Horse riding in Quepos.

I only met Jelene and John briefly in Miami, when Jelene contacted me after reading an online article about my travels. But despite the brief introduction, they were kind enough to extend an invitation to me to join them for a week at their condo in Costa Rica.

The invitation was further extended to include Moe, so on Monday we left our San Jose hotel, and caught the bus out to meet John and Jelene at the airport. From there we entered a new world of private chartered flights and luxury condos.

John is a partner in the development of a huge marina on the Pacific shore at Quepos, and comes down once a month to oversee progress there. So instead of the four hour drive across the country, we had a four-seater, twin-prop Piper Seneca to whisk the four of us across to the west coast in about twenty minutes or so. We made a scenic loop around the marina, and John and Jelene discussed recent additions.

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At the tiny landing strip in the jungle on the outskirts of town, a hire car was waiting for us, and the condo that we drove to is luxurious and spacious. We have a view across the most lush rain forest to the coast. In a tree not far from our balcony a sloth hung lazily in the branches. Apparently, monkeys often come to the swimming pool area below us in the morning.

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On our first evening here John and Jelene insisted on treating us to dinner in one of their favourite restaurants. They know the manager there – they seem to know a lot of people here – and we were very well looked after in the beautiful surroundings of Karolas Restaurant.

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Yesterday morning I woke feeling slightly nervous, as it was time to revisit one of my earlier goals. Jelene has a share in some stables here, and when we arrived, our four horses were saddled and waiting for us. It was overcast, and in the cooler weather the horses were apparently less sluggish than usual, and keen to run.

The last time I was on a horse was on the US west coast at Oregon, where Debbie and her friend Paul had helped me achieve Goal #22 of riding along the beach at sunset. I had managed a gallop, but with little style or control. I had also fallen off, which didn’t help my confidence.

But the horses here all seem very calm and are very sure-footed and smooth to ride. With a few words of advice from Jelene, and more from Moe, who looked supremely confident on her sleek and speedy-looking mare, we were off.

We walked for a while, then trotted, and before long we were galloping. “Just relax,” I was frequently reminded – not quite as straight-forward as you would think on a horse hurtling along a gravel track through thick jungle.

We slowed at the river, and our horses waded through waist-deep water, and we were off again. Eventually we turned for home, and by then I was starting to feel much more comfortable. My horse was keen on the return journey, and I let her go, out ahead of the others, a huge grin on my face. What a wonderful feeling.

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I now have a couple of saddle-sores, but am now hooked! I want to get much better at this.

We drove down to a local bar in the evening, where I spotted Craig, who we had met at the condo complex the day before. The evening involved salsa dancing, another challenge for me, but with some patient advice from salsa-star Christine, our condo manager, we were soon on the floor in the midst of the stylish local dancers. Moe was very tolerant of my foot-stomping clumsiness, and we had a great time.

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It was certainly a good decision to accept John and Jelene’s kind invitation. This is turning out to be a great week, and a wonderfully luxurious follow-up to our fantastic week in Jamaica. I am incredibly grateful to them for their kindness and hospitality, and I am also grateful to them for facilitating the opportunity to spend another week with Moe, who is great fun to be around.

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