Jan 22nd
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Cozumel by Horseback

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Island Capers – Cozumel by Horseback

       We are riding on horseback through the jungles surrounding El Cedral, a small village, which boasts an ancient Mayan shrine dating back to 900 AD. We find several places to buy homemade blankets, at $3 each, and a man selling soda pop out of a cooler. We spot an iguana perched high in a wild mango tree and we see numerous underground caves where the Mayan Indians used to live.
    My children and I have opted to view Cozumel by horseback but we know it’s an island off the Yucatan Peninsula best known for its underwater diving. The quaint town of San Miguel attracts 50 percent of the country’s cruise passengers, making it the third largest deRiding the beaches on Cozumel.stination in the Caribbean. Over the course of several days, we drive our rented Volkswagen to the various rancheros that advertise horseback riding.
    My 12-year-old son, Evan, has never ridden a horse and though my six-year-old daughter, Nia takes horseback riding, this is a completely different type of riding.  No helmets are required and it’s okay to wear sandals. Nia points out to Evan and me that her r
iding instructor back home would be horrified.
    Evan is slightly taken aback when, after mounting a graceful white horse, he is informed that her name is Bullito, Spanish for bullet. He wonders, “Will she take off like a shot?”
    Not to worry. The horses we encounter on Cozumel seldom break into a trot, let alone a cantor or gallop.  They are used to carrying somewhat wary tourists and our guide, Francisco Torres, sets a slow pace. The horses also seem to know only one direction – the way back to the stable. Evan is relieved.
    Single file we make our way past farmsteads, then we pull our horses to the side of the road as a small herd of cows ambles towards us. Soon, a right turn takes us away from farms, chickens, and cows and onto the plains with its stands of palm trees and pampas grass.
Evan is taken aback when he is informed that his horse in named Bullito - Spanish for bullet!
    At our first stop, Francisco helps us off our horses, tying them to the trees. Thin sheets of tzekel, calcareous rock covered with a thin layer of soil, dot the landscape. We walk down into holes in the Tzekel, which turn out to be roomy underground caverns where the Mayans lived. They carved small holes in the ceilings for smoke to escape from their cooking fires. The floor to ceiling stone columns create natural barriers that seem to
separate the cave into rooms.
    Back on horseback, the jungle closes in and we travel through dense trees and vines, listening to the calls of t
he birds and hearing the occasional wild animal scamper through the forest. Francisco pulls down a wild mango for us to sample. He tells us that his Mayan ancestors (and his parents back in the Yucatan) ate only fruit and fish, both foraged from the land, and they lived well into their eighties. "No processed food," he says with a grin.
    Now our horses gain speed as we canter past banana, guava, and zapote trees and into swamplands filled with red and white mangroves. We are getting closer to the stables, open air affairs built of rough-cut tree trunks. Francisco offers to take our photo on horseback so we three vaqueros move our
our horses gained speed as we canter past banana, guava, and zapote trees and into mangove swamplands.somewhat recalcitrant horses (they're home and they want us off) together for a group photo.
    The horseback riding experience is so unique that the next day, my two kids opt to leave the swimming pool mid morning and travel to another ranchero pinpointed by a hand painted sign in front of a dusty unpaved road. This outfit promises a horseback ride not only through the jungle but also along the beach. These horses are also determined to get home in an ambling fashion. Astride our trusty steeds, we travel an old deserted cobbled roadway where the only person we pass is an old man who sits alongside the road with his two dogs. He waves and chats in Spanish to our guide, Edwardo.  Why the old man has bought his chair and his dogs to this place, so far from houses, is unknown to us but he seems content to sit in the sun as his dogs lay by his feet.
       Soon we're riding on a small sandy path through the woods from which we can, in the dist
We delight in the exotic bird calls from the jungle.ance, catch a glimpse of the blue Caribbean Sea. Seagulls and herons fly overhead and brightly colored birds sit in the trees lining the beach. Edwardo, noticing the camera strung across my pommel, motions that he will take a photo of us. Unlike Francisco, Edwardo does not speak English so we will not get to hear any tips on healthy Mayan food habits.
    Along the shoreline, hundreds of bumblebee jellyfish, so called because they are the color and size of bees, clog the waters. Our horses seem unconcerned about the jellyfish as they splash along the water’s edge. In the distance, we see a few fish leap out of the water and even farther; we notice several large cruise ships steam towards San Miguel. We are glad that we chose to see a different Cozumel, from horseback.
    El Cedral is located off the southern end of the coastal road just as it curves east and it is marked by a large yellow archway and brightly painted sign. Also along the coastal road you see many hand-lettered signs advertising the small rancheros where horses and tours are available.  The average cost was $20 to $25 per person for about an hour-long guided ride. Several agencies, such as Apple Tours, also arrange tours.
Jane Ammeson    


Where are Tricia and Marla?

Tricia and Marla climbed these steps to this magnificent temple. Where are Tricia and Marla?
Click here to find out. 

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