Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sicily in the Saddle

A horseback ride in the heartland of Sicily

Antonio and Pepe against a backdrop of the Sicilian countrysideAntonio Carlotta and his horse, Pepe, against a backdrop of the Sicilian countryside. My mount danced up to the crumbling lip of a 1,000-foot drop. She didn't seem inclined to stop.

I yanked repeatedly on the reins, yelling "Whoa!" in what I meant to be a stern, controlled voice but came out high-pitched and panicky. My brain, often of little help in these situations, suggested that perhaps "whoa" wasn't how you made a horse stop in Italian.

Antonio Carlotta, my guide, gave a short, low whistle, and my chestnut mare immediately put on the brakes, kicking loose dirt and pebbles over the cliff as my heart pounded away merrily in its new home halfway up my throat.

"Got a little closer than I expected there," I said suavely, adding, "Ha, ha" to show Antonio I wasn't fazed and, in fact, quiet enjoyed the bitter taste of adrenaline on the back of my tongue. I tried to convince Katy to back up a bit, but the dark chestnut mare seemed content to perch on the edge of doom and just enjoy the view.

"Don't worry," said Antonio, a big grin evident in his voice but not, out of politeness, on his face. "A horse wouldn't go over a cliff." Relaxing a bit, I took a moment to focus on the breathtaking panorama below and not my fear of becoming a part of it.