Friday, November 13, 2009

The Big Day ...

It's here! It's here! My big day ...

So, Puerto Vallarta ... beautiful! By far, from all the islands & ports I've cruised to, this is one of the prettiest & most inviting.

I wish I had a better picture to post. Everything was so green ... trees, lawns, beautiful gardens. How did I end up with a picture of a roof? lol

While I was getting ready for my big day, Andrea came in from the balcony and said "there's a pirate ship." So, I went to check it out and saw this ...

I said "how do you know it's a pirate ship?", and she said "cause they told me." With that, over a loud-speaker we heard "WE ARE DA PIRATES!" in this funny, scratchy voice with a Mexican accent. And, then they started shooting canons at other ships! It cracked us up! For the rest of the cruise, we just kept saying "we are da pirates!", so if you heard two crazy women saying this, now you know why.

So, before I tell you about my big day, I just want to mention that Andrea is a wimp, and her excursion, that she actually paid for, was a cooking class. HA! What a maroon!

Anyway, my big day was the excursion called "Outdoor Adventure Experience", and boy was it! This even surpassed the helicopter ride to the glaciers in Alaska.

We began with an exciting 20 min. speedboat ride waaaaay to the other end of Puerto Vallarta. What fun! When we docked at a small beach, we had to wait for the trucks to come pick us up, so we had this very funny guy 'entertain' us, and loosen us up. There were about 16 of us in the original group, and everyone must've still been asleep, cause they were like quiet lumps in chairs.

We weren't allowed to bring cameras, so I missed some great photo ops, but luckily, Vallarta Adventures provided us with a photographer to document our adventure. We were then able to purchase photo CDs at the end of the excursion. Not too bad, I got 98 pictures on the CD for $29.

This is a photo of the trucks they picked us up in at the beach. They took us in two groups, and I was in the 2nd group, and we left about 15 minutes after the 1st group. They gave us drinks while we waited for our turn, and it was very interesting trying to drink it while in the back of this truck!

After about a 20 minute ride, we got to their base. I was so impressed as soon as I saw the crew members and knew I was in very good hands. I've heard scary stories about some of these excursions where it's just a bunch of locals who have no experience or safety concerns and are just trying to make a buck.

Anyway, here was this group of muscular guys, all wearing professional rock-climbing gear & red helmets. Their group quickly got our group all geared up.

We got belts with all our caribeaners and whatchamacallits and were told 'don't touch anything.' No problem, dude ... you da boss. The gloves were really thick leather, and they had an extra flap of leather over the palm because you have to kind of 'slide' your dominant hand on the rope above you, and pull down on the rope to brake. Yeah, OK.

Then, they marched us up to their barn of burros where they gave us quick instructions and snipits of common sense, like, how to mount the burro, and "don't go behind the burro". Then, they introduced each other--a team of 5 guys, 1 girl and the photographer--all College educated in America & professional rock-climbers. Very funny crew ... I knew I was in for a great time. Six of them for 8 of us. I liked the odds.

We rode the burros as far as we could, and then we had to hike the rest of the way. Oy! The air is pretty thin up there, and all I can say is thank God I quit smoking 20 years ago!

We got to the first zipline which looked pretty intimidating.

They instructed us on how we had to be in a 'sitting position', hold onto the rope in front of us with our weak hand, and lightly hold the top rope above us with our dominant hand. They showed us how to stop, and what hand signals they'd be giving us from the platform below.

Then I was off! When I got to the bottom, my legs were shaking! Now, I'm a girl who's jumped out of 6 planes, gone para-sailing numerous times, did that hang-glider-drop-thingy at amusement parks, but I get vertigo looking out the window of a tall skyscraper. Go figure.

They rushed us up to the next platform which was another hike UP. There was a water break along the way, and I took my time drinking cause I wasn't in any hurry to do that again anytime soon.

When I got to the next zipline, I was stunned. That practice zipline was like hanging from your mother's clothesline! My legs were still shaking, and I thought I was gonna drop. I actually let someone ahead of me so my legs could stop shaking a bit. Well, they'll let one person ahead of you, but not two. I was on my way.

Woo Hoo! After that, I was ready for the rest of the day. I felt more comfortable, and I relaxed ALOT.

When we got to the next zipline, while waiting in line for our turns, they were demonstrating how to repel on a big boulder nearby. We did the zipline, and ended up at the top of a 300 ft. waterfall! There go the legs again a little. We had to inch ourselves backward to the edge, and then slowly start 'walking' down the side of the waterfall. Pretty nerve-wracking, especially after they just told us that it's very slippery, and if you're not careful you could slip, and the first thing to hit the rock wall would be your face!

But, once you take that first step, it's easier than you think, and as long as you take your time, it's actually very exhilirating. Little did I know what was still to come!

When I splashed into the pool of water at the bottom, it was such a fantastic feeling! The water was so cool & clean, and it felt wonderful!

A few more ziplines, and a plank bridge ...

A rope bridge ...

And then, another big drop ... straight down. Let's see, how can I explain this ... they had this long 'plank' hanging from the trees above leading out over a pool of water hundreds of feet below. Could this get any more exciting? We had to slide down the rope like a fireman on a pole, into the pool below.

That was my favorite part! That was waaaay cool.

We zipped over some rapids, and after 1 or 2 more ziplines, we got to 'race' another person on the final zipline. I got to race with Erin, who was a 16-year-old girl from Scotland, whose mother sent her on this excursion by herself! My husband has to meet this woman ... he wouldn't even let my daughter ride her bicycle off our own street until she was 15! It was pretty pathetic seeing this poor teenage girl ride her bike in circles in front of our house! lol Yeah, Rick is pretty neurotic, but I don't even think I would send my 16-year-old on an excursion like this by herself.
Well, I was the big loser. Ah, youth ... no fear. But, our excursion wasn't over yet ...

We hiked back to the camp, got changed and had lunch. They took us back by truck to the beach, but along the way we stopped at this little tequila factory. Very weird. It looked like a really big garage with just one guy who was hanging out by the big opening. Our driver asked us if we wanted to get out to have a free sample of tequila, and one of the guys from our group (he looked like Colin Ferrell ... who could say no?) talked me into going, and 4 of us went for the 'tour'.

The guy was standing next to a big oil drum with several bottles of tequila on top and some plastic shot cups. He gave us each a cup and poured some shots. Well, back in my drinking days, tequila was the only hard liquor I drank in shots, but I never tasted tequila like this! In my memory, you always had to lick some salt & suck on a lime because of the taste. Not necessary with this stuff ... it didn't even taste like tequila!

Then, he poured us another flavor ... I think chocolate ... and then another, and another ... I think we had 5 different flavors, but some we got 2 samples, so I think 7 free shots total, all in about 10 minutes. Then, he brought us over to the big vats and explained how they make it. Then came the sales pitch. Americans can only purchase this stuff over the internet, but we could purchase it there. I was all set to get a bottle of the chocolate flavor to share with Club 300 and other friends when he told us that they take it away from you when boarding the ship and return it to you in LA. Oh well, lost that sale. I can't bring tequila home! This would be the last cruise I get to go on! lol

We were laughing while climbing back into the truck, while the rest of the group was looking at us with what ... jealousy? disgust? Who cared?! Free delicious tequila!

Back to the beach for a quick cerveza before our speedboat ride back to the port. What a day! I wanted to do it all over again!

Dinner was another formal night, and each meal with these ladies was even better than the one before. Can't wait to see these ladies again. One lady in particular, Mary Ann, really came out of her shell that night. She's this sweet, quiet older lady, but when I joked about how we should 'alter' Tim, she was all over that! Her face lit up, and she didn't let me forget it for the rest of the cruise. She got us all going, wondering what we should do.

After another exhausting day, I headed back to the cabin, and was greeted by ...

This peacock was too cute. I don't know why I'm always surprised when I see these guys, but I just love it when I open that door at night.


Nancy said...

WOW! WOW!!!! What an incredible experience, Steph! Thank you for sharing it with us!

Anonymous said...

Girl...I was getting queasy just looking at your pictures. Yikes! If I didn't already know you were nuts, this is all the proof I need. The visit to the tequila factory was much more my speed.
I do admire your guts and energy (and I still think you're nuts) and enthusiasm for all this outdoors/physical nonsense.
Love you!
(drag Andrea into Manhattan SOON and we'll meet and eat and laugh and take pictures of food)

Lori said...

Those are just awesome pics, Stephanie! I admire your adventurous spirit, very cool! And very witty, too, I might add!