Itinerary: Cuisine, Culture & Crafts Ride at Rancho Pitaya

Settle in and relax.

Here’s a suggested itinerary. The truth is, there are countless destinations and ways to ride to them.

Day 1 Ranch arrival

Arrive at Rancho Pitaya in the late afternoon to early evening by pre-arranged transport from the airport or a Oaxaca-city hotel.  It’s a short drive to the ranch located 10 miles ( 16 km.) from the city center or 14 miles from Oaxaca’s international airport. The ranch is nestled on the edge of the charming cheese-making village of Rojas de Cuauhtemoc. Settle into one of the three individually decorated guest rooms, have a cool drink and soak up the vistas of the cacti-studded rock face that paints a backdrop to the ranch. Meet Mary Jane, owner of the ranch, and along with her son Gabriel, your guide for the week. If your arrival is late afternoon, there’s time for a sunset ride into the rare biosphere, rich in gigantic organ cacti.  Enjoy a fresh made Margarita, then savor Oaxaca’s world-famous cuisine for dinner.

Ride willing Arab and Criollo horses.

Day 2 Rare biodiversity & Local market

After a freshly prepared breakfast and a short demo on our style of riding, mount your horse and head out from the ranch on to trails lined with ancient nopal cacti  & weathered mesquites. Within minutes the ride ascends to a hidden ecosystem rich in old growth Elephant-foot yuca trees. From a high lookout point, take a break in the shade and enjoy the big-sky views north to the Sierra Juarez. As the ride progresses westward micro-ecosystems come and go. Learn, from the saddle, about several species of native agaves used for making mezcal. Ferns and cacti co-exist in the limestone hills. This ride exemplifies the amazing biodiversity that makes Oaxaca world-famous.

Visit a festive local market.

Freshly prepared meals made with local ingredients.

Return to Rancho Pitaya for a fresh lunch and little siesta before a short drive to the famed Sunday market in Tlacolula. Native peoples converge in the town to sell their local produce and handmade products. Everything about this market is creative, from the way the fruit mongers stack their produce to speciality stalls festooned with embroidered aprons or rich assortments of chiles and spices. You can buy a live turkey or a carved wooden yoke for your team of oxen!

Return to the ranch for sunset and dinner.

A landscape woven with old trails and dotted with exotic flora.

 

Day 3 Ex-hacienda & Weaving village

Today’s ride goes from the valley into the foothills of the Sierra Juarez, following old trails around the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle. Riders and horses take a short drive to the home of village weavers where they mount up and ride out. Ride past a fascinating ceremonial site before ascending a mountain pass, its trails lined with live agave fencing. Pass pack donkeys laden with firewood, grazing goats or locals washing their weaving yarn in the streams. Ride into the foothills where the higher altitude makes way for a well-preserved oak forest rich in tree bromeliads and ferns. Ancient terraces texture the hillsides and low fieldstone walls ring adobe homes that dot the slopes.

The ride ends at the home of talented Zapotec rug weavers with a freshly prepared lunch followed by a weaving and yarn dyeing demonstration. There is time to shop for a beautiful hand-woven wool rug. Return to the ranch to relax.  Sample the special mezcal cocktail we invented at the ranch, followed by dinner featuring local specialties.

Meet accomplished craftspeople in their homes.

Day 4 Non-Ride day in the city or nature

Take a break from the saddle on this non-ride day. Spend the day in Oaxaca, a UNESCO world-heritage city or enjoy a road trip to Hierve El Agua,  the ethereal calcified waterfalls. If R&R is what you need, feel free to just relax at the ranch, indulge in a massage or join an informal hands-on cooking class with the ranch’s local cook.  Dinner at the ranch. Note: later transport can be arranged to return guests who prefer to dine at one of Oaxaca’s world-class restaurants.

Day 5 Ancient ruins & Charming church

This ride makes a sweeping loop far out into the hidden worlds of the valley.  From the ranch we ride past pecan orchards, fields of flowers and a complex system of irrigation canals that make this area the valley’s most productive farmland. Canter tranquil back roads past fields of garlic and alfalfa. Ride through a a hidden wetland on a series of 19thcentury stone bridges that connect ancient cart trails. This area is home to the Crested Cara-Cara, a stunning native raptor.

Dismount at the exotic gardens of the ex-hacienda de Guadalupe. Enjoy snacks and refreshments in the shade of an old Pirul tree. The last part of this  journey follows historical trails that wind past hills richly forested with old-growth candelabra and nopal cacti. Final discount at Dainzu, the Zapotec archeological site noted for the finely carved stone entry to a tomb. Explore the site with a cold drink in hand.

Riders and horses return to the ranch in the awaiting transport. Ice cold beer & limeade are waiting at the stables and a hearty Oaxaca-style comida is served on the cool porch.

Relax, have a siesta, and early evening take a short drive to Tlacochahuaya to visit the village’s famous 16th-century Dominican church. Recently-evangelized Zapotecs painted the delightful walls and ceiling in a cheerful style using natural pigments that reflects their naturalistic approach to religion.

Return to the ranch for sunset cocktails and dinner.

Traditional Farming the Still Works!!!!

Day 6 Restored hacienda & 2,000 yr. tree

This ride, packed with culture, history and exotic nature, is the perfect finale.

Ride though a Zapotec village with more turkeys and donkeys than people. Pass placid Zebu cattle plowing fields. Shepherds watch over their grazing goats.

This ride is rich in history.

Follow an old trading trail into oak forests and tree bromeliads. At the top of the pass, views open to the west into the Ocotlan valley and across to Monte Alban. Criss-cross arroyos; let the horses drink from the banks of the hacienda’s beautifully preserved reservoir.  Finish the ride at the ex-hacienda of San Antonio Buenavista. Once a working hacienda, explore this fascinating complex, now lovingly restored as a boutique hotel. Lunch at the hacienda. Waiting transport returns riders and horses to to Rancho Pitaya.

In the coolness of the late afternoon, visit Santa Maria El Tule, home of a 2,000 year old cypress tree – the largest trees on earth! El Tule is also famous for its craft shops specializing in hand-loomed cotton textiles.  There’s time to meander the shops that line the quiet lanes; support the local economy with a purchase of a handwoven tablecloth or bedspread, or a pair of fashionable handmade sandals?

The 2,000. yr. old tree in El Tule

Ride old grazing trails where we often meet the herds.

Farewell dinner and Margarita-making lesson.

Day 6 Departure

After a freshly prepared breakfast depart with pre-arranged transport for the city or airport.

NOTE: The above is only a suggested itinerary. There are endless trails, routes and destinations, some more appropriate from one season to the next. The pace of the ride can be adjusted according the the ability and fitness of the riders.