20121130-094850.jpgNICK RIDES INTO THE JUNGLE

(continued from yesterday – read yesterday’s post first) We are deep in the jungle and the trail has narrowed. It rises steeply. How nice it is to have Payaso do all the work. I once again take advantage of my freedom to sightsee. Fifty-foot vines hang from branches to the forest floor. All around me grow colorful species that I have heretofore seen only as potted houseplants. For some reason, it amazes me that such plants actually grow in the wild.

I decide I could use a little more padding on the seat of my saddle or a little more fat on my butt. Perhaps a La-Z-Boy recliner strapped to the horse’s back would be nice. We exit the canopy of trees and before us stretches a vista of Puerto Vallarta and the Pacific Ocean several miles distant. Like colorful insects, para-sailors fly behind speedboats in the vicinity of the towering hotels on the beachfront. We halt to admire the view.

A short descent and we come to an open-air restaurant conveniently situated in the middle of nowhere beneath a grove of coconut palms. We dismount for lunch. I catch up on news about the snowy weather back home from some Canadian tourists.

On the homeward stretch of our ride I notice that Rafael does not slouch forward and hold onto his saddle horn as I am doing. He sits proudly erect and keeps his free hand non-chalantly resting on his thigh. I decide this technique has a lot more style than my slouch so I copy him. We ride by some small children and they watch us pass. I imagine that they notice how my hand rests on my thigh and that they recognize this as the mark of an accomplished horseman.

Back at the corral I swing expertly down from the saddle and turn the reins over to Rafael with this final assessment of Payaso: “Mucho caballo” I say as I pat the big horse. This is a line that I have lifted from Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, and I have always wanted to say it. It is a sentiment only experienced horsemen and speakers of Spanish like Rafael and me can truly appreciate.

Nicholas asks if we can go riding again sometime. I am standing with arms akimbo, thumbs inserted behind my belt buckle. My legs are slightly bowed. I feel a strong urge to spit tobacco juice into the dirt. “I reckon” I answer as I kick a rock. A cowboy-ish drawl has crept into my voice. I squint, John Wayne-like, into the noon-day sun. “I reckon we could, Lil’ Pardner.”