the tropics: still mostly safe.

So, you may recall that when Matt and I were in Puerto Vallarta, we went on a dune buggy tour of the jungle. In retrospect, it was really fun, and we were glad we went. During the trip, though, I spent half of it terrified that we were going to be killed. The dune buggies were in massive disrepair and would die in the middle of the road, amongst traffic. We didn’t have a gas pedal, just a bolt through a lever to press down on. The buggy didn’t really want to shift into second half the time. A group of Canadians got us lost on the wrong trail, and I was sure we were going to roll backwards down the side of a mountain. (Oh, and we were drunk for half of it. But, you know, that actually made driving a lot less scary.)

Having been on a couple cruises and other trips to that part of the world, I’ve done a lot of that stuff. We’ve ridden ATVs, been on catamarans and buses and kayaks and gone snorkeling. Part of the excitement is that you get to do things that are way more restricted in the U.S.: there’s very little safety equipment, no waivers to sign, and they do everything they can to make sure you’re having fun (i.e. that you’re drunk… more often than not, drinks are free on these trips). And that is awesome, most of the time.

A while back, I started getting comments on the above post. First were a couple from people who had fallen victim to the same credit card scam we had: they run your card for the deposit, then cancel it when you bring the dune buggy back. A couple months later, they run your card again. I saw it on my statement, charged it back, and US Bank apparently sent a dispute. Since the charge never came back, I assume they either confirmed the fraud or just didn’t hear back from ‘Panthers of the Jungle’. In that situation, we’d have been better off leaving a cash deposit, since they seem to have some kind of racket going. Regardless, it’s easily fixed.

A couple months ago, I got another comment from someone who’d been on the same tour, and witnessed an accident that resulted in the death of a Canadian woman. That was scary, and far too easy to relate to… we’d been in a situation that could’ve easily gone the same way. It’s tragic, and yet not the least bit surprising.

Just this weekend, someone else commented with pictures from the same tour (warning: these are graphic; the newspaper scan even has a photo of the dead girl). His English isn’t great, but the point he makes is that the company was not, in fact, the one we had gone with (Panthers of the Jungle), but one called Treks. We’re pretty sure we ran into that group when we were in Mexico, too, because there were other people on dune buggies at the waterfall when we arrived.

So don’t go with Treks, because you may be killed. And don’t go with Los Panteros, because they’ll commit credit card fraud. And you may possibly die, but it hasn’t actually happened yet. Perhaps just stay safe and avoid the dune buggies in Mexico altogether.

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