While preparing for our next canyoneering trip, we put together a list of our main gear. It’s a lot of stuff once you see it spread out on the floor. You might not think it, but we fit everything we need in our 2 backpacks.
Canyoneering Gear List
After spotting a too-cheap-to-pass-up hotel-and-flight deal, we booked a 5-night trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Many water sports enthusiasts head to Puerto Vallarta for kitesurfing or scuba diving. We, however, had no particular goals or plans – a rarity for the couple who usually has at minimum a list of sights and an eatery or two to visit. (Heck, we even managed to turn a 12-hour layover in Switzerland into a whirlwind day trip.) But sometimes there’s pleasure in not having an agenda. So, with a come-what-may attitude in mind, we headed south of the border.
How We Did It
This was our first international trip using Southwest Airlines. If you fly out of LAX, as we did, note that you have to check in at a domestic terminal and then catch a shuttle to the international terminal. So plan to arrive early.
We stayed at the Sheraton Buganvilias Resort. For the most part, it was nice: clean with a beautiful pool and accommodating staff. However, multiple floors were under construction. So we sometimes had hammering or sawing interrupt afternoon naps or wake us up before we planned.
No car rental. Aside from taxis to and from the airport, we walked. For better or for worse, Puerto Vallarta caters to tourists. So we never once felt unsafe.
What We Did
Lots and lots of walking. Paseo Díaz Ordaz. Malecon boardwalk. Over the Río Cuale to Los Muertos Beach. Again, we were in this trip primarily to take it easy. So there were no fabulous day trips planned. Just lots of sun on the beach, nights reading while lightning flashed outside our window, and plenty of eating – though not at our hotel. After one meal there, we decided to eat elsewhere. Not only was the food overpriced, but it was also rather bland.
Where We Ate
100% Natural. The breakfasts were really tasty and healthy, although a little overpriced. Lots of vegetarian options and some organic, which is why we visited. While we are generally open to eating anything at least once, we try not to stray too far from our primarily-vegetable diet for more than a few days at a time.
Mariscos Cuetos. We had a really good dinner of large shrimp and chicken fajitas. They’re a bit pricy compared to other seafood eateries in the area. But their food is high quality. Bonus points for the band that plays while you dine.
Layla’s. Our top pick. This was the priciest place dined at, but the food and service were really great. Beautiful ambiance on the balcony. The owner and waiter even shared a drink with us.
Pan & Cué. Pretty standard Italian fare. Really can’t go wrong with anything here.
La Bodeguita Del Medio. We wanted some Cuban food, so we came here. We thought it was not nearly as flavorful as it should have been. Also, we’ve had much better Cuban food in California.
Natureza. Great smoothies and crepes. Again, lots of healthy options.
We also ate lots of ice cream, crepes, and street tacos at various stands. Flavor-wise, the ice cream can be hit or miss. But it’s cheap enough that you can’t complain.
Some Travel Tips
If you have USD: exchange some of your currency for peso, but also make sure to keep some USD 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s. Then, when paying, ask the cost in both peso and USD, and use the cheaper option.
Exchange money via an ATM and not at currency exchanges or money exchange machines. You often get a much better rate with ATMs. Remember to check with your bank on ATM fees.
To save money on airport transportation, skip the white airport taxis and walk to the main road. Hail a yellow taxi. The airport taxis cost about $20 USD, while yellow street taxis cost around $10 USD. (At the time of this post, the exchange rate was 1 USD = 18.12 MXN. So, following our advice in tip 1, we chose to pay with peso, a cost of ~$5.51 USD).
Use a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.
When we’re not paragliding or rock climbing, you can find us canyoneering. Broadly speaking, canyoneering combines hiking with swimming, high jumps, scrambling, stemming, and technical rope skills such as rappelling (abseiling). Of course, it is possible to descend certain walkable canyons without doing any of these. But those are not the sort of canyons we Fools prefer.
Stumbling To The Start
The weather was a brutal 100 degrees. Really, we should not have attempted the canyon during the dog days of summer – talk about a foolish decision (pause for groans). But this canyon had been on our list for a while. So when we found ourselves with a free day, we decided to go for it.
After hiking along a stone-filled riverbed, we headed up a ridge under direct sun. That was the most taxing part of the day. We may have stopped a few times (okay, like, 6) to wipe ourselves down and gulp in water. By the time we reached the first rappel, located in a nice, shaded clearing, we were happy to relax for a bit while taking in the view.
Rappelling Down Waterfalls
The descent is a series of four rappels ranging from 30 to 160 feet. It’s a straightforward route – no way finding between them. Three of the rappels are directly along waterfalls. As it’s been a wet year in California, two of the falls ended in near waist-deep pools – extremely refreshing on that hot, hot day. In previous years, owing to the drought, many local waterfalls had slowed to a trickle.
As a team of two, we work our way through canyons relatively quickly. A short 3.5 hours after we started the hike, we were back at our car.
**Disclaimer: Canyoneering comes with serious risks and should only be done if you have proper training or an experienced leader. The information above is not to be used to attempt the canyon and is purposely vague. For proper guidance, check with your local canyoneering experts.
While arranging our return flights from Morocco, we noticed we could squeeze in a 12-hour layover in Zürich, Switzerland. It was an attractive opportunity. Not only would we spend time in a beautiful city, but we could avoid having to either race through the airport for a connecting flight (stressful) or sit around for several hours waiting to fly out (boring). 12 hours wasn’t a lot of time. But it was long enough that we could leave the airport and get the teeniest of tastes of the city, which Mr. Fool hadn’t visited in over a decade and Mrs. Fool had never set foot in.
The Fools And Their Money Are Soon Parted
Zürich is much more expensive than Morocco. (At the time of this post, the exchange rate was roughly 1:1 USD.) Even though we knew that would be the case, we still experienced some sticker shock. Our room at the City Backpacker Biber Hostel, for example, which contained two single beds, a sink, and a small wardrobe, with a shared bathroom down the hall, cost around CHF $125. Dinner that first night, eaten shortly after our 11 PM check-in, was slices of pizza that cost enough for us to pause before ordering a second slice each. (We did, but only because we were hungry, and convenience stores weren’t open.)
A Whirlwind (Partial) Tour Of Zürich
Before bed, we walked along the Limmat river and enjoyed the cool night air – quite a contrast from the hot, humid temperatures we had just left behind in Marrakech.
The next morning began at 6 AM. We walked to Platzspitz park to play a game of chess on an oversize chessboard. From there, we meandered though the city and admired the architecture. Zürich contains a beautiful mix of Baroque and Neo-Classical influences. After pausing at the Stadthausanlage square farmers market, we finished our all-too-brief day at Lake Zürich. From there, it was back to the airport.