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Home on the Range September 24, 2009

Posted by Jen Pappas in Arequipa.
Tags: , ,

Locals sometimes say “when the moon separated from the earth, it forgot to take Arequipa”. And while this may be somewhat of a stretch, (Volcan Arenal in Costa Rica for example, was much more moon-like in my opinion) it certainly sounds romantic.

      Yesterday Steve and I got up early, scarfed down our free morning cup of tea, bread and jam and went horseback riding. The day before, a tour company had arranged for a taxi to meet us outside our hotel at 9 am and take us out to the ranch, twenty minutes outside the city center.

      When we arrived, we were handed over to Julio, who would be our guide for the next two and a half hours. Maybe it’s some kind of joke put in motion by the universe or revenge for all those tricks I used to play on my sister, but I ended up with an ornery albino horse named Yuma while Steve was given the good-natured Princessa.

      Initially, we were skeptical, following Julio through town and across the highway on horseback did not seem like the beautiful canyon tour we were promised. But soon enough we began the steep climb up from the valley past plots of Inca-age agriculture and amazing scenery. El Misti Volcano and the snow-capped Chachani mountains acted as the backdrop as we meandered through the canyon, past men herding sheep and plowing tiny fields with a single team of oxen. We crossed rivers, galloped through passes, (much to Steve’s delight and my fear) pausing every now and then so Julio could point out one of the many “fighting bulls” chained up inside their paddocks.

Inca-inspired agriculture, aka scenic countryside

Inca-inspired agriculture, aka scenic countryside

      The entire trek, we were accompanied by three black dogs from the ranch, our favorite being Paco, a six-month old Lab who’s favorite past time was punking sheep. We must have looked pretty odd to all the farmers we passed on our way: two gringos and a Peruvian cowboy on horseback, with three wily dogs, causing all sorts of ruckus.

All hell broke loose when a herd of sheep came up the road, completely unafraid of our dogs or the horses.

All hell broke loose when a herd of sheep came up the road, completely unafraid of our dogs or the horses.

      Thanks to my inability to gallop without being bounced into oblivion, my ass is sore as hell and God only knows how many random bruises I may have picked up. Steve is a hopeless country boy at heart, so he loved every minute, especially watching me bounce up and down like a pair of psychotic cymbals.

      When we finally returned to the ranch, we were told we’d be hitching a ride back into town on one of the double-decker tour buses making a pit stop at the ranch. Talk about luck! Not only did we land a private guide for our horseback tour of the canyon, but now we were also getting a free trip on one of the tourist traps? Perfect. And for only $22 a piece. We couldn’t have fabricated a better ending to our already surreal day: cruising back into Arequipa atop the second floor of a bright, red tour bus.