Claire Shrader is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Pre-Occupational Therapy major at Mississippi College, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
In this week's post, Claire visits a ranch in Rocha, Uruguay, with a friend and enjoys horseback riding through the hills of Uruguay.
As the bus got closer and closer to Rocha, our panic grew. We were in the middle of nowhere. Even though it was only 7:00, it was already very dark, the only light on our path coming from the moon. “El Dorado: Siempre Cerca” was the first actual business establishment we saw, and I gripped Sophie’s hand as we passed it—the same grocery store we saw hours before! At least, if we were stranded here at a bus stop on the side of the road, we could get some food at a semi-familiar grocery store.
A taxi pulled up to the curb almost immediately after we walked outside, and as we climbed in I read him off the directions to Lucie’s ranch. He assured us he could do it, but next thing we knew he was radioing: “Friends, can anyone tell me how to get to Caballos de Luz?” Sophie and I had a tight grip on each other’s hands that didn’t loosen until we were safely on the property. Cesar was completely lost, he didn’t have any more saldo on his phone, and his radio went out. As we kept going on the dirt road toward who-knows-where, SEBI TAXI kept calling him and telling him where to go. Thank the good Lord for SEBI TAXI.
POR FIN (translation: AT LAST) we found a little gate with the loveliest hand-painted, light blue words, Caballos de Luz. A dog and a woman greeted the taxi, and Cesar rolled down the window and said, “Traigo dos!” ("I bring two!") We didn’t move for a few moments, caught in the anxiety of the journey. Bonne, an international volunteer from Australia, peered into the window and said, “Hi, guys.” Okay, we decided it was fine to get out. It was hard parting with Cesar after all we had been through together, but we wished him well and could only hope his return journey was a little less eventful.
As strangely bizarre as all of it was, within the first hour we were so confident we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We ate supper outside, at the loveliest little table with wonderful company. Bonne and Igor, who met in Brazil, Igor’s homeland, where he was working in a hostel and she a guest. Lucie, who is low key my hero, because she’s bold and free and wears long dreadlocks and seems completely content with life.And Dana, who is a journalist and traveling around Latin America very Eat Pray Love style, if you ask me.
We ate incredible pasta, I mean INCREDIBLE, with a salad made of mint leaves and maybe arugula and green peppers and tomatoes and the most delicious salad dressing of all time. The vegetarian fare was a welcome blessing after the meat-heavy meals of Argentina. Dana, Sophie, and I stayed at the table having a sobremesa (chat over the table) for a good hour after the others left, lingering with our chocolate covered bananas and the chilly night.
Sophie and I wandered around outside for a bit before bed, enjoying the stars. Constellations are different in the Southern hemisphere than the north, and to me, they seem much less organized, like a scattering of a million points, freckles in the sky, without any sort of direction. That’s probably just my untrained eye, but there’s something really poetic in thinking that the stars which blanket this land, with its fiery passionate people and the kindness that lets strangers into their homes and the lack of organization that causes entire transportation systems to shut down and the tranquilo spirit that means we’re always late everywhere should be a little bit of a disaster, too.
I remember when I was 12 and I so badly wanted to win Animal Planet’s contest to win a trip for 2 to go horseback riding in the hills of Ireland to go with my mom. I didn’t win, but that dream of horseback riding through the hills of an unknown place has stayed with me. This weekend at Lucie’s sweet little ranch we rode through the Uruguayan hills, and I’m happy to say that the incredible country of Uruguay is no longer unknown to me. I’m thankful I got to go ride horses through the hills of a no-longer-strange land, with the most beautiful horse and a sweet friend.
Claire's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned.