have a fear of heights. I don't do well on ladders, chair lifts,
balconies or Ferris wheels.
Thus, I'd ruled out
ever attempting the seemingly insane sport of zip-lining, slicing
through the air hundreds of feet above the ground, tethered by
nothing more than a hook attached to a narrow, steel
Yet, there I stood
above the tree line on a small, wooden platform in the Toro Negro
(Black Bull) Rainforest in central Puerto Rico, my lower torso
strapped into an uncomfortable harness that, in turn, was hooked to
a cable above my helmeted head.
My hands were
gloved, my heart was hammering.
Ahead of me lay
glimpses of sky, cloud-shrouded mountains and towering stands of
green ficus and palm trees.
Below me lay
our guide, was cheery and upbeat. "OK, just remember: Don't touch
the cable. Keep your hands on this harness above you. Oh, and don't
scream. There's a bees' nest behind you, and we don't want to
He gave a thumbs-up
to fellow guide Roqui "Rocky" Bello off in the distance on
another wooden platform, separated from us by empty space, a gorge
and a jungle floor hundreds of feet below.
With that, I was
off, a modern-day Jane zipping through space, whizzing through air.
Where was Tarzan when I needed him?
My feet hit Roqui's
platform within seconds, and I plowed into him like a linebacker on
steroids. He absorbed my impact, steadied me and swiftly freed me
from the torture of the harness and hook.
I had already
climbed moss-covered waterfalls, slid and slipped on muddy, steep
trails and cannon-balled into river pools, but the zip-line
experience was the capstone event of the adventure, a pivotal
finale that marked the day as an unqualified personal
I'd conquered my
height phobia and lived to tell the tale of "the canopy
True, at the end of
the long day, I was cold, wet, mud-covered and desperate for a hot
The tour van
disgorged our motley crew back at the hotel just as well-coifed and
well-dressed visitors were heading out for an evening in Old San
They gave us a wide
berth as we slogged through the lobby, our waterlogged hiking shoes
disgorging globs of red clay onto the white-tile floor.
We resembled a Roto
Rooter team returning from a crisis call. Even the casino crowd
paused in mid-bet as we skirted the table action on the way to the
elevators and our rooms.
No matter, I'd done
it. And I might even do it again, which puts me among the growing
number of crazy zip-liners who search destination
sports-and-adventure operators looking for ever higher and longer
"We've never had an
injury, a mishap, or an accident other than a few bruised butts and
bruised egos from the waterfall climb," said Sepulveda of Acampa
Tours, a local ground operator that specializes in nature
adventures into caves and caverns, up rivers and canyons and to
rain forests and waterfalls all over Puerto Rico.
The Toro Negro
region, smack in the island's mountainous center in a region
described as the backbone of Puerto Rico, is home to the highest
rain forest and the second-highest mountain on the
The Acampa Nature
Adventures series comprises seven tours, including an expedition to
Mona Island off Puerto Rico's west coast.
Tour sizes range
from two to 12 participants and two guides. Although I tipped the
scales on the far side of the age range, most clients averaged
between ages 30 and 45.
"We do customized
tours for couples, families, small groups. We can arrange anything,
and we have fun," said Bello.
In addition to
getting signatures on the mandatory waiver forms, the guides gauge
the physical condition of each person and gear the tour's pace and
activity level to each group.
The full-day tour
that I did, the aptly named Classic Adventure, was priced at $149
per person, including hotel pickup, transportation, gear, lunch on
the covered porch of a wooden farmhouse and the services of
Not only did
Raymond and Roqui calm nerves, boost confidence and heap praise,
but they plucked lemons and coffee beans, uncovered the miniature
coqui tree frogs hiding on tree bark and warned us away from fire
ants and thorny plants.
Agents get a $10
per-person commission, but Sepulveda and Bello said they are
disappointed in the lack of bookings Acampa receives from
"We've done some
fam tours for agents but get very few results," Bello said. "Most
of our business is either repeat customers or word-of-mouth
contacts bring in "a lot of business" for Acampa, Sepulveda said.
"These guys know us, know our reputation and steer hotel guests to
The firm's Web site
at www.acampapr.com gets plenty of hits and "yields the
best results," according to Sepulveda.
contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].