After a relatively tame first day of canyoneering , things got a little more interesting on Day Two. For one thing, there was a fairly strenuous hike involved. From the parking lot of a regional park in Monterrey, we began to gain elevation almost immediately. It was pretty clear from the first day that Paolo and Edgar, our Mexican guides, were used to slightly less aggressive groups (if not necessarily less skilled). As Wolf, Bob, Maya and I began ascending the trail at a pace that suited us, it was Edgar who insisted we stop for a rest and wait for the others (Nick and Paolo were hanging with the slower group). When Edgar cut us loose again, Bob began a virtual sprint up the mountain. It was then that I realized the shape the guy was in. I'm something of a hiking savant - I can sit on the couch watching basketball or at the computer blogging for 6 months, and then go out and hike for 4 days and keep up with (or even outpace) people who do it all the time. I don't know why. But I couldn't keep up with Bob. No way. Not if he didn't want me to. I guess training with the Special Ops guys, carrying 80 pound packs for 16 hour forced marches, will do that - go figure.
Of course we had to slow down, not least because we didn't really know where we were going, so as we came to forks in the road we had to wait for our guides. After an hour and a half or so, we arrived at the drop in point for the canyon.
The mountains around Monterrey are limestone. I'm not sure how it all works, but minerals leach out of the limestone into the water, and are left behind in the watercourse forming all sorts of weird and wonderful formations. The upper part of the canyon was dry, and parts of the exposed stream bed looked like poured cement. It was really quite fascinating. In some places, stones were fused together with mortar between, in others smooth sheets of concrete lined the way. It all looked like the work of human hands.
After the first couple of rappels we caught up with the water. Rappelling through waterfalls is always loads of fun. One thing that was particularly interesting about this canyon was that the water tended to appear and disappear. No doubt the limestone had eroded, giving was underground channels periodically (we'd find out a lot more about this possibility on the final day). So on one rappel, for instance, the top was a dry waterfall, but about halfway down, water came shooting out of two holes, like a fountain.
The trip was billed as very wet, with lots of jumps into deep water. And although we knew that the canyons on subsequent days were going to get progressively wetter, we were ready for some of those jumps. We were in wetsuits, and on a pretty hot day (not scorching, happily) it was more comfortable to be in the water than out of it.
As we came upon an outcropping of rock with a deepish looking pool 15 feet below, Maya and I asked Edgar if we were going to jump. We were only half-serious. He explained, in his broken English, "No, very dangerous." There were submerged rocks on either side and in the distance, not to mention that you had to jump out far enough to even make it into the water. In short, the landing area was pretty small, and a miss was a broken ankle waiting to happen. He made if very clear that it would be a very, very bad idea to jump from there - and then he jumped. We weren't sure if he was intentionally misleading us, or if we had simply misunderstood what he said. At any rate, I immediately got to the edge of the rocks and prepared to plunge in.
Edgar pointed me to where I should land. A large rock entered the water in front of me and was visible beneath the surface before if fell off. To the left and right of that rock were other submerged obstacles. I should aim for the big rock, but not jump too far so as to avoid landing on it. Seemed simple enough. Still, it was hardly straight down to the water, with slope and rocks to be cleared just to reach the pool. His initial inclination was correct. "Very dangerous."
I jumped... way too far. (Damn my vertical!) I landed squarely with both feet on the big rock in the distance. I can't say how deep the water was where I hit the rock - but I hit it hard. There was a series of gasps from the others watching. Fortunately, I hit it square with no twisting, and I know enough to keep my legs flexed. I sort of jammed my right ankle from the impact (although I didn't tell anyone), but luckily there was no significant damage done. I walked it off.
Fortunately, I had now demonstrated for everyone how NOT to do it. Maya, Barbara and Bob all managed to jump and hit the sweet spot. The others climbed down to a lower rock and jumped from there, or decided against jumping altogether.
The rest of the day passed without incident. I cannot say the same for the evening .
Next - the canyons get serious.