Operator pushes adventure over sun and sand

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ACAPULCO, Mexico -- Think Mexico and think sun and sand, right? Well, think again.

Longtime Mexico City-based adventure operator Expediciones Rio y Montana hopes to get U.S. travelers off Mexicos admittedly beautiful coastlines and into lodge-based adventure vacations in the countrys scenic interior.

This year, Rio y Montana, founded in 1993, offers two outdoors expeditions -- mountain biking in the Oaxaca Sierra and mountain climbing on the countrys highest peaks -- active holidays at each of its three aldeas (lodges, or adventure villages), Okavango, Rodavento and Picocanoa; and an eight-night adventure trip combining the latter two lodges.

Its active vacations -- tailored both to leisure and corporate clientele -- involve whitewater rafting, canoeing, horse- back riding, rappelling, mountain climbing and biking, and other extreme, nature-based sports.

Alfonso de la Parra, co-founder and director, said Rio y Montana has a very specific personality: adventure, from soft to very extreme.

But its important to note that clients, from a kid of 7 to a grandmother of 70, can still do activities and travel with us, said De la Parra.

Gringo lingo

After 12 years of focusing on the Mexican market, De la Parra and partner Waldemar Franco are now turning to the U.S. trade to promote their eco-activity vacations to Americans.

Rio y Montana hired an international sales director, Lisa Coleman, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., who is training a network of authorized agent sales specialists in the southwest U.S.

The U.S. is an important market, and we want agents to help get Americans to come down, said De la Parra.

Picocanoa, near Jalcomulco in Veracruz state, is one of three lodges run in rural Mexico by eco- and adventure-travel operator Rio y Montana.Some 14 agents in Arizona and California have been certified to date; the program, which includes a familiarization trip to Mexico, will be expanded to include Texas and Washington state.

We are not in this to earn a lot of money right away, De la Parra explained. Weve waited a decade, and were going to do this right.

Accordingly, noted Coleman, Rio y Montana will limit the number of its authorized sales agents in the U.S. because we are boutique properties, and we are working very hard to keep exclusivity.

[But] if an agent is interested and is serious, we will talk to see if its a fit, she added.

Its worth applying: Rio y Montana pays specialists 17% commissions on bookings.

Pax fax

The firms land-only expeditions and lodge stays include:

" A six-night mountain biking trek, of moderate difficulty, from Oaxaca through the Oaxaca Sierra Norte range, led by De la Parra and Franco, with stops or stays in Teotitlan del Valle, Benito Juarez, Latuvi, Llano Grande, Lachatao, Monte Alban and Oaxaca proper. The last departure in 2005 runs Nov. 11 to 17. 

" Climbing Mexicos Highest Peaks, a demanding five-night trip from Mexico City to volcanoes Nevado de Toluca and Pico de Orizaba (Mexicos loftiest mountain) that includes a private plane ride and visits to the village of Miguel Hidalgo and colonial-era Puebla City. Trips run Nov. 11 to 17 and again Dec. 3 to 9 this year, as well as Jan. 14 to 20 and Feb. 11 to 17 in 2006.

" Year-old Rodavento is Rio y Montanas new boutique resort lodge, set in the 16th-century town of Valle de Bravo, two hours northwest of Mexico City. The 14-suite lodge, which overlooks a private lagoon, boasts a full-service spa, a world-class restaurant, biking and hiking trails, and Tirolesa, a zip-line tree-top adventure facility.

The four-night Day in the Life of Rodavento deal includes accommodations, daily breakfast and lunch, transfers and the choice of one activity (e.g., all-terrain vehicle tour, mountain-bike ride, horseback ride, hike, Tirolesa) a day. Trips are available Nov. 23 to 27 and Dec. 26 to 30.

" On the Pescados River in Veracruz, Picocanoa is a 24-cabana lodge that offers a pool, an open-air bar and a dining patio as well as adventure amenities. Sample five-night stays include walking tours of Veracruz City, Coatepec and Jalcomulco; rafting on the Antigua and Pescados rivers; hiking in Cinacatla Canyon; and plenty of free time.

Rates net clients four nights in the lodge and one in a five-star hotel in Veracruz; buffet meals; shuttle service; and activities. Departures run July 2 to 7; Sept. 3 to 8; Oct. 8 to 13; Nov. 11 to 16 and 22 to 27; and Dec. 26 to 31.

" Rio y Montana also offers an eight-night tour from Veracruz to Picocanoa and Rodavento, combining the best of both resorts facilities and activities as well as a private airplane ride over volcanoes Itza, Popocatepetl and Pico de Orizaba. Trips are available Nov. 11 to 19; Nov. 29 to Dec. 2; Dec. 26 to Jan.1; Jan. 14 to 22; and Feb. 18 to 26.

Mas informacion

For more information or to inquire about specialist training, contact Lisa Coleman at (480) 281-1250 or [email protected], or visit www.rioymontana.com.

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to[email protected].

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