Day 2: Fri, 2/14 – Extreme Zip Line Adventure



For those of you who were around last year, you know I did the Outdoor Adventure through Puerta Vallarta Adventures (PVA), a tour through the jungle that included zip lines, rappelling, and water slides among other things. It was unlike anything I had ever done and completely invigorating. It also led my friend Art to post this on my Facebook the next day: “Have fun getting shot out of a cannon or whatever it is you’re going to do today.” I thought of that line many times today. Because it might as well have been that.

I learned about the Extreme version of this adventure when I was here last year, and immediately decided I was going to do it when I returned. And today was the day! So hang onto your shorts, it’s a helluva ride.

But let’s ease into the day as I did. I slept pretty well, up about 5:30am. I got coffee in the lobby of the hotel and took it to the Malecon a couple of blocks away. The internet connection at the hotel is crap, insecure to the degree that neither my phone or computer will connect to it. I was able to do the blog from my phone using cellular connection and did most of it sitting right there listening to the waves. Can’t complain about that.

Breakfast is included in the hotel. It’s pretty basic, nothing to write home about, but it’s on the 4th floor (which is the 5th level) so the views are nice.

Windows all around the seating area, and you can sit outside, too.
That’s Our Lady of Guadalupe. Two blocks on the other side of that is where I stayed the last 2 times I was here.
There a hot tub and nice sitting area…
…with a tiny view of the bay in the background.

I hung out outside there until about 10am when I took an Uber to the meeting spot.

This tour met at the offices of Puerto Vallarta Adventures.
A nice view of the marina as we walked to our van.

There were 9 people on this tour – 3 couples from US, 1 from England, and me. It was an hour drive into the jungle and mountains.

I snapped this coming back to show some perspective. This was about 15 minutes into the hour drive back once I could get a GPS reading again.

We got to the Extreme Adventure base camp about 12:30pm. Having done an outdoor tour with them last year, I was familiar with the drill and looking forward to what was coming. Last year’s crew was Amazing, and this year’s was no different: young, smart, ridiculously competent, very well trained, fun and funny. I lost count of how many there were because they seemed to change depending on the activity. Probably 5-6 that were core and then maybe 3 more that were specific to a task.

me standing below the Extreme Adventure sign, wearing all the gear for ziplining and rappelling
And away we go….

The tour started with basic zip lines, each longer than the other, the longest in this initial series being 324 meters, or over 1000 feet. There were 3 or 4 of these before we got to the one featured below. The next 3 photos give you a basic idea of them. Getting off at the platform and unhooking is always it’s own thing.

me on the zipline over the jungle canopy
I’m trying to make sure my feet are solid on the platform. On several of these you stopped right at the edge of it and I was always afraid I was going to slip off.
Big smile, probably just happy to still be alive!
There were 2 photographers on this tour. I left at the end with 79 photos and 5 videos. You’re only seeing maybe a quarter of that.
Me standing on a narrow platform around a tree, getting ready to zipline
All of these platforms were a bit too narrow for my taste. Notice that safety cord in the middle going left, attached to a rope. You were always connected to something. That did little to calm my vertigo. All of this stuff was pretty high up.

This was just before upside down ziplining, something I was hoping would be included.

me upside down and backwards on the zip line!
Upside down ziplining was one of my favorite activities the last time so I really got into this. Since I knew what was coming I was able to just go with it and enjoy. It was practically a meditation, having full faith that, despite going backwards, I would be caught at the end and stopped when I needed to be.
A photo of my rappel as seen from the top, looking down.
This was a free fall rappel which, for me anyway, is much easier than rappelling against the mountain. There’s no work to it, you just drop. You are able to control the speed with your hands.
me about halfway through the rapell, legs straight out
How it looked coming down. It looks like I’m close to that tree but I’m really not. This was one of the easiest things we did all day.

And we went from the easiest to 2nd most difficult, and definitely the scariest. We all sat down and were briefed on the next activity, a series of 3 things that would require strength and endurance. But it was an all-or-nothing activity: once you chose, you had to do all 3. Only about half of us did it. I had decided early on I was doing Everything. I had moments during this phase when I deeply regretted that.

This was about a 50 foot rope climb that got steeper as you went up. My whole body was literally trembling by the time I got to the top, and they casually say “come around to the right” to get on the platform. I was finally able to do that, and when I saw what was next I couldn’t believe it.

They had briefed us on the tight rope walk but somehow I couldn’t envision it. Now that I was there, I was, well, not pleased. This was my “you’ve got to be kidding me!” moment like I had at the waterfall rappel last year.

My body was so worked out from the rope climb my muscles were trembling and that made for a Very Wobbly walk. I honestly don’t know how I stayed on. This was the worst thing for me on the whole adventure. Somehow they managed to catch some smiles.

I love this photo because it provides a decent perspective of the length and height of the rope. I still don’t know how I did it.

And there’s that “you’ve got to be kidding me” look. I believe that was my response to “Steve, smile!”

If you know what Mario Brothers is, they had described this phase as that. The next activity was classic Mario Bros.

Looks tame enough, right? What you can’t see is those columns are not steady. They wobble as you step on them.
This was not nearly as bad as the tight rope walk and that smile is probably genuine.

The next activity was called Pendulum, aka Tarzan swing. You didn’t have to do it, you could choose a simple zip line instead, but as I said before, I was all in. The platform here was as narrow as the others but it was so open around you somehow it seemed worse and I literally hugged the tree the entire time. I was the last to go so got to watch everyone before me.

You had to walk to the very edge of the platform and then somehow jump off. “Just jump out to your left” he says as if he’s saying “just get out of bed.” My head couldn’t even process it yet somehow the next thing I knew I was flying. While the tight rope walk was still the scariest, this was a close second – for only for a second. And then it’s a swing and I love swings :). Here’s the video. They were blasting the music the entire time, I assume for the video effect and maybe setting a mood. If you listen closely you can hear me yell “fuck” as soon as I stepped off.

Driving an ATV through a huge puddle of water

This tour included an ATV tour through a riverbed. At times you were actually driving in the river bed which was beautiful. The photos above and below were of the first of several huge water puddles.

 Making it to the other side of the water in the ATV

This was probably the activity I was the most “whatever” about. They weren’t difficult to drive but the acceleration was jumpy and it was difficult to maintain a constant speed. You were asked not to go above 20 mph; I think I only got that fast once for a few seconds. Usually I was about 12-15.

After this was a pretty steep hike to the main event: Superman. This is a 1200 meter or nearly 4000 foot zipline where you are hooked up from your back like a flying squirrel as they liked to say.

Standing near the edge of the Superman platform, with a beautiful vista of the jungle behind me
The point of this pose was really to get the jungle shot behind me. This was essentially how you got back down the mountain to base camp. It was a smart layout of the tour.
Me hooked up with a huge smile on my face.
A huge smile at the moment.
Me looking intense and serious.
My normal look for most of the tour!
Taken from the right side, you can see all the equipment

I decided to include this photo because you can see more of the equipment, including the camera that’s now attached to my helmet. You can also see the position of my hands. Their most important instruction was to stay as aerodynamic as possible: head up, chest up, hands by your side, legs straight out and feet together. Having something to hold onto really helped keep your hands at your side because there’s a natural inclination to spread them or put them in front of you. But this ain’t no roller coaster. They were very specific about this point: not only would putting your arms out slow you down, but more importantly you could hurt yourself because there are times when you are very close to trees. You’re flying at 65-75 mph they said so, uh, that might hurt a bit.

Here’s the video. There is audio but it’s mostly me just going “oh wow” over and over again. Pay attention to the landscape. It was breathtaking. This was The Best activity of this tour or the one I did last year. I wanted to go back and do it again right away! It was the easiest, smoothest ride of any of the zip lines, and absolutely the most beautiful. This blew everything else out of the water.

Me looking super relaxed.
They got us out of all our equipment after Superman. I was feeling pretty relaxed and invigorated at this point. And glad I wore clothes I didn’t care about, a lesson I learned from last year!

The 2nd to the last activity was actually the most demanding and difficult physically. It was a wind tunnel that is intended to mimic parachuting out of a plane. But in order to actually fly your body has to get into a specific form and maintain it. It takes a fair amount of strength and control to do it. I’ve jumped out of plane before and that was much easier than this!

You get into this with your arms crossed, then drop to your knees and lay down on this grate, form which lots of wind is blowing. They increase the wind as you spread out your feet and legs. If you do it right, you will lift right up. There’s an instructor inside who is assisting with your body, and one outside who you’re watching for hand signals which they briefed you on earlier to get you to change your body position so you’ll go up.
Not everyone is able to fly – one girl never got up because she kept wrapping her arms around the instructor! I was able to get up for a few seconds at a time but they were fleeting. There was also quite a bit of knocking around this thing as you’re trying to get your body to remain in one position, which seems impossible.

Once we were all done – again only about half of us did it – the instructor got in and demonstrated what as possible, doing amazing acrobatic things in there. It was stunning to watch.

Like last year, this ended with a water slide that ends up being pretty refreshing. This was shorter than last years, but the curves were more dramatic.

I brought a change of clothes so did that and then my photo review. By this time it was about 4:45pm and I hadn’t eaten since about 8:30, just like last time, so was definitely ready for something. Maria above helped me out with a wonderful quesadilla, shown below.

Post tour selfies, above and below. So happy to have done it, and it would absolutely do it again. Maybe not that wind tunnel.

We were dropped off back at the PVA offices and I took an Uber back to my hotel. I showered and made it over to Blue Massage in time for 8pm appointment I had made on Friday afternoon. It was a perfect way to end a great day.

I came over to Jon’s this morning to write this because there was no way to get the photos and videos off the USB they gave me at the hotel. We will go to lunch at soon as I post, and then tonight we’re going to Rhythms of the Night, also put on by PVA. So you can read all about that tomorrow!

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