This was truly my "experience of a lifetime" and I just wanted to share it with you. If you ever venture to Puerto Vallarta do not miss this one!
As it turned out the night before the trip was one of the worst nights of sleep on the whole trip. A bunch of party people were whooping it up around three and woke me up. I started thinking about the Outdoor Adventure and my concerns and how much I needed a good night’s sleep, but this only made it worse. I never did sleep properly and when I woke up again it was still dark so I thought I would take a sleeping pill for the first time on this trip. After I took it, to my horror I looked at my watch and it was already 6:45, so now I had a pill in me, but had to get up soon. I finally got up around nine and felt so groggy with the sleeping pill in me. I’m praying that the effects will be gone by the time I am on the adventure. I feel so physically tired that I am concerned about being able to handle the demands. It’s too late to cancel it so I’m kind of stuck. I would love to get a little more sleep but I’m worried I’ll sleep past the time to leave. Even if I go to the beach or the pool I might doze off and miss it. I thought the watch I bought for this trip had an alarm feature but if it does I can’t figure it out and didn’t bring the instructions. Stupid, I know.
Never did get any sleep so I headed off in a bit of a sleeping pill haze, worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle the physical stuff. Took the taxi to the Vallarta Advanture Centre and checked in around 2:00. Surprised to learn that we didn’t leave until 3:00 because my slip said 2:30, but hoped it would give me more time to rest up. I went into the bathroom, which was so "Mexican" I just had to take a couple of pictures. Just as I snapped someone shouted "hey". For a second I thought I was in trouble for taking pictures, but, to my considerable delight it was Linda! Her and Dave had decided to surprise me and booked the same trip as me. What a wonderful surprise! It warmed my heart and made me feel so much better. I was now excited about the trip for the first time. I knew Dave was as concerned about the waterfall rappel as me, so that made me feel better that he was willing to do it too.
At 3:00 they took us down to the boat launch and loaded us into the zodiac. We headed off through the beautifully calm marina, not suspecting what was to come. As we headed off into the very rough ocean the driver sped up to what can only be described as "body slamming" speed. We were hanging on for dear life. Every time there was a big swell the boat would rise up and slam down, rattling every bone in your body. The hand holds were very flat and sharp and dug into your hands with every panic grip. After almost half an hour of this torture we finally landed and I wanted to kiss the ground.
No one in particular seemed to be in charge so we sort of stood around for a while, until our driver finally spoke up and led us to our 4 X 4 vehicle. He introduced himself and said he hoped we all spoke Spanish because he didn’t speak English. After we all laughed he said he was our Mexican driver, but told us not to worry because he actually could drive. We headed up the highway, then onto a dirt road, just about the time I said "we didn’t need a 4X for this." Wrong! We travelled about 10 km, through really quaint little mountain villages. Would have loved to spend some time there.
Eventually we made it up to the base camp. We loaded all our stuff into a big bag for the lockup. A couple of people were surpsied to learn they couldn’t even wear their prescription glasses. Glad I chose to wear my contacts. This was a bit misleading because a couple of the photos in the brochure showed people wearing sunglasses. One by one we were fitted with our zip line harnesses, which was a very "personal" experience, considering where all the straps go. I would volunteer to fit the girls for this one. They led us up to the mule stable, where they introduced themselves (I think there were six guides) and explained what we were about to do, starting with how to control our Mexican 4 X 4’s – the mules. It was a thrilling ride up very steep terrain through the lush jungle.
When we reached the off load area we got our first glimpse of the first zip line, La Vista, aptly named because it afforded an amazing view of the surrounding mountains. Here our guide, Nara, gave us our first intructions on how to ride the zip line; how to brake and what to do if you stopped short. I asked one of the guides if they had ever had a serious accident. He put his foot next to mine and asked me if he could have my shoes. Very funny. As luck would have it Dave was standing first in line, so he was the brave soul to go first. This one was 558 feet long. When my turn came I was not as scared as I thought I would be. When Nara said "go" off I went, letting out a big "yahoo" as I built up speed. Braking was a lot easier than it sounded and I made a perfect landing on the very small platform at the end of the line.
From here it was a steep uphill climb to the aptly named "Summit". This was the most physically challenging part of the trip, but somehow I summoned the strength to make it up. I saw the desperately need bottled water in the cooler, but it turned out to be warm. Drank it anyway. Having done one line now we were all much more confident and could now enjoy it. This one was a little steeper, so it took a bit more braking. Of course I started too late and had to brake hard. I was surprised at how hot my glove got, even through two very think layers of leather.
Next came The Rock, at 426 feet long, but also the highest, at 246 feet above the jungle floor. Our guide told us to look to the left to see the beautifull waterfall, and to look to the right to see all the dead bodies. Quite the comedians, these guys. Next on to El Pino, then Voladora, our first 45 degree line. You stood on a very tiny platform, then took a literal leap of faith, trusting you life to the guide at the bottom who controlled your decent.
At the bottom was the only truly terrifying part of the adventure. You were standing on an all too small steel platform, which was built right out over the waterfall, one edge of which was the 98 foot drop-off. We were all tethered together on a safety line, but every time another person arrived on the platform there was less and less space to stand. Somebody said, "if one goes, we all go." I asked if everyone was emotionally stable and happy with their lives, which got a laugh.
It so happened that the lovely little Katy from Cranbrook, a cute young blonde, who always let out the funniest screams at almost everything, was first to go. The guide gave us an all too brief lesson in how to rappel, then hooked Katy up. The look she gave him when he told her to just step off the platform was priceless, but to her considerable credit, she stepped off and headed down. I was next and faced my greatest fear. All I could think was this was my first rappel in my life, and here I was standing on a platform, 98 feet in the air, over rocks and a waterfall. Trial by fire for sure. With a big gulp I stepped down and eased my line off, dropping a few feet. It was truly thrilling and before I knew it I was at the bottom, dropping into about three feet of cold mountain stream water. This was te point I remembered about bringing the extra dry shoes, something I had forgotten.
There are simply no words to describe the feeling of accomplishment after the rappel. My only regret was not doing it a lot sooner in life. It was a magic moment for me. We all high fived each other at the bottom and you could just tell everyone felt the same about it.
From here we hiked to the "Wet Chicken" line. You dropped down and plunged full body into a deep mountain pool. Talk about refreshing! You went right up to your helmet and the look of surprise on everyone’s face was priceless. Best comment – "glad I didn’t wear a white blouse" from one of the girls. From here we did the Secadora, alias The Drying Line, for obvious reasons. Then on to the Commando Bridge, which was a hoot because I just had to rock it back and forth, terrifying the girls who were on either side of me. There was a great picture of me with Katy on one side and Donna on the other, all of us having the time of our lives. Then on to the Burma Bridge, the second waterfall rappel, but this one was different in that they lowered you down.
Next was El Chaparo, then on to the longest, double line, Homerun, at 656 feet. I was alone so one of the guides challenged me to a race. I was determined to beat him so I wasn’t braking at all. There’s a great picture of him egging me on, just a few feet behind. Just as we were nearing the end and he realized I wasn’t going to brake, he eased up a bit and let me win so I wouldn’t take out the guide at the end. Very classy guy.
From the last zip line it was a fairly long walk down, through ankle deep streams, back to the base camp, where we were debriefed and asked if we had fun. A loud "yes" from everyone in the group. We were shown the 248 photos our camera man had taken on a bunch of laptops. It was a bit laborious to scroll through all the photos, looking for ones of you. I would have loved more, but at a pricey $15 each I picked one of the three of us and one showing me doing the rappel, even though it’s not the best picture of me. I just wanted to prove I did it.
We loaded back into the 4 X 4’s and headed off. This was the first time we learned we would not be taking the boat back. After the wild trip across I don’t think Linda was too disappointed. It was a very long and chilly trip back through Puerto Vallarta, but it gave me my first look at PV at night. I was surpsied when we came by the big open public space we had seen during the day because it was now teeming with vendors and tons of people. I regretted that we had not had a night in town.
Got back to the adventure centre and said my goodbyes to Dave and Linda and thanked them again for the wonderful surprise they gave me. Truly the highlight of my trip, no question. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.