Writer quashes fear of heights to take on aerial adventure
I’m not a fan of heights or sudden drops in elevation at breakneck speed. So why am I signing a liability release form for a zipline adventure?
The fascination of ziplining over treetops combined with a stunning Mexican location in the countryside of Mazatlan has convinced me this was the right time and the right place to push past my fears.
Huana Coa Canopy Adventure, (www.huanacoa.com) located 45 miles from Mazatlan, is a great day-trip experience, providing a glimpse into an environment locals describe as “semi-desert/tropical jungle.” Here in the foothills of the Sierra Madre—just far enough from the populated city–one can zip along nine cables (some suspended 50 feet in the air)—covering about a mile of terrain that changes from dense verdant treetops to sandy hilltops to the uniform gray-blue rows of an agave farm.
However after getting geared up with a harness, helmet and gloves and loaded onto the back of a truck for a jarring 10-minute ride to the jumping off point, I began to think that maybe I’d made a really bad decision. The vehicle raced up the winding rutted road with me and my fellow adventurers holding onto straps for dear life and severely bouncing about as my queasy stomach and jittery nerves intensified. And the vehicle just kept going and going, tearing up the terrain–higher and higher. My heart was in my throat. We reached the summit and my fears eased a bit—until I looked out over the first drop point—so high, so far. I tried not to look as unnerved as I felt.
Our guides—four strapping young Mexican men who couldn’t have been more charming, helpful and enthusiastic—prepared to give us a quick tutorial. However, first they asked four of us to turn around—we were facing the wrong direction. Not a good sign.
After a brief review of do’s and don’ts and a demonstration of how to sit, position one’s body and hands, the 10 of us lined up, had our equipment checked for a final time and one-by-one stepped onto that first platform. Just as I approached, I overheard that this run is the longest of the nine. Oh, great!
That first shove was equally terrifying and exhilarating and within seconds, zipping along the cable at an incredible rate, the terror melted away and I actually began to embrace the thrill of the speed and the stellar view. However, before I could relax I found myself slowly turning—one of the problems our guides had cautioned about—and I struggled to make adjustments to straighten myself out. Within seconds, I was facing backwards—not a good thing. But before my fear got out of control I was able to maneuver to the correct position just prior to coming in for a rather hard landing on a platform stationed on a hilltop. The guide reiterated the hand signals, which I thought I was following, and offered encouraging words. Each landing got better—except for the third—in which I came in at nearly full speed and slammed into one of the always smiling and hospitable guides, who quickly dispensed a few pointers.
As we progressed from one zipline to another, with one guide waiting for us on each platform and one taking up the rear—we all got better at it and the laughter and smiles came readily. Even the two in our party who needed a guide to accompany them in tandem seemed to appreciate this adventure—sort of.
I and the other members of our party made it all the way to the end, where—SURPRISE—we had to repel from the final platform positioned in a tree to the ground below.
Cost of the canopy tour—including hotel pick up and transportation—is $75.
And now for a little tequila…I mean blue agave
Huana Coa is located just down the road from Vinata de Los Osuna, a blue agave (better known as tequila) distillery. I learned that they are not allowed to call it tequila because it isn’t produced in one of the five Mexican states that are licensed to produce it, so here it is called 100 percent blue agave.
The grounds are lovely, resplendent with foliage and flowers as well as vintage distillery equipment along with modern processing technology.
Of course, there is a small vendor space where one can purchase trinkets and souvenirs as well as a bar where free samples of the award-winning Los Osuna are provided and bottles can be purchased.
Nothing like home cooking
One of the best meals of this trip was had just prior to our zipline adventure. Located a short distance from the distillery and zipline is El Sazon la Abuela Tina, a quaint roadside restaurant in La Noria, which sits alone among the brush. Diners are greeted by a large overhead sign and clusters of tiny, pastel-colored butterflies that flitter about.
What makes El Sazon (www.elsazondelaabuelatina.com) distinct is that meals are prepared the old-fashion way. While diners seat in the open-air front portion, women chop, pound and cook in the outdoor kitchen in the back. Blue corn is mashed with mortar and pestal, pressed into tortillas and placed on a wood-stove grill and turned by hand, while fresh avocado is turned into guacamole. Flames roar from the far end of the grill as the cooks put chicken and steak on for the carne asada and quesadillas that have been ordered. While I enjoyed my safe choice of the chicken quesadillas, I definitely should have gone for the carne asada. One sample of the tender steak laden with layers of flavor left me longing for more.
Another dish that’s a feast for the eyes and the palate is the molcajete, which comes to the table boiling hot in a vessel made of volcanic rock. It was fresh with large strips of succulent chicken, beef, green peppers in a bubbly red sauce with hunks of melting cheese. Delicioso!