Saturday, February 2, 2008
Cabalgata de Cristo Rey
Three days in the saddle for 10 hours a day is not something I would recomend to any one but I did it. A few years back a friend of mine who runs Coyote Canyon horseback excursions in San Miguel told me about the Cabalgata de Cristo Rey. It is a 3 day horse back pilgrimage where 2000+ cowboys ride to the Jesus statue in the middle of Mexico. It had to be done. I never thought twice about what I was really getting myself into. I've ridden a horse for four or five hours at a time without any problem so I didn't think it would be that difficult to double it, times 3. Boy was I wrong. That was the most grueling experience I have ever taken part in.
Rodrigo picked us up at Casa de Sierra Nevada (our amazing host) around 5 am. We had to be saddled up and on our way before sunrise. We started out from the ranch with about 25 people and as the day progressed other ranches began to join in with us. By the end of the day there were horses as far as you could see. It was quite an amazing sight. We travelled through lands and villages off the beaten path that not many people will ever see.
We made our first stop that afternoon in a small village for dinner and well needed sleep. After dinner we began setting up camp but somehow my equipment didn't make the transition to the truck that dropped everything off for us. Fortunately Rodrigo had an extra sleeping bag. Of course I had brought all my REI gear to help ease the "roughing it" factor but when it got left behind I was officially roughing it. Of course sleep was difficult being surround by hundreds of horses snorting and fighting all night.
The next morning we were up before sunrise and finding a place to use the restroom was not an easy task but finding a 4 foot ditch to fall in and rip all the tendons in your ankle is pretty easy to do. Somehow I managed to pull myself out of the ditch and make it back to camp in time to saddle and head out for day 2. Day 2 was much like day 1 just with a lot of aches and pains. I wasn't sure how I was going to make it but I had no choice so I sucked it up and headed out. It was a little easier to block out some of the pain because along the way we were making more friends and had more people to talk to. We also learned more about what the pilgrimage was really about. The most exciting part of the trip were the kids along the way. Each village we rode through, the children would come out give the riders letters for them to take to Cristo Rey. It was much like children giving letters to Santa. In return all the riders would throw candy to the kids.
We made it to Cristo Rey by the end of the second day where we attended a 2 hour long mass on horse back then headed back down the mountain a ways to our camp. Fortunately this time the van that had my equipment was there so I was able to sleep in a little more comfort but it was still rough sleeping. Especially when my boot almost wouldn't come off from the swelling in my ankle.
The third day was all on horse back but not as much riding. There were a series off masses at different locations at Cristo Rey. At the end of the day we loaded the horses into the trucks and drove home. Not sure I would have made it back by horse back. Not sure the horses would have made it back. It was a long grueling trip. Am I complaining? NO! I think I'm just trying to get my point across as to what these riders sacrifice every year for their beliefs. It was a true experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. Not sure I could do it again but I'm so glad I finally got to experience it. Hats off to you guys that do this year after year. My heart goes out to you and thank you Casa de Sierra Nevada for the nice cozy bed upon my return.