In the past, I have not frequently written about non-Clipper subjects. Sure, there's the occasional homage to Suzanne Pleshette, but by and large I try to stay on-topic. Still, this is my platform and my outlet for writing, so it's the place to go if I feel compelled to put pen to paper (err.. fingers to keyboard). My recent trip to Mexico is one such occasion.
Arriving in Mexico, I knew little about the people I'd be spending so much time with over the next 5 days. My good friend Nick from Zion Adventure Company would of course be there, as well as his delightful girlfriend Maya. (By the way, the sexual tension between the two of us is palpable... but Maya never seems to get jealous.) As for the other five Americanos making the journey, I knew next to nothing.
I was not expecting to be among the younger canyoneers on the trip. But as it happens, after Nick and Maya (who were after all in a slightly different, guide category), I was the third youngest. This at first seemed more than a little surprising - although canyoneering is not the most physically demanding of activities, it can be grueling, and I hardly expected to be the 'baby' of the group at 45. But after thinking a little more about it, the reason became more clear. Nick was, for the first time, arranging an international trip. And although the cost was quite reasonable for what was offered, when you add in airfare the expense is not minor. In fact, Nick reached out to a group of former clients whom he assumed might have the time, the inclination, and the disposable income to go. These people turned out to all be established in their careers, and not, for instance, 21 year old college students.
So as I walked up to the van, I met Wolf (the Delta pilot), Bob (the former Air Force colonel turned military consultant), Barbara (the Nurse, part time Accountant, seeming jack-of-all-trades, and Wolf's ex-wife), Cheri (the middle-school teacher, Bob's wife) and Cheryl (the corporate attorney). Wolf and Bob had flown F-16's together in the Air Force; Barbara and Cheri had known each other since college. And the four of them had been traveling together so long, that they continue to do so despite the fact that Wolf and Barbara are no longer married. Cheryl on the other hand, had no prior connection to anyone in the group, other than a trip with Zion Adventure Company.
Mine was the last flight to arrive in Monterrey, close to midnight. The others had been to dinner together in town prior to my arrival, and we still had a 75 minute van ride into the mountains to our hotel. As it happens, this was on Wolf's 50th birthday, and there had been some Marqueritas (and apparently a giant chicken singing Happy Birthday) at dinner. At any rate, there wasn't a lot of talking on the van ride, since everyone was pretty tired.
The next morning at breakfast I got a little better feel for my companions. Nick confirmed for us what we all suspected already - we were guinea pigs. Zion Adventure Company had never guided a group outside of the immediate environs of southeast Utah, let alone outside of the country. And although he had met with the local guiding company that would be leading us on our Mexican adventures, he himself had never been in any of these canyons. No one really had a problem with this. In fact, most of us began to view it as an opportunity. The Guinea Pig Group would be ready and willing to accompany Nick to any and all new destinations (at discounted rates, of course) before trips would be offered to other clients. That's the theory anyway.
Having missed some of the conversations the night before, I thought it was a joke when Bob brought up Afghanistan ('Ha ha, let's canyoneer in Tora Bora. Great idea, Bob.') Turns out he was serious (more on that later). Other suggested Guinea Pig destinations were Israel, Spain and Costa Rica. Of course Wolf, the Delta pilot, can go anywhere in the world for free. I had to pull Nick aside later to explain that while I had the desire, the skill set and the time to go anywhere and everywhere, I didn't really have THAT much disposable income (not until they start paying bloggers by the word, at any rate).
Tomorrow, the first day of canyoneering.