It was september 1997, in the region of Cuzco in Peru. My former partner -a native Peruvian- and I were advised to check out some of the smaller archeological sites, Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Puca Pucara and Tambo Machay, by means of an organised tour: on horse back, together with a few other tourists. "This is a lovely ride through beautiful countryside, and generally takes around four hours with time at each site." as the brochures tell you. Correct, no comment.
The 'other tourists' turned out to be a group of 4 Japanese friends, in their late teens or early twenties? They couldn't speak english nor spanish.
They were already mounting their appointed horses when my partner and I arrived. For my partner, a large mare was being saddled, while my horse, a lighter riding horse, was ready and waiting. It was a sorrel called "Fuego" (Fire). I tried to make eye contact but the animal only glared at me, rather bored. Most likely because I was tourist number so and so and he knew he'd be gone from home for another four hours.
I mounted it, or should I say him? I could reach the stirrups, but only with my legs almost stretched. Which is not for me! When I sit, I want to have my feet at the same level as my seat. Or as close to it as possible. So I dismounted and started to shorten the stirrups. I had just finished with the one on the right, when the guide came by and ordered me into the saddle (at that time I was pretty easy to order around, I guess). He was running late already, so no time for unimportant things like that. Off we went. I felt rather lopsided, with one bent and one stretched leg. On a horse that at first didn't want to budge. It took a few slaps from the guide to make him move. Not the treatment I would have chosen, but who am I to change the rough andean culture single handed ? With my companions way ahead of me?
Finally Fuego decided to follow his stablemates at a distance, trotting spiritlessly. I had a hard time urging him on. As I caught up with the others, I was wondering how this horse ever deserved the name Fuego. Just at that moment the sorrel, in an answer to my question?, started to fart... The Japanese guys turned on cue, looking bewildered at me. How do you say in japanese that it was the horse and not you? I still see them shaking with laughter. Now I laugh too, but I don't remember doing it so loud at the time.
This situation -in it's entirety- kept repeating itself until the third site. There I decided to skip looking at the ruins and adjust the left stirrup instead. Smart move, I got a better grasp on my smouldering friend and it was about time. After remounting our horses at the next, final, site, Fuego decided it was time to lead the group at a happy gallop back home. Ignoring the gringa on his back, who was uttering directions in all kinds of tonalities, just as he had done from the start.
Was it my imagination, or did it whisper "goodbye and good ridden" to me? Nah. Must have been "good riddance".
Can I ride a horse? I don't know. But I know I can stay in the saddle.
|Another acquaintance I made in the Andes [wood-burning]|