The horses, apparently just as eager to return home after a long day, set off racing home. It’s such a mad dash, as the horses know the path home, and egg each other on. It’s borders out-of-control and scary, but thrilling. To understand my horse enough to know it’s responding to something else. Then to try to exert some control over the locomotive.
We actually end up taking turns running the horses, putting space between us, so the horses aren’t as influenced by the thunder of another horse. Sunshine on my face, arms in the air, the jungle spinning by me.
We slow for a curve, a steep section. Occasionally, I catch the looks from children, and housewives. Though, more often, I hear the kids cheering and whooping, as they hang from windows and lean over fence rails to watch as we race by. Martina explains that in all her years in Miraflor, she’s never seen a Nicaraguan woman do more than walk a horse. Maybe my Jane Austen comparison wasn’t so off-base. Maybe we are breaking a few customs and social norms. Today, as I race after Martina. This will be the day they will see two women gallop.
It’s not until the last stretch that it starts to hurt. Really hurt. Not the aches of earlier, but cutting raw pain on my backside. I squirm in the saddle as we bolt for home.
Finally, I’m checking off my familiar landmarks: the little blue and white school with the vibrant mural, the shiny tin outhouses, Myra’s garden.
Spencer steps from his horse, Martina and I gasp, then heartlessly laugh at the seat of his pants with a soggy, blood-red eight inch circle.
I walk to my room, dislodge the hen that’s made a nest for the day on my blankets, and change from my dirt-covered clothes. To my horror, I realize what had been causing so much pain that last bit. On the seat of my pants is a matching, bloody circle.
I hobble to the kitchen, for sympathy and coffee. But it’s laughter and jokes (and hot, life-giving, coffee) as we tease each-other in between quick turns at the shower, before the sunsets and mountain temperatures dip precipitously.
In the cinderblock room, with the jungle trees and blue sky as the only ceiling and a rug hung across the doorway, I ladle careful cupfuls of ice-cold water over my head and tired body. It seeps into my saddle sores, with a yelp! Marlon and Spenser laugh from their hammocks.
And though I hobble around like an old person (or the dreaded “city-slicker” from the movies) and can’t sit back that night at dinner (or the rest of the trip) and discover a whole new level of difficulty in using the outhouse grow accustomed to the embarrassing perpetual dampness on the seat of my pants (that screams “not used to riding horses, much!!”), early-start to bloody-finish, I could not have imagined a better day.