Horseback Riding on Palomino Beach
This guest post is written by Harmony Difo, a Dreamer volunteer and Lonely Planet journalist. It is one article of a three piece series detailing first-person perspectives on activities in our region. We hope you enjoy!
I wake up to the sound of birds on many mornings in Palomino. But this morning is different somehow. This bird is one I have not quite heard before -- its call sounding strange and melancholy -- unlike any other bird I’ve heard. For the first time since my visit to Colombia, I leave my bed just to take a look. It does not take me long to find the bird who is perched, with a friend by his side, beak turned to the sky, singing with all of his miniature heart. He is dark brown and white. His feathers are extremely clean and perfectly arranged. I listen for a little while longer until he takes flight. His friend follows him and flies off into the distance never to be seen again. I return to my bed completely enchanted.
Colombia is teeming with exquisite wildlife of every species, shape, color and size. Whether you spot the bright pink flamingos eating shrimp in Camarones, the toucans of Minca with their long multi-colored beaks and mischievous eyes, or the curious monkeys staring down at you from the giant trees of Tayrona National Park -- this country has an exotic and adorable animal for everyone. But one oft-overlooked member of Colombia’s animal kingdom is the beautiful array of horses that are hard at work every day and serve as an integral part of Colombia’s economy. Whether passing them roam free, grazing sleepily in a field, or carrying bundles of goods to remote locations where human feet would not dare to tread, these graceful, generous creatures are a magnificent sight to behold.
Later on in the morning, feeling inspired, I return to the front desk at The Dreamer Palomino to ask if there are any wildlife tours available. The receptionist mentions that there is a tour to Camarones, a town not too far away that is known for two large lakes where flamingos often come to feast on shrimp on their flight paths. But she also mentions that, unfortunately, the flamingos seem to have retired for that particular week so it may not be worth it to take the tour and risk missing them all together. I appreciate her honesty. As an alternative she suggests an activity that sounds equally charming and, again, I say an enthusiastic, “YES!” She recommends that I take a tour of Palomino beach on horseback and I think it sounds like a wonderful idea. She recommend an exact time to take the tour -- 4pm -- so I can be galloping on the beach during the twilight hour watching the sun set over the surf with my horse. Fantastic.
A few hours later I grab a pair of sunglasses and head out to the front of the hostel. To my delight, the guide and my horse are already there to greet me. I immediately run to the horse and say hello. Her name is “Estrella” which means star and she is tall and strong with a beautiful gray coat with small black spots. Her mane is cut short giving her head the appearance of being capped with a Roman helmet. I climb aboard and we are swiftly on our way. I have ridden a horse before so Estrella and I settle into a stride quickly. The guide, also on his own horse, leads our way to the beach. The waves are crashing gently on the shore and the weather is warm and pleasant. There is a slight breeze rushing by as Estrella and I trot through the surf. The Caribbean Sea glows to my left and the shoreline with its tall green palms and dense forest lie to my right. There are a few people on the beachfront and they all smile as we ride by. There is a certain delight you see in people’s eyes when they first lay eyes on a horse. Their innate elegance and strength make them seem magical and larger-than-life even though they are just being themselves.
Over the course of 90 minutes we take our leisurely trot down the beach toward the horizon -- sometimes I give Estrella a gentle nudge with my heels if I want to bring her to a canter. At other times I slow her down so she can relax and walk at whatever pace she desires. There is a brief moment when the guide leads us into the woods where we can take the horses to a full gallop and I remember how exhilarating it feels to be moving 6 feet off the ground at such speed. The scenery speeds past in a blur, the wind rushes by my face, I settle into Estrella’s strength, speed and freedom.
The guide brings us back to the beach and we ride all the way to the end of the horizon. We take a moment to let our horses rest and I have my first opportunity to take some pictures of Estrella against the beach backdrop -- now illuminated by the gorgeous glow of the sunset. We turn around and start the ride back home, the sky now fully ablaze and shooting rays of orange, red, lavender and crimson. Some dogs bark at Estrella and nip at her heels on the way home. Refined, professional and composed, she keeps her gaze focused directly on the horizon, holds her heads high and continues to walk forward. The dogs eventually realize they will not get a reaction and saunter off. As we arrive back at the hostel, Estrella slows down so we can walk among the beachgoers back to the entrance of The Dreamer.
When we arrive, I jump down from my horse at the same time as my guide. We shake hands amiably and I thank him for the amazing experience. He says that we were lucky to catch the sun setting at the perfect time and I agree. With a slight sadness, knowing that we may never see each other again, I say goodbye to Estrella. I hold her face gently in both of my hands look directly into her eyes and say thank you. She blinks slowly. I give her a big hug and a pat on the side as the guide takes her reins and guides her away. And just like that, she’s gone.
Five Things to Bring On This Tour:
Camera, Go-Pro, or Cell-phone with camera
Two Must-See & Must-Photograph Moments:
The sun setting over the horizon of Palomino Beach
Your horse (and you on top of your horse)!