Joy Riding in Spain ~ Heaven on Earth
I wake up in the morning to a sore butt and a stiff back. My body groans a little bit as I roust myself out of my cozy, little bed in the 1000-year old farmhouse where we’ve been staying. The owner greets us on the veranda with homemade pastries, fruit from the garden, eggs from her chickens and rich, dark coffee. She also greets us with stories – stories of her past, stories of her culture and her land, stories that have us yearning for the simplicity of a lifestyle that has long since past for most of us, but still lives determinably on here. Here, in the heart of rural Spain.
We all agree that we could sit and listen to her all day; but the horses are waiting for us down in the pasture and even though it’s hard to leave such a warm and authentic place, we’re all excited to go. Go and adventure. Go and explore. Go and play.
It’s day 3 of a weeklong ride across the northeast of Spain. I’m incredibly enchanted by the diversity of the landscapes here. One moment, we’re meandering our way through a medieval villages, listening to our horse’s hooves echoing off the cobblestone streets and ancient walls, waving hello to the locals that come out from their houses to watch our procession and then suddenly, we’re back into the countryside winding through acres upon acres of apples, with workers running up to offer us a sample. To this day, one of the best apples I’ve ever had is the one that I shared with my horse on that quiet ride through the groves.
We travel through bigger towns and I feel incredibly grateful for my trustworthy riding companion. He takes me over bridges and along streets where cars and trucks and bikes are going about their normal daily business. We pass shops and restaurants and houses. People are eating, people are working, little kids are running after us shouting and laughing, and the other tourists just stare. I always imagine them wishing that they were spending their vacations like we were: truly immersed in the country on the back of a horse, slowly, joyfully and full of adventure, rather than being whisked around from site to site in the back of a bus. I don’t know if this is true for them, but for me, I can’t imagine a better way to experience a different country and culture.
There’s something about traveling for miles upon miles on horseback that connects you to a deeper part of yourself. You get into a rhythm. With your horse, with your traveling companions, with the land and with yourself. It feels as if your body remembers this way of moving from times long ago and that this, sitting astride a horse, is the most natural of places to be.
All too quickly, the last day arrives. Many miles have been ridden, many laughs have been shared, so many delicious meals have been devoured and maybe a few too many glasses of wine have been consumed. It feels bittersweet to be tacking up my horse for the last time. I don’t want to say goodbye. It feels like this is my life now.
We end our ride on the coast. We get up early in the morning, before the sun, so we can be on the beach for sunrise. The horses are a little edgy with our headlamps shining in their eyes, but they quickly settle in with their buckets of grain and flakes of hay. We tack up in the dark and leave the pasture like riders in the night and an hour later we are greeted with a spectacular sunrise and a deserted beach. The horses are anxious to run. They love it here. You can feel it in their energy and in their eagerness to move their bodies. We humans want to run as well. It’s a collective energy that surges through the group and as we let them fly with the wind, it’s the only place that I want to be.