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Company Q& A - Calbagatas La Sierra in Mexico

Interview with Lucia Shravesande of Calbagatas La Sierra

family picture
Pepe and Lucia.

How did the company begin? Pepe´s family owned a riding facility on the outskirts of Mexico City. It was a big property where riders boarded their horses and could learn stadium jumping and dressage or enjoy long hours of pleasure riding within the acres of land and forest of the property which lay next to a national park. From the park, you could ride for days in the countryside of Mexico. It was because of this that Pepe and his uncle first started organising horse treks for riders that boarded their horses in their place. Later on I met Pepe (because of horses), got married and we continued to expand the company, receiving people from other parts of Mexico as well as from other nations. After some years our riding also went further and we travelled west of Mexico to beautiful Valle de Bravo, which lays in the Sierra Madre located in the State of Mexico, west of Mexico City where among many things that can be done besides riding, is a visit to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, which by the way, we visit on horseback!

What's special about the area? So now our home is Finca Enyhe. Many things are special about this area... I can begin with its beautiful location. We have a lake and a beautiful colonial town... Excellent weather all year round. Oak and pine forest, fir tree forest, evergreen alpine valleys, streams and rivers flowing into the lake... Lots of outdoor activites for all tastes such as paragliding, sailing, kayaking, treking, mountain biking, bird watching... and I could go on and on. Last but not least we also have three golf courses, a relaxing spa in the area for people that want to enjoy an invigorating day... excellent restaurants that open during the weekends for those that like high quality cuisine...

mountain vista in Mexico
The ride passes through a variety of scenery including mountains, forests and meadowland.

Although it's an adventurous ride of 150 miles duration, your guests stay in luxury accommodation each night with three-course meals. You must get a lot of comments such as "thank goodness we're not camping?" Excellent accomodations and meals are an important part of a holiday. In this case the property reflects the colonial times of Mexico, although this hacienda-like property is not an old one. It was built by us when we found the land in this perfect spot of Valle de Bravo. We wanted to build something that provided our guests with a feeling of being in the past... Verandas with rooms all looking into a courtyard with a fountain in the middle and at the same time surrounded with beautiful gardens and terraces, just as in old times. Guests that stay with us love the idea to come back every evening to a beautiful and well set place where they can spend the rest of the evening watching a sunset with a margarita in hand and in a restoring and hot outdoor heated jacuuzzi! So yes, we get a lot of "thank goodness, we are not camping!"

swimming pool
After a long hot day on the trail, guests can relax in the pool with a margarita.

Food is also very important. It also reflects the history and heritage of a country. Mexico is no exception, not only this but it is a country that can be compared to other countries that have a very rich variety of food and cuisines. We are proud of our food and we want to show the world the different dishes of the different parts of the country. So we take pride of the meals that are cooked in our Mexican kitchen.
People that like to travel around the world on a horse are people interested to learn and share the traditions of a country, and food is no exception. We have been so succesful with the dishes we offer to our guests that now we are starting a new programme for those not only interested in riding but that would also like to learn to cook some Mexican dishes!

dining table
The meals at the Finca have become so popular with riders that Lucia and Pepe have launched a new programme passing on some of their traditional Mexican recipes.

Do you have special agreements with local land owners? We do have certain arrangements with local land owners where our horses spend each night on the trail while the riders return by minivan or boat to the luxury of the Finca. Besides this we also contribute in different ways to the communites and counties we ride through. It is very important that this type of alternative tourism grows so that additional incomes are received by these comunities.

How many horses do you have? Do they have very different characters? Do you have a favourite? Who is the newest addition? We have a group of 20 horses and two pack mules. They come in different colours, breeds, temperaments and characters. From the very calm and quiet for those with not much experience to the alert and spirited that many advanced riders enjoy to ride. There is one horse among the group that does not really have to earn its living by being the mount of guests in our treks. He is my grey Andalusian Riojano. He only is ridden by me or by Pepe and leads the group of horses and riders during the one week ride. Our newest addition to the group is Pistache (the translation is Pistachio). He really is not a new addition, this horse was given as a gift by a good friend to our daughter when he was less than a year old. Now he is three and after being trained has now begun working with advanced riders. The latest addition is Sauco a big, strong dun criollo we bought in one of the communities where we leave the horses in one of the day´s ride. He is all any rider of any riding experience would like. He can be calm and quiet for those who like to ride a horse like this and he can be alert and responsive for the advanced rider who many times likes to ride a light sensitive horse.

mountain view
Everything you need is carried by mule.

What kind of wildlife and scenery do you see on the rides? Because of its geographical location, Valle de Bravo and its surroundings have many microclimates. This enables the visitor to pass through many different landscapes. From agricultural valleys full of corn, oats, stawberries, avocado and fruit trees to fields planted with sunflowers, gladioles, bird of paradise.... The ride starts at an altitude of 6,000 feet with a pine and oak forest and we ride up to the 10,000 feet, where the fir tree forest gives shelter to the Monarch Butterflies that arrive by the millions from Canada and USA and stay with us for six months to hibernate.

Where does your passion for the area come from? What makes each ride different? The passion for this area comes from when I was a child. My parents had a weekend house in Valle de Bravo. My family also had horses here and since a very early age I learned to love this beautiful land. Pepe also came to know this place since his early adolecence, when he and his uncle started exploring the area on horseback. We now have four different riding programmes: The Classic Ride, The Relaxed Ride, the New Year´s Ride and now the Cooking and Riding Ride. Between one ride and another, although the route is the same, every time we do it we (Pepe and I or guests that repeat the ride) find it different; the flowers and vegetation can change from one week to another, you get to see other birds you did not see the last time, the sky and clouds.... You always get to see something your eyes did not catch the ride before...

Any funny stories from your clients? It is great to get to know people from so many different places. During the ride or next to the fireplace of the living room, funny stories are sometimes told by some of our guests. It is fun and interesting to be around people from all over the world all united in one place because of one interest in common — the horse.

What's the nicest thing a client has ever said about your holidays? Return guests say more than words... They return to ride with us because they had a great time in Finca Enyhe.

What's your biggest challenge in continuing to grow the business? Our biggest challenge is to convince more people from around the world and who only hear the bad news of Mexico that our country is a safe place to visit. Not only safe but beautiful with an enrichening experience. People that have come to ride with us can surely agree with us and help us spread the word!

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