Let's start with the creator of the ropes course here in Mazatlán, please meet Brian Werner, the club manager at the El Cid resort. Brian is in charge of all of the golf, tennis, and other activities associated with the El Cid country club. In 1998, he decided to bring a ropes course to El Cid, and over saw the construction of the equipment and the training of the facilitators. It's been operating since then, and has a perfect safety record. While the equipment is located on the El Cid property, it is a separate venture that is completely under Brian's management. Well, Brian sent me an email in Feb 2000, and asked if I would advertise this venture on my www site. I wrote back telling him that I don't do advertising, but just write about my personal experiences. The net result was that I got roped into doing something that I would probably never have done, at least not without a lot more alcohol in my body. (I am not very fond of heights.) However, it was a great experience and I can honestly say that I'm sure you would enjoy it as well, though the exact meaning of enjoy is a little warped here.
The course consists of several, for lack of a better word, trials, starting with both feet on the ground, and moving to progressively higher and more scary elevations. Believe it or not though, the course is more emotional and mental than physical. Through these trials you learn to trust the others in your group, which in my case was Robert Hudson, and old friend and fellow Mazatlán lover. The first high altitude trial is called the catwalk, where you and your partner climb up to a telephone pole that is suspended about 10 meters (33 feet) in the air. The object of the trial is to pass each other in the middle, and get to the other side. There is a pole on the ground as well, and take my advice and practice your passing technique while you are on the ground. The only way to do it is to get close to your partner and trust that he (or she) isn't going to drop you. What you see in the photo here is Robert and I on the second trial, where you must pass each other while walking on a suspended cable. Fortunately there are a few ropes strategically placed overhead to help you hang on, but let me tell you that my legs were shaking, which was transmitted to the cable below and made for a very difficult transit. Robert was great and reminded me to keep breathing, which is something you forget to do when you feel like you're about to die.
The last trial we undertook is an individual trial, where you really get to find out if you can overcome your fears. It is called the power pole, and consists of a 10 meter telephone pole and a trapeze bar suspended well out of reach. If you take a look at the photo on the right you will get some sense of how high off the ground you are. At this point, climbing up isn't any problem, until you get to the last rung on the pole. Then your problems really begin, for if you are like me, your legs will be shaking pretty good by now. The combination of your legs shaking and being on a free standing pole means that the pole will oscillate right along with your legs. Needless to say, this makes taking that final step to the top of the pole a nerve wracking experience. All you can do is take some deep breaths, position your right foot firmly and squarely on the top of the pole, and then raise your left foot up and stand up straight.As proof positive that I got this far, you can look at the photo on the left. It's a good idea to stretch you arms out at this point, as it helps you keep your balance. Also this news will come as a welcome relief, but once you're on top of the pole, your legs are much more steady and the pole much more stable. Now all you have to do is jump. For me, that wasn't the most difficult part of the day, since I knew that Juan on the ground had my support line firmly in place. What was surprising however, is how difficult it is to hang onto the trapeze bar. In fact I would say it is almost impossible. I now know that when you see those guys in the movies dropping from the top of a building and hanging on to the flagpole with their fingers at the last second that it is completely impossible to really do that. There is no way your hands and fingers could support your weight when you're falling at that speed.
As you can see in the photo on the left, I did indeed jump, and I did have my hands on the trapeze, for about 4 milliseconds, but I couldn't hold on and fell to the ground, suffering only a skull fracture and broken pelvis. (just kidding) Actually the trip down was the easiest part, since I knew that my feet would soon be on solid ground again. Let me say again, that the fear is real but the danger is not. The equipment used is first rate, and Brian has even bought a 2 million dollar insurance policy from a US carrier. Now you know that an insurance company isn't going to insure anything that's ever going to happen, right?
This report would not be complete without mentioning Juan and Enrique our facilitators. They are great guys, and it is their job to keep you safe and to encourage you to test your limits. If you listen to what they say, you will do more than you think you can do. You can count on them to encourage you, but you don't need to worry that they will make you do something you just don't want to do. So on your next trip to Mazatlán, bring back more than a sunburn, bring back an experience that you will remember for a lifetime.