The Gringo Horseback Chronicles

Join Scott Stevens as he travels Nicaragua by horseback and explores off-the-beaten-path rural communities to see the country from a cowboy’s perspective. Chapter 1: a bottle of rum, a saddle and a plan

It all started over a couple of beers on a random Tuesday night. Well, more than a couple. There may also have been about a half a bottle of rum involved, according to the bar tab.

You see, I was sitting around with Tim Rogers, editor and creator of the Nicaragua Dispatch, at a bar called Nectar on the Calle La Calzada in Granada, Nicaragua. We were discussing Nicaragua, travel, writing, our old mutual friend Jeff Giles, and whatever other topics came to mind as the drinks flowed. 

It was then that I decided to run an idea by him that I had had for a long time. You see, I’ve been toying around with writing for a couple of years now on my own little website www.coolerthanafan.com, but I’ve always had this idea burning in the back of my head for a book. So I decided to run it by Tim. I trusted his opinion enough by now for him tell me if I was an idiot or not. I had run my idea by a few other people recently and they told me I was either “stupid,” “insane,” “crazy,” “unrealistic,” or, at best, “eccentric.”

Maybe I’m just sensitive, but sometimes I get the sensation that if you go and do the things that interest you—things that stray a bit from the tried and tested path—you get regarded with some skepticism. However, at the same time, I’ve found that people’s reaction to your crazier ideas is a great litmus test for who you want around you.

I’ve always had the good fortune to have some good people around me, so I turned to Tim, narrowed my eyes to try to focus through the rum, and said, “I’ve got an idea for a story. I think it might be pretty interesting.”

Now when Tim gets serious about listening, and he is always serious when it comes to a story over rum, he tilts his head down, shuts his mouth real tight, and looks you dead in the eye through his eyebrows. “Shoot.”

“Well, you see, in 1925 this professor from Washington, D.C., who was down teaching in B.A. (Argentina), decided to ride two Argentine Criollo horses back home. Along the way, he encountered all sorts of hardships, including a bout with malaria. He had run-ins with bandits, and all that good stuff. But eventually he made it home with both horses intact, and they lived happily ever after.”

I stopped talking to take a pull off my drink and see if Tim was still with me. He hadn’t said anything, so I assumed he was either listening or sleeping with his eyes open. Either way, I carried on.

“Well, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to retrace the same route. You know, to see if it’s still possible to travel long distances by horseback like that. And what happens when you do? How does one’s perspective of the country change from the back of a horse compared to, say, the comfort of a car? Or a plane? Or whatever? I mean, what happens? What sort of relationship does one develop with a horse after traversing such distances together? These are things our ancestors knew intimately, but we’ve mostly lost contact with that sort of life.”

I stopped to think. Tim took a pull from his drink.

“Well, I guess I don’t have three years to travel from Argentina back to the U.S., but I could certainly do short leg of the trip, right here in Nicaragua. It’s a place close to my heart, and it has a true horse culture.”

I stopped talking, realizing I didn’t really have a plan, and it probably sounded like a foolish idea that shouldn’t be stretched any further with drunken prattle. After all, I have plans to return to the business world when I get back home, and probably shouldn’t indulge in any more fantasies of cowboy adventure.

As I picked up my drink again to try to wash the foolish talk out of my mouth, Tim finally broke his silence. “I love it,” he said. “We could absolutely run this as a series of installments in the Nicaragua Dispatch. Nicaragua by Horseback. Or the Gringo on Horseback. It could even become a book. It’s good.”

Well the conversation and the night faded into a haze of late hours and more drinks. But when I woke up the next morning, the idea was still with me. Should I just go for it? Even for a short trip—maybe a week or two? Should I really delay my return to a career, a job, and just saddle up and ride off into the sunset? Am I completely off my rocker? Or perhaps off my saddle, as the case may be?

 

Nicaragua has spectacular sunsets to be ridden into (photo/ Scott Stevens)

When I returned to my home on the Pacific Coast, I decided to go for it. I was going to trade in the incredible sunset views over the ocean for a horse and saddle on the dusty trail. It might be a waste of time, and I may not get a damned thing out of it, but I’m exploring for exploring’s sake: I want to feel and see something profound, even if it’s just for a few short days before I return home with a sore ass and a sunburn to spend the rest of my life in a cubicle (doubtful).

One last little adventure in this amazing, fascinating country, full of staggering beauty, shameful neglect, unbelievable kindness, laughable corruption, a criminal disparity of wealth, and all the other aspects of life magnified a thousand times over in this seismic land. Then, I’ll go home. 

The next day I saddled up Tornado, my friend’s horse, and took the nutcase out for a practice run on the beach. I decided to tie my GOPRO camera to the end of a polo stick to record our initial beach run. I thought it might be cool to see the water splashing up around us as we ran. Well, it worked and I got PLENTY of water splashing around as you can see in this short clip here.

When the test ride was over, Tornado and I decided to take a break from one another, which has become a familiar pattern in my relationships. In the end, I decided to take another horse on this grand adventure—but not without some regret. I feel bad I’m not bringing the little bastard along. He doesn’t listen to a damn thing anyone says and, well, I can relate. We are kindred spirits in that regard.

However, he and I will have to make another trip another day. This cowboy needs a new horse.

Next Friday: Scott and Tornado’s stormy relationship is decidedly over when he meets a new horse in Managua and rides off to explore Nicaragua.

 

Scott Stevens, from Shreveport, Louisiana, has spent the past 10 years living abroad in Thailand, Indonesia, Switzerland, and, most recently, Nicaragua. He traded the boardroom for the outdoors after the 2008 financial crisis and has been exploring ever since. Follow his stories on his blog, www.coolerthanafan.com

  • http://www.buildingnewhope.org donna tabor

    Cooler than a Fan. DEFiNITEY a cool title!

    • http://Www.coolerthanafan.com Scott Stevens

      Thanks Donna! Heard someone say it once and liked it too.

  • http://www.buildingnewhope.org donna tabor

    Make that “definitely”. Damn, wish I could spell…..

  • MHWE

    …and so the adventure begins…giddy-up!

    • http://Www.coolerthanafan.com Scott Stevens

      It’s on like a chicken bone! s

  • http://resolutionspc.blogspot.com Terence

    If you are inspired to do so, well do it! What an awesome adventure. A suggestion, ride with a cause in mind like; literacy, poverty, shelter, environment. Bring the people together to raise awareness and you get your story. I would like to share my brother’s awareness journey Scott. You can find Matt’s legacy here. http://www.runforoneplanet.com. There is a lot to plan out for such an adventure.

    Best of success.

    Terence Hill

    • http://Www.coolerthanafan.com Scott Stevens

      Hi Terence, thanks for the suggestion. I will definitely check out the site about your brother Matt at the link above. Appreciate your reading and commenting…S

  • Alixe

    Scott, you are so fun to watch on YouTube. You are just like a little kid! Have fun and stay safe. I look forward to your future posts.

    • http://Www.coolerthanafan.com Scott Stevens

      Alixe! I am a little kid! Well not so little anymore but sometimes! Thanks a lot! Hope the next installments are as fun for you…S

  • Jeff

    Love it Scotty! Amazing that you and Tim are collaborating – what a small world! Next time, I want more of a nod than “old mutual friends”…

    • http://Www.coolerthanafan.com Scott Stevens

      Could there be any other but you Jeff! The “old mutual old friends” was simply code to protect the guilty! Miss you bud….S

  • Christine

    LOL! love the video…Good luck, Scott! Be safe!

    • http://Www.coolerthanafan.com Scott Stevens

      Thanks Christine! Glad you enjoyed….S

  • vladimir

    great video!! can you make some more of your trip with tornado. would like to see my country from the eye of a horseback rider. also you should stop by la paz centro eating a “quesillo con cacao”. I know you would like that. Please film it. Take care watch out with the traffic.

    • http://Www.coolerthanafan.com Scott Stevens

      Thanks vladimir! More coming soon. Unfortunately not with tornado BR I left him for another horse :) just kidding. Some photography and more video coming in future episodes. Hope you come back next Friday….S

  • Horacio

    Muy piola! Me encanto tu estilo, y creo que tienes un idea muy interesante, contando cosas que sirven para revelar el sabor de paises donde la gente viven tan contento y sencillo. Aca faltamos mucho alegria en las cositas de cada dia. Dale!

    • http://Www.coolerthanafan.com Scott

      Gracias Horacio! Espero que podamos capturar el sentimiento del campo en los articulos que Vienen.

  • econica

    How self-absorbed

    • http://Www.coolerthanafan.com Scott

      I know. It’s ridiculous

    • toogoo

      Totally self absorbed!!!! agreed!

  • joven blane

    Sounds like an adventure. And nice wipe out. Get back on that pony and ride.

    • http://Www.coolerthanafan.com Scott

      We gonna keep riding Joven!

  • Luciana Rojas

    Are you single? I have someone to introduce you :-)

    • http://www.coolerthanafan.com scott stevens

      hahhaa…who?

      • Luciana Rojas

        A friend of mine :-)

  • Clark

    Awesome! Loved the video. Please let us know when your next segment comes out…

    • http://www.coolerthanafan.com scott stevens

      Clark, every Friday! thanks for reading man!

  • http://www.centrodejusticia.org Ulysses

    Best of luck Vaquero! I will live vicariously through your adventures. There will be tough days but, remember to reach out and you will find how wonderful and generous Nicaraguans can be. Watch out for crazy drivers!

    • http://www.coolerthanafan.com scott stevens

      great people! and yes crazy drivers! thanks for reading Ulysses :)

  • Johnny Jones

    Sometimes the unplanned parts of a venture make them the most interesting. Enjoyed the story and the video.

    • http://www.coolerthanafan.com scott stevens

      Thanks for reading Johnny! yes the trip goes unexpected and continues that way!

  • Davina

    I want a signed copy of your first book! Keep writing S, you are so good at it. Love your stories, love your adventures and love you too! xoxox