A wave of nausea flooded my stomach, and radiated through the rest of my body like an atomic explosion. I made a desperate grab for my canteen, as my horse and I traveled across the dry landscape of “Valley Seco”, the Dry Valley.
The water was warm, but it was better than drinking nothing at all. I shook my head, and quietly kicked myself for not hydrating enough in preparation for this trip. I, of all people, should know better.
My eyes turned to my fellow riders. Once satisfied I was the only one feeling any discomfort, my gaze dropped back to the ground, where my horse’s shadow faithfully walked beside us. His dark, silhouette hypnotically held my attention as my thoughts turned to the seven hours remaining until we reached our destination. The duration of the ride was not the problem. If I could just rest a few minutes and eat something I knew I would feel a lot better.
We left La Bellota at 6am that morning. Our destination, the historical Gold Mines of Real Del Castillo. In the mid 1800’s, after major gold strike, Real Del Castillo became a booming mining town. People from all over began arriving in droves, all in search of wealth, and good fortune.
In 1876, it became the first capital of Baja California. Today, Real del Castillo is largely agricultural, populated by ranchers, some of whom are descendants of the original families who established the area. Real Del Castillo also has a rich history in cheese production, a history in itself which goes back over 100 years. Rancho La Bellota lies exactly 30 miles south of Real Del Castillo with Valle Seco in between.
My attention suddenly focused on Raul, our faithful leader. When I saw him glance behind him to check up on everyone. I waved, and signaled him to stop. I could tell he knew I was feeling bad. Not that he was overly worried about me, but he wanted to make sure no one else was feeling the same way. He slowed his pace, and announced to the group it was time for a break. This brought on hearty approval from the other riders as well.
I quickly jumped off my horse. My body felt like a ton of lead, and my legs like blubbery, rubber. I sat down on the nearest rock to rest. Raul stomped over to where I was sitting, and asked me in his most irritated voice, why I didn’t drink enough water before we started out?
Funny how quickly he caught on to these things. His years of experience in the open country, while leading groups on pack expeditions made him extremely observant when it came to rider safety, and the horses.
I made a futile attempt to shade my eyes from the sun, as I looked up at him to answer. The only thing I could see, was the outline of his body against the bright sky. I motioned towards my first aid kid.
“What, the first aid kit?”
I nodded wearily.
He reached across my saddle, untied the first aid kit, and set it on my lap.
“Take something for it”, he said abruptly, “and get back on your horse. I’m going to check on everyone else.”
I nodded again as he walked away. It was all I could do as I fumbled with the zipper on the red nylon bag. Inside I had a few packets of “suero”, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals, which I quickly poured into my canteen. I gave it a good shake and drank down a few gulps to get the medicine into my system as soon as possible.
After a few minutes I heard Raul’s voice again.
“Everybody ready to go?”
He stood beside his horse, ready to mount. I read the concerned expression in his eyes. He was asking me if I was ready to go too.
“Let’s go.” I called out. My answer was more directed at him, and not at the group.
Raul was eager to keep moving. We still had a long day ahead of us and the hardest part of the ride was just up ahead. The notorious, wall…….