Equestrian Adventuress Hebe explores remote places for horse riding in Brazil. On Boipeba island she discovers a beach perfect for galloping. The only problem was that her riding companions hadn’t been fully honest about their riding skills. This leads to slight chaos when combined with the right (or wrong?) horses. But in the end… well, read yourself and enjoy!
Author: Hebe Webber
Brazil. It has over 7000km of untouched coastline. In the north east state of Bahia, shallow warm waters await, luxurious shades of blue. Endless sunshine, the coconut lined coast stretching as far as the eye can see. It was such, that the dream formed in my mind that one day I would gallop that coast. And gallop I did.
Boipeba Island – A Little Paradise
I arrived to the island of Boipeba, a small sleepy place, forever in the slow motion vibe of island life. The only modes of transport being horse, quad bike or tractor. No cars. It is the place where everyone knows everyone, shoes are absolutely optional, and there is a warm smile greeting you at every corner. I’d found my way here through an Italian guy I’d met while staying in a treehouse on the neighbouring island.
I’d caught his animated conversation about how he and two friends had spent the day exploring Boipeba on horseback, without a guide. Exactly the adventure I was looking for, I asked for the contact of the horse owner. The Italian gave me a very vague and rough description of where the house was, and said if you ask for the horse guy in town they’ll send you his direction. Hmm… not exactly easy when your Portuguese is essentially zero.
When I arrived to my hostel, I spotted the very same Italian guy. “You came back!” I exclaimed. “Couldn’t resist” He replied, “It’s paradise here!”. Coincidence? Perhaps. Luck? Definitely. He brought me to the house of the horse owner. Not at all who I expected, a teenage boy of perhaps seventeen, wearing a gold chain with a fake scar shaved through one eyebrow and an attitude to boot. He eyed us up and down with a bored look.
Too Cool To Talk
After many charades and terrible Portuguese speaking, we organised for me to ride the next afternoon, alone, without a guide. The conversation was made excessively difficult as the kid kept playing at being ‘too cool’ to talk, only occasionally gracing us with his attention, and only replying to the conversation with short grunts and nods. I assured him I knew the trail. In reality, I had absolutely no idea about the trail. But I figured the island was small and my only problem was making sure I crossed the river before the tide was too high. Easy.
After word of my planned adventure circulated at the hostel, and I became unsure if it was a good idea to ride alone, I found myself with two companions: a Brazilian guy and an Italian woman. “Can you ride?” I asked them both. They assured me yes, and I with absolute honesty said I only wanted to ride with them if they had experience. I had concerns. I didn’t want to spend my adventure babysitting two inexperienced riders, but I also didn’t want to get lost. Both my companions spoke fluent Portuguese and the guy had walked the trail the day before.
And so it was, the next afternoon we all arrived at the house where the horses were waiting tied in the street. A haphazard bunch, there was a small stocky white gelding, a gangly bay gelding, and a rather spirited chestnut stallion. Secretly hoping to score the white gelding, I let the others choose first. I ended up with the gangly bay, the ugly horse that no one wanted to ride. Later I was to be very grateful to have this reliable mount. It stood as a good reminder never to judge a book by its cover.
We set off slowly, getting to know the horses. By the time we reached the trail head, I knew for sure the others couldn’t ride as well as I hoped. I took a deep breath. “Here’s to hoping it all goes well…” I said under my breath. “Alright guys, if you’re feeling comfortable, let’s try a trot?” Already I was in coaching mode, riding at the front. Immediate disaster. While my horse lazily moved into trot, the white gelding simply paced rapidly and the chestnut stallion took off with the Brazilian guy in a gait that seemed to be a mix of pacing and galloping. The Brazilian guy overtook and disappeared from view down the sandy track, lurching around in the saddle at an uncomfortable angle, but all the while with a grin on his face.
There is something wrong
“Stop! I need to stop! There’s something wrong with my horse” the Italian lady shouted from behind. I pulled my horse up. “I think he has something wrong with his leg” she said. I’d seen him move, and for sure he wasn’t lame. “Are you sure? He seems okay to me?” I said to her. “Let’s try it again and I’ll watch”. It was then that I realised she had mistaken his pacing for lameness. “He’s fine! He is only pacing” I shouted. “No! No! I need to stop. I can’t do this” the Italian replied nervously. Inwardly, I face-palmed. How am I going to ride around an island with two inexperienced riders, one hurtling recklessly around on a stallion and the other unable to understand what pacing was. Send help.
Overcome Fear and Enter Paradise
With a great deal of encouragement, we continued. We caught up with the Brazilian guy, surprised to find him still aboard his mount. We continued in this fashion for the entire trail to the beach: the Italian lady riding nervously at the back, and the Brazilian guy recklessly tearing around at the front, me in the middle shouting encouragement to her and instructions at him (not that he listened. How he didn’t fall off I’ll never know).
The trail was spectacular. We were treated to expansive views of the coast, neighbouring island and the little town far in the distance. We rode through a tunnel of flowering hibiscus, varying in shades of white, pink and orange. When we arrived at the beach, we were greeted with a sea breeze moving gently through the balmy air. Coconut palms waving their leaves lazily at the ocean. Paradise as I have ever seen it.G
Finding the Rhythm
Despite our mishaps in the beginning, we all settled into our own rhythm. Occasionally separating then moving back together. Cantering down the beach, splashing in the shallow warm waters. I took a deep breath and looked around. My dream was truly reality right before my eyes. I was glad to have Pepito, my reliable yet ugly gelding. He never once paced, and simply behaved exactly as I asked him to, with a slightly lazy manner that truly encompassed the attitude of the island.
The Tide is coming
We decided to head for home. Watching the time was essential. If we took too long riding back we’d be cut off by the tide and unable to cross the river. We rode along the coast line, passing small island houses and fishing boats, weaving through the towering coconut palms. The sun was beginning to lower in the sky, casting a beautiful orange glow across the landscape. We reached the river. The tide had risen slightly more than we expected, but it still seemed to be crossable. We passed across, the water reaching a touch higher than the horse’s bellies. Lucky, had we waited another 20 minutes we’d have been stuck on the other side.
The final part of the beach, and the most beautiful, stretched out before us. We all looked at each other. “Alright, let’s give it all we’ve got!” and we were off, galloping down the coast, allowing our horses to go as fast as they liked. It was perfect, flying down the beach, one hand clutching my hat the other on my reins, us all laughing with the utmost joy, whooping and shouting. Locals yelled encouragement from their houses, our smiles infectious.
Amazement and Gratitude
Absolute gratitude, amazement and happiness spread through me. The sun was setting through the coconut trees on the left, casting rays of sunlight through the palms, the long shadows flashing past me as I galloped, the sky shades of pink and orange. On the other side, the full moon was rising over the ocean, casting its glow across the waves. I couldn’t believe this was reality. I was smiling so much my cheeks hurt, but I couldn’t stop. Everything had worked out fine, and here I was, living my dream better than I had ever imagined. I patted Pepito on the neck as we pulled up at the far end of the beach, a face splitting grin still across my face. I looked at the others, sensing the same feelings of elation. Galloping the coconut coast was truly one of the happiest moments of my life.
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