Friday, March 20, 2020

Costa Rica's Monteverde Cloud Forest: Horseback Riding With Equus

IMG_20200224_171603Looking to spot exotic animals in the cloud forest, zip through the lush treetops, or gallop on a sunset horse ride? Monteverde offers all this and more.

Into The Cloud Forest

San Jose may be Costa Rica’s capital and largest city - but visitors to this Central American country will only find spectacular scenery and wildlife by venturing forth into the hills and forests. We had the good fortune to visit Costa Rica during February, which is during the country’s dry season and was before the coronavirus sent the US and world into a tailspin.

Villa Lodge Interior

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We booked our trip through Green World Adventures, which handled our lodging, excursions and all our transfers. It is a super way to travel and gave us the best of both worlds. We traveled as a couple (and not a large group) but made plenty of friends on the excursions we participated in. Our tour was called Eco-Adventure, and it certainly was.

Monteverde, or Green Mountain, is a major destination for adventurers. After crossing Lake Arenal in a ferry, we bumped and rumbled to Santa Elena, a small town adjoining Monteverde, and prepared for a horseback riding outing.

We stayed at Villa Lodge, which is on a gravel road that is under construction and lies just a short walk from restaurants and the main part of town. The inside is spacious and includes a television, refrigerator, and microwave. There is no air conditioning, but a standing floor fan provided a nice breeze. Breakfast was included, and we enjoyed the beautiful dining spot and friendly service.

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One evening the Green Dragon, my wife, called me to look outside. A cow was wandering the side of the street. We were told this is common. In other parts of Costa Rica we’d see horses as well as cows meandering while searching for the tastiest grass.

Villa Lodge Exterior

Giddyap Horsey

Action was on our agenda and soon after checking in we were off to ride horses. Equus was the excursion provider and promised “gentle” horses. This was important to me since I had only been on a horse one other time in my life. That was in summer camp when I refused to ride ponies with the other grade school kids and demanded a ride on Big Red.

The horses were being assigned and riders and horses cantered to the trailhead. I wondered what sort of horse would be left in the corral, since only me and another poor soul had yet to be given rides.

HernandoBefore long I was in the saddle of Carmelo, who like Carmelo Anthony of the NBA (remember that?) is a bit long in the tooth. My wife was riding Hernando and, with me holding my breath, we rode down the trail.

The sweeping countryside was amazing. We were riding at the perfect time as the sun was starting to sink. Its rays made the foliage glow with golden hues. Carmelo plodded along at first, but then displayed the spirit of Rocky Balboa, passing pokey horses dawdling in a stream. We then burst up a steep hillside to pass a passel of horses on their way to our sunset overlook.

The horses are sure-footed. I was surprised how they navigated rugged slopes and put their hooves in just the right spot, avoiding ruts and piles of rocks.

Back at the starting point, we turned in our helmets and enjoyed a cup of freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. My knees were a bit wobbly after the ride, but it was a marvelous experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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