By Mr. TWS — It’s always fun to try something new, especially if there is a feeling of daring involved. Last week, Sweeney and I had the opportunity to go zip-lining in Mazatlan, Mexico in the Sierra Madre foothills where we’d be whizzing 50 feet in the air for a mile through the trees!
Sweeney enjoys a little adventure but she’s not particularly fond of heights. So it was with some apprehension that she anticipated this new exploit. Our zip-lining was to be followed by a tour and tasting at the nearby Los Osuna tequila distillery, and Sweeney joked that the itinerary might be better if the order was changed to do the tequila first.
Arriving at the Huana Coa Canopy Adventure Park (about 45 minutes from the resorts of Mazatlan), we were greeted by a friendly, welcoming staff amid attractive grounds.
Before our trip, Sweeney found one online description of zip-lining cautioning that a requirement was to “…be able to be on a small platform approximately 5 stories high without experiencing excessive anxiety or reactions, such as dizziness, hyperventilation, freezing, vomiting or fainting” and one Wikipedia alternative name for zip-lining — “death slide”. Yikes! Nonetheless, she put these cautions in proper perspective and was quite eager to get started. Any apprehension was alleviated by the professionalism of the guides, their attention to safety procedures and maintenance of the equipment.
Our guides, Roel and Jimmy, helped us into the gear: body harness, helmet and leather gloves, modeled by Sweenie below. I believe the slightly tense smile was for dramatic effect. (Incidentally, I appreciate her willingness to let me share what she considers to be less-than-flattering photos. I think she looks cute.) The scarf had to go for safety reasons and was placed with a few other unneeded things in a secure locker provided.
The journey to the zip-lining platform continued with a short drive up a very narrow, steep and rough dirt road appropriately in a rugged WWII Austrian truck.
Then it was a final short walk through the terrain (“where the desert meets the jungle”) and up about 50 stairs to the first platform.
As we approached the first platform below Sweeney looks like she is considering bolting back to the truck but I think it was just one of the odd poses one sometimes captures with candid shots. We were quickly given brief instructions and an additional mention of safety before mounting the first platform.
Roel exemplified the attention to safety with his rule that he alone touch the equipment. Carefully monitored by Sweeney, Roel attached the zip-line trolley and harness mount to the cable and to her body harness. He also attached the backup harness strap.
Roel reviewed the instructions with Sweeney — hold the line connecting the trolley to your harness with your left hand; reach your right arm behind you and place your hand very loosely around the cable to be used to keep your body in a straight line by pulling on the cable to right your position if you spin to one side; use your right hand to slow down by pulling directly downward on the cable; keep your feet up and straight forward, and watch the hand signals of the guide as you approach the tower to signal if you need to brake.
Sweeney was told to sit down in the harness and lift her legs. Doing something a first time sometimes includes the fear of getting hurt, but mostly the fear is about looking stupid. The three main concerns we had were slowing too much and not maintaining enough momentum to get to the platform (in this case we were directed to spin and face backward and use both hands to grab the cable behind, pulling hand-over-hand until reaching the platform); gaining too much speed and coming into the platform hot; and getting twisted around.
Sweeney had a few last-second nervous questions and then she was off. I expected to hear a scream but I think she was completely focused on getting it right and she did with a good landing on the second platform. (By the way, the photos don’t capture the height of the zip line which was about 50 feet above the ground.)
The full course consisted of nine runs totaling a mile with 10 platforms. There were views of the Sierra Madre and the jungle/desert below us with cactus, flowers and butterflies everywhere, including a black butterfly with red dots that landed and camped on my nose. The only snag for Sweeney was at the end of the third run where she stopped 5 meters short of the platform but quickly recovered using the backward hand-over-hand technique. The perfect form and confident look in the photo below characterize a much enjoyed experience.
The last platform had one other new activity — rappelling to the ground below.
Though Sweeney’s first time, she handled it calmly with a big smile.
The friendly staff and especially our guides, Roel (in earlier pictures) and Jimmy and Silverio (just above) contributed to a fun outing. Their expertise, instructions and frequent humor helped quickly remove any nervousness enabling us to thoroughly enjoy the activity. In fact, the ride was so fun that we wanted to do it again!
Now that we’ve tried zip-lining, we highly recommend it as an activity for any adventure level and from our personal experience can recommend Huana Coa Canopy Adventure if you’re visiting Mazatlan.
For more information: Huana Coa Canopy Adventure
Disclosure: We were guests of the Mazatlan Tourism Trust, but the perspectives and opinions in this article are totally our own — as always!