaries at about 12,000 ft. in impressive time and we walked on foot for the last few hundred yards. The air had been filled with butterflies almost as thick as snowflakes, but we were unprepared when we saw them clinging together in their millions on the majestic fir trees which soared 150 ft. or more above us.
It was a sacred and spiritually moving place and we were full of wonder at the thought of the amazing migration these creatures make each year all the way to Canada.
Lunches carried by our indefatigable pack mule, Don Sabino, were invariably a great feast. There was an assortment of drinks on ice, and a fantastic spread of vegetables, fruit, cheese, meat, smoked trout, etc. Often our guides cooked a delicious hot meal over a wood fire. Picnic spots were always in the most breathtakingly spectacular spots imaginable, sometimes looking down over sheer cliffs to valleys, plains and lakes far, far below.
Pepe guided us flawlessly and the grooms who rode along were unfailingly attentive and courteous. Pepe was always a fund of information and had many stories to tell about the country we passed through. One day we left the horses beside the lake and made the crossing to the finca by boat, passing softly over the azure waters of the lake.
It was always a pleasure to find our welcoming room again in the evening after a long day in the saddle, to sip another delicious margarita, to have seen totally new country and yet not to have had to pack and rearrange our things. We forgot our worries and could have stayed on indefinitely in that lovely setting.
Ride Review by Bayard Fox