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  • Writer's pictureDiann Schindler, Ph.D.

"Vamonos!" Cusco on horseback.

I trekked, on foot, up above the city of Cusco, Peru, virtually straight up a paved road to the archaeological site called Sacahuayman, a citadel on the northern outskirts of the city. I walked almost two hours and shot photos along the way, not only because the views were breathtaking, but also because the altitude...11,500 feet above sea level... was breathtaking!

When I finally arrived, I learned that the tour of Sacahauayman took at least five hours for a fee of 70 euros. I just didn’t want to spend the time or the money. In turn, I chose to ride on horseback for about 3 hours for 50 euros and visit an area very near Sacahauayman.

A car drove me back down about half way to an old barn, tucked away on the side of the mountain. Tired horses, saddled with leather and thick wool, stood in black mud, heads hanging in rest.

Three of us, would be led by a Peruvian girl named Sandy...although, I doubt if that was truly her name. As we three mounted, our horses perked up and were eager to get moving. One of the horses had a lively foal that scampered along with us. Sandy walked along with us on foot, through the mud with her purple, pokadot canvas flats. She spoke no English, nor did she understand English. In fact, I was the only one who spoke English. Gladly, I was forced to dig deep for Spanish I just knew had to be in my brain somewhere.

We climbed steep inclines through stones, water, fallen tree limbs and twisted around boulders and trees. Our horses were well trained and never once stopped to eat. Rather, they obeyed Sandy as she urged them with her special sounds and faint whistles. The horses and the foal consistently forged forward over the treacherous terrian, cooled by the mountain air and the shadows of the chachacomo and elderberry trees.

After about an hour, the trail opened up to the warm sun, peaceful green pastures with yellow wild flowers, and the stone ruins of ancient architecture, including a fortress and a sacred temple. We saw a lovely, serene area surrounded with hectares of wheat-like foliage that served as a foreground to the magnificent views of city of Cusco in the distance below. We dismounted, climbed on foot even higher, and explored while our horses enjoyed their break, grazing on the early spring, sweet grass in an open field. The foal suckled.

Thirty minutes later, we mounted our horses again. Sandy said something to me in Spanish and I realized she asked me to wait for her. I nodded and she led two of my fellow horseback riders, the foal dutifully following, behind some trees, out of sight.

I waited there, by myself on my horse. As minutes passed, I decided to use my phone to videotape these few moments.

You can click on the humorous video below, although the humor is about what I’m saying, not so much what you see. I’m trying to create a relationship with my horse who ignores me completely, until he hears Sandy returning. I thought he was saying “hello” to me...but not!

It was very windy, but if you listen carefully at the very end of the video, you can hear a single horse approaching, galloping and Sandy shouting something in Spanish.

I stopped the video and as quickly as I could, I stored my phone safely in my pocket.

“Vamonos! Vamonos!” It was clear, Sandy was flying in the saddle and had no intention of slowing down! My steed whinnied and bounced. He wanted to go and varoom! We galloped and galloped, and cantored, and, thank goodness, galloped again. (Cantoring is so hard on the ass!)

My camera and purse were safe, but bounced violently, up, down, and around. I think we galloped for about six or seven minutes, which is actually a long time, especially for those of us who haven’t galloped in 35 years.

I held on for dear life and laughed so hard my nose ran! What great fun!

Click HERE to access some beautiful photos of this horseback tour, as well as more taken in Cusco, Peru Gallery. I was in Cusco in February, 2017.

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