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Do you yearn for thrilling cowboy riding in lush sceneries with good horses, accompanied with some home-made ranch food and chilling by the pool? If the answer is “yes”, there is a place for you in Southwest Nicaragua.
Located near the famous surf town of Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur, Rancho Chilamate is wonderfully tranquil compared to the backpacker and surfer hustle of the city, even though it’s just about 20 minute’s drive away. This truly eco-friendly ranch has some spirit of the “old days’ Wild West” and they have beautiful horses to ride with.
Riding Tours to Remember
Rancho Chilamate is primarily a horse ranch providing a different kind of riding tours in the beautiful, rural landscapes surrounding it. We chose to take the Sunset tour, their most popular one. It takes you through a mellow Nicaraguan countryside to the seashore, where you can taste the thrill of the speed, and gallop into the sunset. The beach seems like specially made for this purpose only, and it doesn’t matter whether you are an experienced rider or a beginner ‑ you’ll have a blast!
The ranch has fourteen healthy horses, and they’re good at matching you with the right horse, depending on your riding skills. We have several years of riding experience (including competing in show jumping and eventing/cross-country riding) so we can be pretty demanding when it comes to horses, but we were euphoric with the horses we rode!
The Experience of The Sunset Tour
Our tour began with dressing up in cowboy style. Since we had our own leather stetsons, we just needed to add the scarfs and the boots. Every riding tour includes a short photo session done by the owner and a professional photographer, Blue. So next up in the program was posing for some pictures and it sure was fun! Here are a couple of shots from our session.
After the photo shootings, it’s off to the saddle. Your guides will help you if you need any assistance. The horses are already saddled up, but if you’d like to do that by yourself I think it’ll be possible – just ask. We took some contact to our horses and got to know them a bit while we were waiting for everyone to be ready. You have to create a kind of a bond with the horse you’re riding, so you’ll know how to work with it. The Central American way of riding, “vaquero style”, differs a lot from the English style we have learned. The horses are trained very differently. It takes a bit of time to get the hang of it if it’s the first time you ride a horse in Central America. But don’t worry – it’s pretty easy!
We had people with different riding experience in our group, but despite the varying levels, our guides managed the group very well. The journey through the countryside was very relaxing, and because it was mostly walking with the horses, you could fully take in the scenery and enjoy. Even the rain didn’t lower our spirits. We just grabbed our Western style, long raincoats (which also cover half of the horse’s back) and put them on. After about an hour, we reached the beach. But before the best part of the tour – the galloping at the beach – we enjoyed a short rest accompanied with a warming shot of genuine Nicaraguan rum. And when we got back on our horses the rain had already stopped.
The beach provided a perfect background for the great photographs taken from all of us when we were galloping at the seashore. The owner Blue takes pictures from the riders in action, and she did a great job. There are only a few things that make me feel freer than galloping on an empty beach. It’s a feeling you cannot explain – you have to experience it yourself.
The darkness descended on the way back to the ranch, and the last third of the journey we traveled in total darkness. I mean in the darkness where you literally can’t see what’s in front of your eyes anymore. But that just added to the experience – the occasional house along the road with a distant, lonely light and the fireflies playing around, between the trees. It was a peaceful and great ending to a vivacious day. You don’t have to worry, either. The horses know their way home, even in the pitch black dark.
Other riders were given a lift back to town, but we were happy just to go into our room and have a hot shower. Afterwards, you can grab a beer, sip it in a rocking chair on the porch and just listen to the night, while waiting for the lavish ranch dinner.
Spirit of the West With a Responsible Touch
Rancho Chilamate has four very comfy rooms available to stay overnight, with a maximum stay of 3 nights. The house’s interior looks like it’d be straight from some old Western movie. This place is also genuinely eco-friendly. Electricity is purely from solar power; they have their own, organic vegetable garden and the ranch is built with entirely local resources – from the construction materials to the building workers. They are supporting their local community fund and participating in a different kind of beneficial work.
They have helped in having medical supplies and treatment for sick animals and educating local people of animal healthcare. They also have an annual “Christmas Bucket” program, giving practical presents to the local rural community. These are just some of the things funded for example by the profits from the photographs. If the riders buy their high-resolution files, they will also support the community fund. I respect this kind of mentality of giving something back and especially appreciate their efforts towards animals’ well-being. I think it’s important to support sustainable tourism and responsible places over the ones that are not.
In this laid-back, but the classy atmosphere you can really “let go” and concentrate only into relaxation, while adding in some brisk riding with great horses. It’s a compilation hard to beat.
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