Cross-region Ranch to Puebla Ride

This ride, by invitation only, is part two of Mary Jane’s goal to ride to the four cardinal points in the state of Oaxaca. In 2019 she, her son Gabriel and two friends rode from Rancho Pitaya south to Oaxaca’s natural border – the Pacific Ocean. 

For 2024 Mary Jane will ride north from her ranch to  the state of Puebla. This equestrian journey snakes through several distinct regions of Oaxaca: ride through the central valleys at roughly 1,500 meters before ascending to the high Mixtec Altiplano at 2,300 meters before descending into the heart of the Cuicatlan – Tehuacan UNESCO – protected biosphere – home to the greatest biodiversity of cacti in the world at 500 meters ASL. 

Ride through dozens of villages, several distinct ethnic groups and a landscape in constant change. The fertile central valleys are a patchwork of small plots of tilled land that alternates with grazing lands – the home of shepherds and small herds of livestock. The middle portion of the journey travels across the dramatic high Mixtec plains where the earth undulates in vibrant tones or red, white and green.  Old trails wind among conifers and oaks decked out with orchids and silver moss. Canter surrounded by  top-of-the-world vistas and dismount to lead your horse into a deep canyon. Forests of massive columnar cacti announce the entrance to a region renowned the world over for its complex  ecosystem dominated by giant and indeed very old cacti. 

Facts in brief:

Lodging is a mixed bag of eco-tourism cabins managed by indigenous communities, a rental home and one night of possible tent camping. The lodging is basic but warm flannel sheets and excellent pillows aid a good nights sleep. Most days the support team meets horses and riders for a topnotch sit-down,  tailgate lunch. They, then, zoom ahead to each day’s destination to set up porta-corrals and assure that accommodations are a comfy as they can be. Wine, beer, mezcal and sometimes even Margaritas await riders with a hot dinner featuring Oaxaca’s famous cuisine. 

The pace has everything from long brisk canters and equally long extended trots to walking through villages and dismounting for steep descents. It is essential to be comfortable leading a horse on uneven trails. 

The ride ends upon stepping over the state border and into Puebla. Horses and riders will be transported back to eco-cabins in the heart of the protected biosphere for celebrations and a farewell dinner. On the morning of day 8, riders will enjoy a stunning 3 hour drive through the canyon and on to the city of Oaxaca where they can catch a flight departing after 1 p.m. or stay on to enjoy the city. 

  • Riding: 2 hour test ride on arrival day.  4-7 hours of riding days 2-7. 
Three-hour drive  back to Oaxaca city on morning of day 8.
  • Technical notes: The elevation of this ride is between 500–2300 meters ASL.
  • Horses: Fit, forward horses that love their job! Arabian, Arabian crosses, Arab-Quarterhorse & Mexican Criollo.
  • Tack: Comfy Endurance and English saddles with sheepskin pads and shock absorbing padded stirrups.
  • Saddlebags for water bottles, snacks and personal items. Luggage is moved daily by the support vehicle. 
  • Weight Limit: 170 lbs / 77 kilos.
  • Limited to 4 riders plus Mary Jane.
  • This is a one-time journey. 

IMPORTANT TRAVEL NOTE: On departure day 8 no outbound flights from the city of Oaxaca should be booked  before 1 pm. 

Day 1
Early afternoon arrival at Rancho Pitaya, settle in your room and visit the horses. Around 3 p.m. participants will review saddles and tack before riding out with Mary Jane to assure that the horse and rider pairing works and that the saddle is comfortable.  Pre-ride orientation over welcome drinks and dinner on the terrace. Overnight at Rancho Pitaya.

Day 2: Ride north from Rancho Pitaya across the Central Valley to overnight in the center of the Etla Valley. A constantly changing patchwork of small cultivated plots, grasslands, rolling foothills, dirt lanes and a dozen villages sets the tone for the day. 

Day 3
The route meanders northwest to follow the long defunct railway bordered by bubbling streams and a quaint “ghost town”. The day ends with a steep ascent out of the river canyon and onto the Mixtec Altiplano. Overnight in eco-cabins on the lands of Santiago Huaclilla.  Dinner in a village home.

Day 4 After a morning of little elevation change and plenty of opportunities to move at speed, a steep descent announces the Shangi-la  hamlet of Apoala, land of verdant crops and tropical fruit. It must have been an exciting moment in time when the earth cracked open, creating an impossibly deep chasm where legend tells of the birth of the Mixtec people.  The cabins nestle beside a crystalline stream lined with massive  Bald Cypress trees – you may want to take a refreshing dip! Outdoor grilled dinner in this gentle micro-climate.

Day 5 After ascending out of the canyon, hours of good footing mean long extended trots and canters in this ancient and beautifully austere top-of-the-world. Rendezvous with support vehicle for a sit-down tailgate lunch.

Terraced hillsides of white earth and fieldstone walls are a highlight of this UNESCO Geopark. The day ends in Santa Maria Ixcatlan, an important pilgrimage site. Visit the festive village church home to several very important Mexican colonial paintings. Lodging is planned for a village home but backup tenting gear with be available. 

Day 6 Follow an ancient pilgrimage route off the high altiplano and down through arguably the most botanically sculptural place on earth. Dozens of species tower to form forests of old-growth cacti . Infinite vistas unfold at every bend in the trail. Overnight in eco-cabins on the floor of the canyon. 

Day 7 
Riding north, splash across the Rio Salado and canter the lovely dirt farm lanes of this fertile and very tropical region. Ride past mango  and papaya orchards framed by rolling red canyon walls. By late afternoon we should be cantering across the state line with horse hooves on Pueblan soil!

Horses hop into the awaiting trailer and riders climb in the pickup for a short and scenic drive to the previous night’s lodging in the heart of the protected biosphere. Celebrations include  authentic Cuicatlan mole, Margaritas and a hot shower. 

Day 8 
Farewell breakfast under towering cacti before a stunning 3-4 hour drive to Oaxaca’s airport or the city’s historic center.

NOTE: The above is a suggested itinerary. There are multiple options to reach the state of Puebla. Mary Jane will always guide on the best, most beautiful and viable routes from one day to the next. 

WEATHER: Little chance of rain. Expect blue skies that bring warm days that can reach 27 Cº ( 80º F ) and nights downright chilly of 8 Cº( 48ºF)

  • 6 days of riding
  • 1 non-ride day
  • 7 nights lodging: At Rancho Pitaya in spacious rooms with large patios. In comfortable village-run ecotourism lodges and small privately-owned inns.
  • All meals and drinks: Good, honest food. Rancho Pitaya’s signature fresh salads and homemade baking will supplement local specialities to ensure tasty and varied meals. For most lunches the supply vehicle will meet riders for scrumptious tailgate feasts. As always there’ll be lots of fresh brewed Oaxaca coffee in the mornings and, artesan mezcal, cold bear and good wine as the sun gets low.
  • Personal guide, fluent in English & Spanish
  • Arrival & departure transfers from the ranch to airport or city hotel.
  • Not included: Massages, taxis for additional excursions and delayed flight arrival.
  • Suitable clothing: long pants, long sleeves, covered shoes
  • Water bottle (refills available)
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Personal medication

$2950 US per person

Limited to 4 participants plus Mary Jane

Surcharges $200 single occupancy supplement but single occupancy is only guaranteed at Rancho Pitaya. 

Notes: 50% required to book. Balance due by December 19. 

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