A couple of weeks ago, just as the weather pattern here was making its transition, I was feeling somewhat frustrated with the time factor (i.e. lack of) influencing my work day, and the daily rain patterns limiting my riding time, which is where I am able to take a lot of my deep breaths – my meditation, per se. Hadn’t had a chance to ride for days, maybe even more than a week and I had become somewhat bound and determined to get a ride in on that particular Saturday. As it was, getting an early start didn’t happen and I knew by the look in the sky that we would be getting our daily afternoon rain and I had better get to going. My plan was to take my little horse ‘Ono’ for a good trot down the mountain into our community of San Juan, stop by the pulperia for some refreshments and hustle back up the mountain. On a good day and at a trot, this is a three hour ride. Ono was not in the best condition as my riding had been sorely limited and he was also a little bit lazy, but this little horse can move out when he needs to, regardless. I left prepared with my poncho and my backpack and headed down the mountain. Oh what a great feeling to be just out on my own in the awesome wild countryside of our area! The air so fresh, the wildlife so alive and abundant, the clouds moving in ever so steadily…I knew that the chance for me to get wet was pretty good, but I was not concerned about it because the afternoon rains were pretty much a steady rain, nothing serious, on and off for most of the afternoons and evenings. I crossed the little river, which was already moving along quickly and up from the previous days’ rain, and the brother’s (the neighbors that lived next to the river) were moving cattle across the road from one pasture to another, so I stopped and waited so as not to disturb the momentum of the cattle. They always like to visit with people passing by (this is not a regular occurrence for them) and they are eager to strike up a conversation. My espanol is improving and I get by pretty well and can speak it decently enough to communicate, but there are still lapses in communication, nevertheless. On this particular day both of the brothers were infatuated with my saddle, which is an American made western style ranch working saddle, with all the bells and whistles needed for a workday on a cattle ranch in the states, and this is not a common thing to see for these men. Here the saddles are lightweight and efficient, much more water/weather resistant, and are minus the beautiful tooling and work of a custom made western saddle. “Ooooohhh, ahhh, muy bonita” they are saying as they admired the work of the saddle, but they also asked me what my intentions were for my ride…I mentioned that I was on my way to San Juan (and their house is about half way there) and they advised me that I had better get to going as the rain was coming, and if the river were to rise…I may have trouble getting back across. Hmmmmm….it was just starting to get misty, so I said “’ta luego” and headed out at a good fast trot so that I might make my destination. We were moving right along, now on pretty flat ground along the river and it was starting to drizzle pretty well, so I put my poncho on.
It was absolutely beautiful out, despite the encroaching darkness of the rainclouds. The birds and the butterflies were still abundant and going about their business, and as always I was observing so much more by horseback than when in the car, such a pleasure and special time for me. The sprinkle was becoming steady, so I pushed Ono harder so that we would make it, not too much further now.
I was probably 10 to 15 minutes away from the pulperia when the rain started to become rain. I stopped in the middle of the road, took several deep breaths, and asked my Self if this was a good idea to be stubborn and go the last distance to get to the store, or smart to turn around now? The words by the brothers’, “pay attention to the rain, if the river comes up…” were loud in my head, as I had been told many times how quickly the water could rise. This being our first rainy season here in this wonderful area has much to teach us, and I was not too excited to learn the hard way on this particular trip, so we turned around and headed for home, sin refrescos. I gave it considerable thought as I had pushed hard to get to the pulperia and get turned around towards home again – now the rain was happening enough that my saddle was going to get wet while I was getting the goods, no matter how fast I could do that, and I figured that if I were to push it, I was adding at least another half hour to my trip. I was not sorry to turn around, my gut said to get home, and that is what I did.
I never travel around on these roads without an FM radio for communication with my Mate at home, anything is possible out here and I don’t take things for granted on that level, but today communications became difficult. I had my poncho on and we were heading back up the mountain at a gallop along the flat ground, knowing that we would slow down on the uphill, which is steep and there is plenty of it. We were both starting to get pretty wet, the rain was coming down steady now and we were not even near the river crossing. I had no idea what the river crossing would be like
now, but I knew that I would feel much better after I was on the other side. When we got to the river it had definitely risen, the rains always hit first up the mountain (where our casa is), and of course the drainages empty into the watershed from all over in a hurry. The water was fast and deeper and Ono looked at it seriously before he proceeded to cross, only a moment’s hesitation to asses, then it was ‘let’s go’ without further ado.
The remainder of the ride was wet. There was no hurry now and we were getting wet and going to be wetter no matter what the pace, so we just kept up at as steady and quick a pace as was possible. Thank you poncho and Aussie hat! I was able to connect with Ricardo enough that he knew we were past the river and on the way, but communication was still not clear and smooth – Ricardo was definitely curious about the details. By the time we reached the pasture gate, Ricardo was there with the truck waiting to pick me up. I unsaddled Ono as quickly as possible and turned him loose – he was most certainly happy to be ‘home’ with his buddy, and I was glad to be in the truck with my buddy.
I was thoroughly soaked, as was all of my gear, and climbing into the nice cold shower (we do not have hot water, unfortunately) was no problem as I was already wet and now cold. And quite happy to get on some warm and dry clothes (yes, this is the tropics but high on the mountain in rainy weather can cool down substantially).
We were sorry not to have the refreshments that I had hoped to secure, but I was so content with the ride! Always an adventure, but the most important part of the entire ride was that I was not so stubborn about getting there, although I had very much wanted to ‘succeed’, but listening to the brothers’ voices in my head to ‘listen to the rain’, and I did.
That day was the first day of the rainy season officially settling in and it rained for a steady two weeks, the water in the river becoming a ‘normal’ high. Our trips to town in the truck have been gauged by the time and the cloud cover, but again and again since then I have heard the comment spoken, “thirty minutes more makes all the difference in the ability to cross the river”. In other words, that’s all it takes once the rains start to make such a huge difference that you might just NOT make it across the river! Thirty minutes…and that is exactly what I had figured I would have added to my time had I pursued getting to the pulperia that day. Would I have been unable to cross the river if it had been thirty minutes later? I don’t know…but I am glad that I didn’t make the decision to find out! I listened to my heart, not my head.
Such an amazing education living here in this remote jungle wilderness – I love this life! So much to learn and experience with many lessons yet ahead of me, I look forward to each and every one. One never knows what the next experience that the jungle will deliver might be…”pay attention” is the motto, and listen to the voice of the heart.