Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Zip-Line Mania

Probably the best extra sideline trip of the Puerto Vallarta vacation was the ‘Outdoor Adventure’ tour which is conducted by the Vallarta Adventures Company. We were already interested in doing the canopy zip-line trip, but after I read about the upgrade, we decided it might be too interesting to pass up and booked it for ourselves through our flight travel guide. Basically, the adventure begins with a 20 minute (longer from hotels not in the south zone) open boat ride south along the Pacific coast to a small village – Boca de Tomatlan – where you transfer to a large 4x4 vehicle (intriguingly named a Unimog) which jolts you up a bumpy road for 15 minutes to their property in the Sierra Madre mountains where the actual adventure starts out. Once they have you donned out with the climbing harness, helmet, heavy leather gloves and have issued a number of cautions, safety procedures and general instructions, it is time to mosey over to the mule corral. Except for the longish ears, a mule is pretty much the same as a horse: swing up into the saddle from the left, pull reins left to go left, right to head in that direction, heels sharply into the stomach area to get moving or speed up, back lightly on the reins to stop and a hard tug to back up. Once aboard, I presumed it would be much the same as a guided horse ride with the steed following the well marked trail without wavering. Surprisingly, the mules respond well to the commands and reins, moving according to the rider’s instructions all the way up to the dismounting area. Then, it is about a 200 foot climb to the first zip-line – one of about eight – which are not overly steep and each with a flat out run at the bottom towards the platforms. Double rigging and an online braking system provide excellent safety features. If you are so inclined, there is plenty of opportunity to look around on the descents to gaze at the jungle, mostly trees, the river and a waterfall. There is one 50 foot vertical rappelling section down a waterfall where I discovered the safety line cinches quickly if your downward travel exceeds their speed allowance even if you are in complete control. Still, it was fun to do this particular item as you ended up thigh deep in cold water at the base of the falls. One of the shorter zip-lines was designed simply to allow you a fast run down for a major splash ending into a deep pool of very cold water. Unfortunately, most of the others on this trip, despite much cajoling and encouragement from the guides to keep their legs up to cause a big splashdown, tried desperately to land standing up rather than taking the plunge and ended up just as wet. Included on the way down were a crossing on a two line commando bridge about twenty feet long and a v-cable bridge of similar length over the stream. The balance of the walk back involved sloshing through the stream three or for times until we reached the jump off centre once again. While we did not mind tipping the Mexican guides, who were quite the jokers during the trip (not the photographer), the asking prices for the pictures was both astronomical and almost scandalous. A single photo cost $17 and for the whole set, of maybe twenty, $150 – an extreme price considering the cost of the outing was only $75 per person (down from the online and brochure price of $95.) which we felt was an exceptional deal. We did purchase a slightly overpriced mug with a rappelling theme on the front as a memento; since there was no way we would buy the pictures, plus which we agreed they had turned out poorly anyway and had only a couple with recognizable faces. And then, it was back into the Unimog for the trip straight back to our hotel. Definitely an adventure tour I would recommend to anybody and an enjoyable – really thrilling for many – way to spend six hours.

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