There’s something to be said about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes but what about riding a few miles atop another man’s horse? Continuing on my journey in the beautiful ecotourism haven of Samaná, located in northeastern Dominican Republic, I found myself riding another man’s horse to the splendor of El Limón Waterfall.
My journey began in a small village farm in the town of El Limón with Parada Basilio y Ramona (Tel. 829-661- 4137 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). Horses and a mule were lined up, each with their own handler, and based on size I was assigned a horse. Some horse handlers were teenage boys, one was a young woman with large, colorful curlers used to smooth and tame her thick, dark hair and my handler was a slender yet strong man a few years older than me.
His name was Garjito, at least that’s how I think his name is spelled. He had short, salt and pepper hair, stubbly facial hair and a brilliant, welcoming smile. He wore a New York Yankees ball cap, gray over-sized T-shirt, khaki shorts and mid-shin-high black rubber boots.
At first glance, I didn’t understand why he was wearing those boots and as we began our 2.5 mile journey traversing up and down muddy and rocky hills, I couldn’t imagine how those boots were comfortable or useful, until we crossed the first stream. Garjito led the horse through the stream and those boots kept his feet dry.
Riding horseback through a lush tropical forest is a romantic notion but honestly, I was terrified at first. Unlike other horseback riding excursions I’ve taken in the Western United States, I wasn’t in control. The horse, named Boriqua, was in charge with the guidance of his handler. I was not allowed to hold the reins but instructed to hold the swell of the saddle. My faith was now in physics and my new equine friend, hoping I wouldn’t slip off and smack my head on one of the jagged rocks below.
Stunning vistas of lush mountains and primitive valleys literally took my breath away and quickly calmed my fears as I realized everything would be alright. I really didn’t have anything to worry about because Boriqua was gentle and needed a little giddy-up-and-go motivation. He knew the way and took it at his own pace. When we crossed that stream he stopped and took a long drink. It was a hot day and I don’t blame him for lingering in what looked to be a refreshing pit stop.
Garjito walked alongside and pointed out different trees. “Mango,” he said while pointing up at a tree. “Avocado.”
I didn’t want to burst his enthusiasm and tell him I see those trees daily in Florida. Plus, I couldn’t have. My Spanish is horrible and certainly something would have gotten lost in translation and cause an international incident. We approached a tree blossoming with petite white blooms and he introduced me to the intoxicating scent of coffee blossoms which reminded me of sweet jasmine. Coffee trees are something I don’t see in Florida.
When we reached the top of a mountain, Boriqua was tied up for a rest and Garjito and I took a 10-minute walk down to El Limón Waterfall which emptied into an inviting basin for swimming and cooling off. A lush, green carpet of moss and foliage covered the 120-foot waterfall’s wall making a gorgeous backdrop. Wow! Absolutely gorgeous.
What goes down must go up and somehow, I found the energy under the blazing sun to trek up the steep mountain. I hopped on Boriqua and headed back to the village where I enjoyed a traditional Dominican meal of rice, beans, grilled chicken, cabbage salad, spaghetti, plantain fritters and fresh fruit. When in the DR, it’s almost mandatory to wash a meal down with Presidente beer and so I did.
Before leaving, I stopped at the small co-op called Cooperativa Cafcao in the village and picked up a jar of sweet passion fruit jelly and chocolate-covered coffee beans made on site. Edible souvenirs let me share the journey with others when I’m back home.
The horseback ride, lunch and tip to the guide costs about $50. Guides will offer to carry your bag (I brought a little backpack which toward the end of the ride was really annoying my horse because it bounced on his back and he kept swatting it with his tail) and will go out of their way to point out different fruit trees. They will also offer to take photos of you and watch your belongings when swimming under the waterfall and will ensure you make it back to the top of the mountain. My guide also helped me across a stream we needed to walk across after dismounting the horse.
What does it mean to ride atop another man’s horse? For me it meant putting my faith in the Universe and realizing when you do, you’ll be lead to something amazing.
Brief video of the journey to El Limón Waterfall on horseback. If the video doesn’t play, follow this link.
Enjoy additional photos on my Flickr channel.
This is the second in a multi-post series about visiting Samaná, Dominican Republic.
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism and their U.S.-based public relations agency of record, BVK. They have not reviewed this post and opinions are my own.