Born out of the travel imagination and incredible success of the Adventure Travel World Summit (and with much work by ATTA Super team Rebecca Yanez & Antonio Rosal) ATMEX, now in its second year, is specifically focused on promoting adventure tourism in Mexico. Hundreds of travel agents, local and foreign tour operators, travel writers and politicos in all their fanfare galore, gathered first on soft and extreme adventure tours around the country and then in Boca del Rio, Veracruz at the World Trade Center for two days of one-on-one meetings with local operators and lectures on branding, adventure tourism, adventure education and much more. In the evenings under music, laughter and starry skies, Jose Cuervo was alive and flowing at the gala events featuring the famous Harpists of Veracruz, Los Voladores de Pamplanta, (The Dancing Men of Veracruz) and abundant traditional music from all over Mexico. We gringos did our best to keep up with our charming hosts whose “fiesta” spirit is contagious.
What unified all participants was their shared passion for sustainable adventure tourism in this wonderful and diverse country filled with abundant opportunities for extreme and “soft” adventures. OK and so we like to bailar and have FUN too!
Add delicious and varied cuisine, super friendly locals, short distances between all the sights, exotic flowers, birds, plants, butterflies and music wherever you go, and you have a delicious and genuine recipe for the perfect adventure experience for all ages that is close to home and at a value that cannot be beat.
I spent my pre-summit experience in a gorgeous region 2 hours south of Veracruz called Las Tuxlas where we hiked in the rainforest to the base of a volcano, swam in the warm bay of Bahía Escondida, rappelled in the French Pirate Laurencillo’s cave, rode horses through farmland to the Arroyo de Oro waterfall, caught fish and ate them , learned how to make tamales, cigars and dance with ever smiling and enthusiastic locals…..all in THREE DAYS!! While I am a cyclist at heart….riding a horse along the beach and through lush landscapes came close to adventure nirvana! When the day was done, we ate fresh seafood and local specialities by the sea, on a veranda overlooking the rain forest and in a family-run-catch-your-own-
I was instantly enchanted on day one of my “Nature in Las Tuxlas” pre-tour when our ever-smiling, native Tuxla guides led us into a small tobacco field to speak with a passionate local farmer about his crop then we winded our way through a dense forest filled with butterflies to visit the ruins of an ancient textile factory. To cool off, we headed to La Laguna Encantada to dive off of hand-made wooden rafts and soothe our muscles in the warm water.
After a hearty lunch made and hosted by local families, we learned how to make tamales, tissue paper “hot air” balloons that were sent up into the sky with a torch of fire, roll cigars and dance “La Fandango” with a band that included two women who played the teeth on the jaw bone of a cow! A sound all its own
Our fabulous group feeling fine after a day of adventure, delicious food, folklore and new friendships
Fascinating craft I have never seen: Tissue Paper Balloons fueled by Fire…made and launched before our eyes!
Just when you thought the party was over…..it keeps in going…upon returning to San Andreas Tuxtla that evening, the local “caballeros,” dressed in traditional white, invited the signorinas to dance tango in the lively Piazza. The next two days brought many more authentic experiences including a mud facial, a shaman cleansing and a boat ride on Lago Catemaco,the home of alternative medicine, shamans, strange occurrences and the set for Sean Connery’s “Medicine man”. It is also the birthplace of life for the ancient Olmecs; their Garden of Eden. In addition to its its brujas and brujos –witches and wizards that can cast a spell on your enemies or cure you of your ills—make way for the monkeys! After our facials, we took boats to small islands where dozens of animated spider monkeys welcomed bananas and mocked our muddy faces.
Each day my dreams were sweetened by the day’s rich sensory experiences of natural beauty, traditions, colorful folklore, and the gentle and genuine flow of life that abounds in Mexico, our closest and most culturally fascinating neighbor. The key ingredient that bridged the gringo gap were the local operators whose passion, experience and intimate connections with the native people seamlessly exceeded my expectations.
From cement tank to open grill to our plates…Catching one of your own was easy, but Cindy scored four fresh ones!
Despite the bad press that Mexico has SO unfairly received with regards to crime…every time I travel there I feel completely safe, welcome and increasingly excited to explore and learn more. Mexico, one of the world’s great travel destinations, is often singled out for violent crime without telling the whole story. While there is sporadic violence along parts of the U.S. border, the majority of Mexico’s key tourism areas are not only safe, but safer than many other popular tourism areas. If you have ANY doubts, please check out this web site: How Safe is Mexico to set you completely at ease! You can be sure I will be back soon with my children, friends and guests creating cultural adventure tours for all ages. Granted, the cycling does not come close to Italy but the intense colors, melodic sounds of birds, harps and laughter and the bounty of sensory experiences (and fresh ceviche and smooth taquila) will make your feet move, your heart pound and your soul soar.
With La Madonna and the handsome Mexican Police looking over you everywhere you go, how can you NOT have total Peace of Mind??
I could not agree more with ATTA’s president Shannon Stowell when, in his closing speach, stated: “Mexico is one of the world’s best adventure travel destinations for it is rich in the three pillars of an adventure travel experience: Cultural experiences, a variety of adventure activities and abundant immersions in nature. ” Amen Shannon!
If you are looking for a soft or extreme cultural & nature adventure that is close to home, culturally fascinating and an excellent value compared to a similar adventure experience in the USA…research the abundant adventure travel options and hop on a quick & cheap flight to Mexico. Stay tuned for a Ciclismo Classico family adventure & nature tour in Baja that I will be putting together in April 2014…I just can’t resist..Quieres venir? Vamos alla Playa!! I just have to brainstorm a new name for our South of the Border adventure /culture expansion…how does Leapin’ Lizards sound?
Unwinding and relaxing after a day of activities with fresh seafood, Cold Coronas and a siesta on a warm Veracruz beach. La Bella Vida!
One way or another…I will be steering my way back to Veracruz! Ya te echo mucho Veracruz! Gracias para todos!
Enjoy all my photos of ATMEX & Veracruz here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48084728@N02/sets/72157635152189932/