Who would’ve thought it? I’m no trapeze artist, but here I was, playing Tarzan as I glided over dry tropical woodland and agave farms with the greatest of ease.
Barb and I had joined a small group in the Huana Coa Canopy Adventure, a few miles east of Mazatlan near La Noria, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico’s Sinaloa state. We were “zip-lining”: in other words, we were harnessed to free-running cables and soaring from platform to platform, from the tops of giant huanacaxtli trees to rocky bluffs, in a series of canyon and forest traverses.
Such birds as the elegant trogon (striped red, white and green, like the Mexican flag) and the urraca (the long-tailed magpie jay) looked on as we whooped and shrieked between the rocks and branches. Even Barb, who professes to a fear of heights, felt safe and secure as trained guides assisted our flights 50 feet above terra firma.
Afterward, we regained strength with a visit to the Los Osuna Blue Agave Distillery. Although true “tequila” can only come from the state of Jalisco — much as true “champagne” can only be produced in one region of France — Los Osuna promises that its product is 100% blue agave. Manager Francisco Chiproy explained that mass-produced tequilas can contain as little as 51% blue agave, with up to 49% cane sugar added; at Los Osuna, he showed us the process by which all sugars are drawn from the giant bulb of the agave plant itself.
In our factory tour, we also discovered the difference between everyday “blanco” tequilas (minimal fermentation), reposados (aged less than one year) and anejos (aged over one year). Not surprisingly, each one gets progressively smoother … and more expensive. Green agave, Chiproy told us, is never used for tequila; it makes mescal, that firewater with the worm in it.
We got even further off the beaten path on another day, when we visited the Conrehabit forest sanctuary. Paco Farriols bought the 40-hectare (about 100-acre) woodland in 1980, and today it is an undeveloped oasis in a region wrought with unabashed commercial and residential development. Conrehabit stands for “conservation and rehabilitation of the habitat.” Traveling by foot and mountain bike through the dry tropical-forest ecosystem, we saw military macaws, colorful tarantulas, raccoons and plenty of evidence of other mammals — bobcats, jaguars, coyotes and white-tailed deer — in their scat and tracks near watering holes.
Certainly, there’s much more to the Mazatlan area than mere beach-resort activities. If you’re in Mazatlan and are interested in the Huana Coa Canopy Tour, the cost is only US $75 per person … and any major hotel or tour operator can make arrangements. Contact Conrehabit directly (www.conrehabit.org) if you’d like to visit the sanctuary.