My body hurts a little, but it’s a good kind of pain, the kind you get after doing something fun.
This time, it was horseback riding in Guarne, a small town just north of Rio Negro.
I had been looking forward to this trip for a few weeks, after my friend Mauro invited me. The cost was 65,000 pesos (about $34) and that included lunch, transportation and a horse.
I was wondering how the experience would be because 65,000 pesos is a lot of money here. It was even better than I expected.
Alejo, one of Mauro’s friends, organized a group of around 20 people to go, a group with lots of nice people. We met outside a dance studio in Barrio Colombia, filled two vans, then headed east.
I was a little groggy because I had just returned to the city from a finca in San Jerónimo, where we stayed up late drinking whiskey and beer. But I was excited. That gave me extra energy. I had not ridden a horse since I was a kid growing up in Hawaii.
We rented the horses at Cabalgatas Guarne, a place perched atop a hill with a gorgeous view of the town and the surrounding mountains, the kind of scene you might see in a pretty painting.
Salsa music was playing, so while we were waiting for lunch, a handful of people in the group started dancing, four pairs of people who were apparently familiar with each other because they seamlessly shifted from one dance partner to another, all while spinning and turning in between. This would become a trend.
(Editor’s note: this form of salsa dancing, where you switch partners, is called salsa rueda, or salsa casino.)
We had a delicious bandeja paísa for lunch as Alex Naranjo and the other Cabalgatas employees rounded up the horses. Mauro suggested we sneak out there and pick our horses early. I got a white one, average size, very tame.
The first part of the ride was through the town, where we saw beautiful old buildings and lots of friendly people waving to us.
Mauro had a bottle of Aguardiente and he handed it to me so I could take a shot. I don’t know why I drink it, why anyone drinks it. Guaro, as the paísas call it, doesn’t taste especially great — it’s like watered down Jagermeister. But it’s all part of embracing the paísa culture, I guess.
We were in the town, on the pavement, for only 10 minutes or so before we hit the trail. There was a quick stop in the foothills, at this little store where a woman was cooking comida tipica outside.
One of the girls took a bad step off the sidewalk and sprained her ankle, maybe even broke it. It looked like she had a baseball under her skin; it hurt me just to look at it. Alex, being the accommodating business owner he is, had one of his employees drive over to pick her up at the store.
The trail then took us up, up, up into the mountains. The view here was spectacular. We made another stop in these lush hills, at another small store.
Salsa music was playing so the same eight people put on a show. I danced too, but not with them. I’m not nearly good enough to do that. But I had fun dancing with a couple of the girls I had met on the trip.
Four hours later, we returned to Cabalgatas Guarne.
This bears repeating: four hours later.
Can you imagine what it would cost to rent a horse for four hours in the United States and ride a trail with a beautiful backdrop of green peaks?
Here, you pay only $18.
I assumed that the day was over, that we would jump in the vans and head back to the city. I was wrong.
We spent about another two hours there, drinking a little more, salsa dancing a lot more, and embracing the good life in Colombia.
The details to plan your own horseback riding trip in Guarne: