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Judith Kellogg - USA
Client review The Sacred Valley Ride
As I crawled out of my tent on the day before heading to Machu Pichu, the scene was overwhelming. We were camped in the courtyard of a beautiful colonial brick church that was little changed from previous centuries. The snow covered Andes loomed above, while our exquisite Peruvian Paso horses stood quietly nearby. Our group had a little time to chat over the morning campfire while we waited for breakfast, reminiscing bittersweetly that this was our last day in the saddle. Most of us had been lured to this ride by the promise of visiting Machu Pichu, the magnificent, mythic vestige of Inca civilization, but we all agreed that even this spectacular site could hardly match the inspiring and exhilarating horseback experience that was about to end. This ride had introduced us to the justifiably admired Peruvian Paso horses, and allowed us to peek into the heart and soul of this fascinating and richly layered country and people in a way simply not possible traveling any other way.
The success of this trip was largely the work of our engaging, energetic, and knowledgeable guide who was also owner of the ranch that served as home base. Eddy traded his life as a successful Dutch businessman, giving up his luxurious office and Porsche to follow his dream of returning to his birth-country (his mother was Peruvian) to own and train Peruvian Paso horses. Not only were we able to experience the true nobility of these unique horses, but Eddy also made sure that we did not miss the sights, sounds and cultural diversity of Lima, Cuzco, and the wonderful villages along our path.
Eddy generously met those of us who had arrived in Lima a few days before the official start of the ride, and introduced us to the most important museums, typical cuisine, good shopping areas, and exciting nightlife. Then we all flew to Cuzco, the colorful and lively city that contains extraordinary artifacts representing the complex layers of Peru’s history, from pre-Columbian times, through the colonial period, to the present. We returned to Cuzco at various points during the trip, with ample time to explore, but of course, during the first days, we were eager to get in the saddle, and Eddy wasted no time. We headed for Urubamba, set in a lush farming valley, arriving at Eddy’s meticulously maintained, flower-filled ranch, where we were greeted with a veritable feast. That afternoon we had our first experience riding the Pasos, each outfitted with elegant, silver-inlaid, traditional tack, that, for all its beauty, was very comfortable. These gaited horses descend from a carefully selected lineage that goes back 400 years, having come with the first European conquerors. Although tough, spirited, and strong, these horses are remarkably sweet-tempered and responsive. My horse was an unforgettable five year old gray stallion.
The next day, we saddled up and headed out of the valley to the high plane between Urubamba and Cuzco where most of the ride took place. For the days of the ride, we rode through the rural countryside, with the magnificent peaks of the Andes generally in view. Often we rode along remarkably well-preserved, ancient Inca stone-paved roads. As we passed through picturesque, adobe brick villages, excited, beaming children in colorful traditional Peruvian garb would inevitably run out shouting, “caballos, caballos.” We sometimes had to defer to herds of sheep or cattle. Given that the ride took place in Spring, the fields were animated with baby animals everywhere—piglets, calves, lambs, llamas, alpacas, and (my favorite) little burros. Several times, we had the opportunity to visit churches or pre-Columbian sites rarely seen by outsiders, or to buy beautiful crafts in Indian markets. With Eddy, we felt perfectly comfortable exploring narrow, village streets at night, capturing the tapestry of the lives lived in places still remote from the media influences of the modern world. One night from our campsite we went to sleep with gay, exuberant and sometimes haunting traditional Peruvian music from a wedding party nearby. Occasionally, inquisitive village children would greet us when we woke up. Although we were camping in tents for much of the ride, we had comfortable mattresses, excellent meals (sometimes including such local delicacies as alpaca and guinea pig), and wonderful comraderie with both fellow riders and staff. When not camping, our accommodations were excellent, selected for both comfort and traditional local color.
This ride provided the best that an Equitours ride has to offer: noble, warm-blooded horses; a smart, charming, and superbly competent guide who adored his horses and succeeded admirably in making sure we left in love with them as well. In addition this trip was organized to maximize the rich ethnic experience of this unique country in the short time we had. Going about my daily routine now, I often wish I were back in Urubamba or riding up on the high plane. We had a remarkable twelve days!