Rappelling down a cliff face in Los Tuxtlas, Mexico // © 2013 Jesse Guerra
By Janeen Christoff
I have rappelled once or twice in my life, but I would never call myself experienced. However, I am a little bit of an adventure junky, so when asked if I wanted to rappel down a 130-foot sea cliff above the opening of a pirate cave landing onto a boat in the ocean, I had to say yes.
I was at Roca Partida, a coastal area in Los Tuxtlas, located near Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. The beach here is known for a sea cave that locals say was used by pirates as a hideout for their ships — the cave looks exactly like a cookie-cutter cutout of a ship, so it’s an easy story to believe.
Standing on top of the cliff, our small group peered around a cactus to get a good look at the long drop down. From our perspective, you couldn’t see much of the cliff because the drop was pretty sheer, but you could see the boat bobbing in the waves below — a small comfort.
Our local guide, barefoot and clothed in khaki pants, a dress shirt and a bandana, didn’t speak much English. But when he asked what my name was in Spanish, I felt strangely comforted by the fact that he would at least know what to call me when instructing me in Spanish. It wasn’t all that dramatic, however, because our tour guide spoke English, and he translated what our rappelling guide said. Safety definitely came first. We listened to a lecture on how to use our equipment — a harness, gloves and a rope — as well as how to position ourselves on the cliff face and navigate the precipice at the opening of the cave so as not to get squashed by the swinging rope.
As I waited and watched some of the more experienced members of our group rapel down successfully, I began to feel anxious. Finally, it was my turn and I began to lower myself down. I was deep in concentration, watching my every step and holding my body much like the letter “L.”
Once you are approximately 50 feet down, you reach the mouth of the cave. We were told to go slow, and I did as instructed but just as I was coming off the edge my foot slipped, and I felt myself swing like a gauntlet toward the edge. Quickly, I let a little bit of rope out and lowered myself out of the way of the rock face. Thankfully, I swung just under the rock and heard cheers from the boat below. I had survived.
After I successfully navigated myself into the waiting skiff, one of the guides disconnected my harness and I sat down on the bench, taking what I’m sure was my first breath since I descended from the top of the rope. In my next breath I said, “Somebody got a picture of that, right?”
This guest post was written by Janeen Christoff