Story and photography by Barbara Penny Angelakis
Zip-lining is a safe and popular pursuit that I had wanted to try for some time, so when it was offered on my recent trip to Mazatlán for Fiesta Amigos, I jumped at the chance to participate. The Huana Coa Zipline canopy adventure was close to the Vinata de los Osuna tequila distillery, so after our visit there – and emboldened by product tasting - we proceeded to the zip-line course.
Our group was warmly greeted by a staff of handsome, confident, well muscled young men and women, and we were instructed to form lines so we could get suited up. The gear consisted of a helmet, heavy duty gloves, and a harness contraption that fits around your waist and over your thighs with a hook-up lead connected to the belt. We laughingly admired each other as we were led to our waiting vehicle, an open-sided truck with metal benches that ran along either side, with hanging straps connected to the ceiling, one per passenger. We were given our last chance to reconsider before the driver gunned the engine, because once the truck started up the mountain we were committed to descending it by zip-line.
The ride qualified as an adventure all on its own! We went virtually straight up at a 30° to 40° angle over rocks, gullies, tree trunks… you name it. Anticipation of this ride was no doubt the reason a waiver was required before we were allowed to board the truck. The straps secured to the ceiling now proved invaluable, as holding on with all our might they kept us from being hurled from the belly of the beast, as we bumped and heaved, and almost keeled over. At last we reached the top of the mountain and gratefully clambered out… until we saw how high up we were. Possibly the extreme ride was calculated as a deterrent to anyone considering opting out because no one in their right mind would voluntarily re-board that truck to ride down! Even at this height and nervously facing the unknown - this being the first zip-line experience for everyone in my group - seemed a better choice for reconnecting with the ground. The only good thing about that ride was that it was over and all our body parts were still attached.
Posing at the edge of the mountain in all my zip-lining finery it never occurred to me that that was the last time I would feel terra firma under my feet for the next two hours. The only element I would feel was air under my butt, with my legs flailing about over the ground hundreds of feel below me… but I digress. Eduardo, a master zip-liner, effortlessly demonstrated how simple zip-lining is and then sent us up the path encouraging us to relax, watch for birds, and enjoy the scenery… Right! You stand on the small wooden platform precariously overhanging hundreds of feet above the trees, while one of the highly trained crew hooks you up to a thin cord strung over many, many, many yards of open air and tells you to sit down… “sit down on what” I scream? Patiently smiling he says “trust me” and as I looked into his big brown eyes I bit my lip and sat down and miraculously the harness held. “Ready?” “ready” I reply for want of a snappier retort, and with a push I flew through the air concentrating on staying in line, and holding my legs straight out in front of me, and not holding too tight so I don’t slow my rate, and not gripping because that will stop me, and maintaining the correct distance between me and my outstretched right arm… and oh yes, breathing!
Elated, I completed the ride perfectly! I even landed on the platform without knocking over the catcher. Yippee I did it! And then he said “here comes the next flyer, move to the second line”. Second line? Okay I did it once, I can do it again and maybe this time I can look out at the amazing view. I move to the next line, get hooked up and again I’m flying through the air. Wow! This is wonderful and I’m lovin’ it, that is, until I reach the next line which is twice the length of the previous two. So who’s the jokester? Aren’t we at the bottom yet? I can hardly see the platform on the other side of this line, and that’s such a long way to travel in such an undignified position. Again I’m hooked-up and off I go confidently hootin’ and hollerin’ for all I’m worth to show that I have achieved mastery over this sport. The universe certainly has a sense of humor, and its common knowledge that hubris is a punishable offense. It would have been better if I had kept my mouth shut since I ended up five feet short of the next tree and the catcher had to shimmy his way out to haul me in like a fish snagged in a net. I assure you, Tarzan’s supremacy and grace in the air is safe from a challenge from me…
My confidence shaken, once on the platform I declare I’m done. “Done”? big brown eyes says? “no not done”! “you still have six more lines to go”. “You’re kidding” I say, “not kidding” he says. The rest of this tale is not pretty. It’s a terrible thing to see a mature woman whimper, but I survived with the help of big brown eyes, until we got to the end of the run and we were at the bottom of the mountain but still at tree top level. So I say “where’s the stairs” and he laughingly points to a rope dangling maybe 50 feet off the ground and says “you have to repel down”. This is the point at which I swooned into his big, strong, supporting, arms. After righting me, he made a few swift knots in the rope and again the instruction to sit down on air and the next thing I knew I was on the ground.
Wow, that was amazing and now that it was over I kind of missed flying - I mean sitting - through the air and was a bit melancholy that I had concentrated on my form instead of the awesome scenery around me. Little did I know that I was not done yet. As a special reward for not dying on the line, brown eyes plunked me on the back of a cross country four-wheel cycle and with my arms wrapped tightly around the driver we bounced across ravines and huge rocks, sometimes on one wheel, barely missing the barbed, fleshy-leaved, agave plants growing along the route - which by no stretch of the imagination could you call a road - until we arrived back in the place from which we started.
When all is said and done I was truly jubilant, and thrilled that I did it and was none the worse for wear, and all the richer for the experience.
For further information visit: www.huanacoa.com or www.gomazatlan.com
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