Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Hidden Worlds Aventure Park in the Riviera Maya

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to fly atop a large winged creature like those featured in the movie Avatar?  Just for a minute picture yourself flying through the air riding such a giant beast as it dips, crests and artfully twists through the sky.  Now envision yourself on a zip line that mimics many of the same movements.  This is the idea behind Hidden World's amazing new zip line roller coaster called The Avatar.

In our continuing quest to seek out and explore exciting activities along the Rivera Maya, Allan and I along with a few very good friends visited the eco-amusement park called Hidden Worlds.  The day began with a short 30 minute ride south of Playa del Carmen to the entrance to Hidden Worlds.  Filled with excitement and anticipation we eagerly departed my SUV, signed in at the front desk and then boarded a large army/surplus type dune buggy for a bumpy ride out into the jungle.

Our adventure began with a set of zip lines at about mid-tree level.  It was a good intro for some of my companions who have never before been on a zip line.  We're talking about an over 50 crowd who may not have in the States embarked on such an adventure due to either fear or perhaps the idea that such rides are for the younger set of explorers.  I was pleased to see my friends overcome their apprehension and take that first step off a high platform into the large void below, keeping faith in only a harness and rope.  Each one successfully glided through the trees without incident; the look of joy on their faces was contagious.  They had done it, and were ready for more challenges.

The second activity comprised of a zip line with splash landing into a cenote filled with water.  My favorite part besides the splash landing was that the fact we all went twice - once forwards and once backwards.  It's certainly less intimidating to be able to see where you are going; putting faith in a rope and harness and doing so blindly can be very scary.  Watching my friends laugh, smile and even scream as they plummeted backwards into the depths of the dimly lit cenote was very amusing.

After the zip line, we climbed the stairs back to the top of the cenote only to then repel roughly 40 feet back down.  I've repelled before and was the first, eager participant.   Once I was hooked into the rope and took the first scary step off the edge over the large hole, the rest was child's play.  I could essentially control the speed and go as slow or fast as I wanted.

One by one my group repelled, most for their first time.  As the numbers at the top dwindled a few nervous people remained, feeling very much scared at only having a rope and a harness separate them between near certain death.  In the end each overcame their fear and dropped rather effortlessly to the bottom. Once everyone finished we were now ready for the most exciting part of our adventure: the Avatar.

For the Avatar we climbed back up to the top of the cenote, trekked through the jungle and climbed up a platform to about mid-tree level.  The ride consists of a metal bar that drops, rises and twists through the trees and then down into the cenote, eventually ending in the water.  The user is strapped onto the bar and holds a handle, much like a bicycle handle and is propelled through this path mimicking the movements of a roller coaster.

I was the first to go and it certainly did not disappoint.  Once off the platform you make a steep drop down, and then are propelled back up and then down again, twisting around a corner and into a pitch-black plastic tube filled with water, and then down around a large bend into the mouth of the cenote, bending and dropping eventually into the cool cenote water.  It was a blast: you loose your stomach like a roller coaster and get wet like a water slide.

After one ride on the Avatar, we had the choice of going twice - many did, some did not.  I, of course went twice;  Allan unfortunately did not.  Many screamed very loudly, much to the amusement of everyone else.  However, everyone participated which is certainly worthy of note.

After the Avatar we moved onto the cenote swim where we sported left vests and jumped into the refreshing depths and swam into a smaller cave where we could explore the stalactite formations.  At some points the ceiling was so low we could touch the roof; at others it loomed 30 feet above like a cathedral ceiling.   The cave was as equally intricate and enjoyable as most any other cenote in the Rivera Maya region and was certainly worth the visit.

The last part of our trip and certainly the most relaxing for me was the sky cycle.  On the sky cycle the user sits on a bicycle suspended on wires above the tree tops and pedals through the trees back and down and then up again and back on a different route.  Some of our taller guests with weaker knees struggled more than the younger and/or more agile participants.  All in all I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What was perhaps equally as enjoyable as participating in the activities at Hidden Worlds was watching my friends laugh and scream as they tacked each event, overcoming fear and realizing that life does not end at 50.  Life is too short to not make the most out of it, and I have found the less one focuses on age and limitations, and the more one focuses on today and making the most out of today, the more fun one has.  I am extremely proud of the friends I have in Playa - their courage, determination and love of life.  It takes a lot of guts to move from the US or Canada to Mexico.  That same drive that propelled them to Playa, continues to motivate them to tackle perhaps scary tasks like zip lines and the Avatar.

Neil, Anne, me, Gayle, Allan, Marge and James

Neil, James and Marge in front of the jungle buggy

The gang inside the jungle buggy

Allan in the cenote

The cenote swim

Stalactites in the cenote

Fish in the cenote

Marge on the sky cycle