A growing demand for adventure tourism in Nicaragua and a higher than expected cost of living motivated this semi-retired couple to pull up their boots, saddle their horses and start up a tour biz that takes adventurous riders to the nearby beaches.
Online PR News – 07-August-2010 – – Jamie Lake and Blue van Doorninck packed up their old lives in Vancouver, Canada and hit the road in search of a place to start a new life together. After several years of traveling Southeast Asia, the two finally put down roots in Nicaragua’s first solar-powered community, just south of the renowned surf town of San Juan del Sur.
Blue and Jamie are not new to tourism or to ranch life, but it was never their intention to start a business in Nicaragua. All too often expats however, choose to live in a country claiming to be less expensive than home, only to discover that living costs are considerably higher than expected. “Internet and security are the first that come to mind” says Blue. It all started by sharing their beach rides with friends and family – but word spread and the beach rides rapidly evolved into an adventure requested by visitors to Nicaragua. Meant to be - they say.
Adventure tourism relies heavily on the natural and cultural resources a destination already has to offer. And Nicaragua, like many developing destinations, has limited resources to build infrastructure, so adventure tourism is a realistic alternative and provides a strong argument for preserving natural resources.
Horses are still the most common form of transportation in the area. Local horses are tied up each morning at the front gate as their riders head to town on the morning bus. The horses stand patiently all day waiting for their owners to return. “Have horse, will travel” says Jamie, “it’s simply a part of Nica life.” And riding horses on a beach at sunset is on the Bucket List of many armchair travelers and adventure seekers the world over.
The 3-4 hour beach rides leave from Rancho Chilamate, through the local barrio, off the beaten path through what is known as “arid-tropical forests” and eventually out to the open beaches and the Pacific Ocean. You may canter if you dare. “It brings tears to their eyes” Jamie says of many who have enjoyed the freedom and the thrill.
Beach rides are available first thing in the morning, at sunset, or for lunch at a local eatery. Mountain ridge rides offer spectacular views and the expeditions into the 450 acre nature reserve behind the ranch are a great ride as well.
Neither Jamie nor Blue had some urge to divest themselves of all possessions and take up subsistence living in the tropics – but it seems they have. One thing they learned during their travels was that the World’s preoccupation with power and water is justified, and they dreamed of living independently off-the-grid… and they are.
A well was drilled on the property for clean water, an organic garden and fruit trees have been started and they most recently took to marketing their home-grown chickens that have been very well received by the locals.
All their electrical needs are met by forty-four solar panels mounted in two arrays generating 3.5 kilowatts. They are happy to report it provides sufficient power for the 220V pool pump, fridge, washing machine, two fountains, security and outbuilding lighting, numerous ceiling fans and general household lighting and power. Off-the-grid does not need to be ‘roughing it’ at Rancho Chilamate - noting that they have wireless internet on site too!!
In fact, the Hacienda at Rancho Chilamate is a veritable oasis after the somewhat rough and tumble 10km from San Juan del Sur. Blue and Jamie are two of only a handful of foreigners that have chosen to live in the more remote area to the south. “It’s Spanish Colonial meets Spaghetti Western” explains Blue, boasting of how Jamie designed and managed the construction of their place. After you pass through the saloon doors into the boot room (which appropriately has an old church pew for you to sit on), find cowboy boots that fit and choose your hat, you head off to the stable to get your horse.
And then you gallop, literally, into the sunset. Some say it’s not the journey it’s the destination that’s important. For Blue, Jamie and those who’ve experienced Rancho Chilamate Adventures on Horseback it seems to be both.
Rancho Chilamate http://www.ranchochilamate.com is a solar-powered off-the-grid private ranch in SW Nicaragua offering guided horseback rides to the nearby beaches of Playa Yankee and Playa Escamequita (the locale for this season’s reality TV series Survivor). Blue is also a professional photographer and Jamie designs and creates in his blacksmith shop.