Cover photo: pit stop during one of the trails on Rancho Los Banos
For photos of this trip, please go to this page.
In the afternoon I flew from Denver to Tucson, AZ via LAX. I was up for some serious horse riding. In fact, I needed it desperately. For the last ten years, I have been riding horses for at least three times a week. This trip so far was the longest I had gone without. Although I have not been a big fan of United since what happened in Denver, I have to admit, I love their express flights from and to Tucson. Small planes, they are not packed at all.
I arrived in Tucson in the evening. It is a small airport, and once again, all the bags (except mine) and passengers were gone by the time I got to the luggage carrousel. Since my hotel for the night was a two-minute-walk from the airport, the most logical thing to do for me is to walk to it. Apparently, Americans think differently. There was no way you could walk of the airport grounds without walking on the road where the cars were driven. In the end, I made it to the La Quinta hotel, walking.
I was just staying in Tucson for the night. The next morning I was picked up by a mini-van that would bring me to Douglas, AZ. In Douglas, which is a town on the American-Mexican border, the ranch owners (who are living in Douglas) would be my taxi guide to their property in Sonora, and the Mexican part of the Rocky Mountains. Even though their ranch is 90 KMs from Douglas, it took us (Manolo sr. and I) three to four hours to get there. This did include a short stop for some groceries, but because the road from the main gate to the ranch itself is a dirt road, it just takes some time to get there. Did you know that you do not need a passport to get into Mexico. Getting back into the US is a completely different story though.
In the afternoon we arrived at the Ranch part of the property. The horses were here, so were the fifteen dogs and the twenty-something cats. The vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) were also staying in these quarters. Manolo introduced me to everyone: Chene and his son, Diego, Victor, Senka and Juan. Senka and Juan were both staying (and entertaining the guests). Senka is from the Croatia and Juan from Columbia. Everybody spoke English except for Lupita (the cook) and the vaqueros.
When I arrived, there were two guests (who were out for a ride) from the UK. They were to leave the next day. The same day a couple from New York City (Laurisa and Rob) were arriving. They would be taking Geoff (the hiking expert on the property from Minnesota) with them.
During my stay on Rancho Los Baños I spent hours in the saddle, wandering through the wilderness with the vaqueros and Senka. I was taken on trails, they normally never ride with guests (yay for being able to ride!). It is so beautiful and calm out there without Wi-Fi, cell phone reception and such. Nothing at all. And I loved every minute of it. The hiking trails are wonderful as well. I just like horse riding better.
The sleeping quarters (El Cumaral), a beautiful house in the valley, were about ten KMs away from the ranch. However, due to the dirt roads, it took us 40 to 60 minutes each morning to get to the ranch by car. The pros of that however, were that we started the day with two breakfast moments. One in Cumaral and one at the Ranch. The first one being an European one with cereals, English muffins etc. The second one was authentically Mexican, tortillas and beans included. After second breakfast, we went horse riding to get back to the ranch for lunch in the mid-afternoon, to have dinner in Cumaral again in the evening. I love food. Lupita is an excellent cook and so was Diego, who cooked in Lupita’s absence.
Considering I was the only one who wanted to ride every day, the cowboys took Senka and I to wherever they had to be for the day, which included us helping (in the background and away from danger) rounding up some cows. I just had to stand somewhere sitting on Veruga (the horse) and make sure the cow (that never came near me) went in a certain direction. Thank goodness for Senka being able to understand Spanish. My Spanish skills are non-existent.
Unfortunately the week came to an end too soon and I was brought back to Tucson by Manolo Jr (the son) via Walmart (YAY!). Crossing the border is a whole different story however. Manolo always tells the personnel working at the border that his guests are his friends staying at his property. Apparently it works. However, it is getting back into America, so they have to see and check your passports and they have to stamp them (they cannot do that properly in Douglas either. I came back into the states on January 14. I have a stamp of the 15th. I do not care, but since it is the second time they got it wrong. When looking in my passport I somehow managed to get from the Mexican border by car to Canada by plane on the same day.
Manolo dropped me off at the hotel in Tucson again, when we said goodbye and my Mexican horse riding adventure had finished. It was so calming and peaceful to be there, I would go back there, no questions asked.