Peruvian Paso horses were on my radar when we went to Peru last year. I’d read about their oh-so-smooth gait and wanted to experience this ride for myself. Nina Fogelman of Ancient Summit planned our Peru itinerary and assured me she could make it happen.
If you’ve read about our trip, you know that Nina lived in Peru for many years and has incredible local contacts. Lucky for us, Pablo Navarro – owner of Salineras Ranch in the Sacred Valley is a close friend. In fact, Nina arranged her schedule so she was able to join us at the ranch, which I soon discovered is a lovely slice of Peruvian paradise.
The name of the ranch refers to the famous salt mines that are nearby, but it almost feels like a misnomer. From the moment we arrived, I was aware of Pablo’s warm heartedness – sweetness – not salt. His 20 Paso horses, three dogs, two dozen hens, and one colorful papagayo are treated with respect and genuine affection. Likewise, his guests.
When I expressed interest in Peruvian food, he launched into an extremely well-informed explanation of Incan farming methods (still in practice today), local slow food traditions, and the 84 microclimates in Peru that provide a huge range of crops.
In addition to owning this 50-acre ranch, Pablo – a happy veteran of the Lima business world – has a tea plantation and a cocoa farm in other areas of the country. We bonded over our love of tea and chocolate, and he proceeded to explain the cocoa-seed-pod to bars-of-pure-chocolate procedure. If we’d had more time, he would have invited a local woman to actually demonstrate the process.
Food from Pachamama (Mother Earth)
During our time at Salineras Ranch, we ate eggs from Pablo’s hens, vegetables from his organic garden, wild potatoes gathered from a high mountain pass, locally made goat cheese, and homemade elderberry compote. Meals were prepared on a vintage wood stove in his spacious dine-in kitchen.
Riding Peruvian Paso horses
On the second morning of our stay, we mounted up and rode over the ranch and along the Rio Vilcanota. Yes. The Paso’s sideways gait is unusual and very smooth, but – in all honesty – I was more impressed with the beautiful scenery.
We could have ridden over to the salt evaporation ponds that are still worked by descendants of the original Inca owners, but opted instead for a long, lazy picnic with trout freshly caught from his stream.
How do you say “Om” in Spanish?
Salineras Ranch offers various types of accommodation, including the River Cabin that Pablo built specifically for yoga and meditation retreats. Maybe because of his Lima experience, he prioritizes a pace and an environment in which his guest can truly relax.
I did relax. I also ate wonderful food, rode gorgeous horses – and felt loved.