The Cola de Mono Zip Line – Santa Teresa: A Review
December 17, 2014
If you are an adrenaline junkie and are looking to have a few hours of all out hard core fun, then the Cola de Mono Zip Line in Santa Teresa shouldn´t be missed. Here you´ll find information on everything you need to know about the zip line, what to expect and my honest thoughts about safety.
Overview of the Cola de Mono Zip Line
The Cola de Mono Zip Line (also known as Flying Fox), is one of South America´s highest and longest zips lines. It is located on the edge of Peru´s Amazon Jungle in the village of Santa Teresa, a stones throw from Machu Picchu. The name translates as “tail of the monkey,” but interestingly in Chile it is also the name they give to a Christmas drink similar to eggnog! The stats of the zip line are enough to make your hair stand on end, so if you are of a nervous tendency stop reading now, and go and do something less exiting! The zip line comprises of 7 separate cables which span an incredible 2,500 meters (8202 feet) across 2 huge valleys packed full of jungle vegetation. The highest section is 150 meters (492 feet) high, and on the fastest section riders can reach speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph). The complete tour takes between 2 – 3 hours, depending on group sizes.
Are you ready for some fun?
How to get to the Cola de Mono Zip Line
The Cola de Mono Zip Line is located in the jungle town of Santa Teresa, about 15 km´s from Machu Picchu. The easiest way to get to Santa Teresa is to take the train from Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes) to the hydroelectric station, and then either take a taxi or shared transport to the village of Santa Teresa. The total journey takes about 2 hours, and there are 2 or 3 daily trains which usually operate up until midday. You can also access Santa Teresa by road, taking the newly paved road that goes from Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley through the astonishingly beautiful landscapes of Abra Malaga before dropping down into the Jungle and on to Santa Teresa. This is a long mountainous drive which takes around 6 hours. Many people arrive by train and return by road.
The Cola de Mono Zip Line camp is actually located up a long dirt track just as you leave Santa Teresa on the road to the hydroelectric station. Walking there from Santa Teresa will take about 1 hour, so it is best to take a take a taxi (around 5 soles / US$ 1.70).
What You Can Expect
The Cola de Mono Zip Line experience starts from their base camp, located a 10 minutes’ drive from Santa Teresa. Here your guides will fit you with high quality harnesses (Black Diamond Big Gun Harnesses – for those that want to know). The harness have a principle mount which completely encapsulates the zip cable, and a secondary smaller safety clip like the ones you might see rock climbers using. You’ll also get a helmet and a set of gloves, one of which is a special leather glove which you use for braking. Once you have all of your equipment you will be briefed about the zip line and safety. Following a fairly steep trail you will climb out of the valley to the start point of the Zip line, which takes around 20 minutes. From the top you will zip down 7 separate lines, each line starting roughly where the last one finished. Zip liners are split into groups of roughly 10 people, so you will need to wait at the end of each line for your group to finish before proceeding onto the next line. The day I did it, there were 4 groups, so 40 people in total. The guides offer you suggestions on how to go faster and alternative ways to hang yourself from your harness, one of which includes putting your rolling back and putting your feet in the air and your head down in to the valley. On the final line, the guides offer you option to reverse your harness and go down in the “superman pose,” meaning facedown with no hands. You have to do it though! After all how many times are you going to come to Peru? At the end you have a short walk back to the camp.
ENTERTAINMENT TIP: If looking for fun at night, or to watch sports during the day, or even a taste of home, visit the Wild Rover Hostels Chain for great food, sports and beer! Entrance to their bars is free even for non-guests
Usually accustomed to sitting in a comfy chair behind my desk, the Cola de Mono Zip Line was one of the most exciting and adrenaline pumping activities that I have done in a long time. Although I put on a brave face, I definitely felt worried before we set off. It is incredible just how quickly you bond with the other people in your group when you are faced with doing something so unnatural and terrifying! Overall, everyone in our group agreed that the Cola de Mono Zip Line was a great day out, and a definite must anyone bonkers enough to want to do it.
Safety should be the most important thing that the Cola de Mono Zip Line guides need to be concerned about. So I was a little concerned that we didn´t receive a safety briefing at the base camp, but actually a minute or so before I was pushed off the zip line for the first time. This wasn’t good, and it certainly didn’t help my nerves. Also, I felt that the guides needed to manage the groups a little better. At one point there were about 8 of us all crammed on to one of the wooden landing platforms and each time another zip liner arrived he/she crashed into everyone. I also felt that the guides seemed to be rushed due to the large group sizes. This seemed to mean that they overlooked basic safety checks. There was one rather shocking moment when I noticed that a guide had not clipped on the more mature lady in front of me. The principle harness was not attached to the line correctly, leaving the safety arm open and meaning that it could have fallen off. It must be said that the secondary safety clip was in place, but never the less, the guides should be triple checking that the principle harness is properly locked in place.
Overall I would say that the Cola de Mono Zip Line was great fun, and made for a memorable day out. However, I would recommend that you should only do this knowing and understanding fully the risks involved. Safety levels in Peru are not like you might find in North America or Europe, so you should really understand how the equipment works, and make sure for yourself that everything is in order each and every time you are clipped on a zip line.
One final point. Make sure you check out the toilets at the camp. They are truly the coolest toilets you´ll ever have the pleasure of peeing in!
Update on Safety (April 13, 2015)
The recent and tragic news of a death on the Cola de Mono Zip line has not come as a surprise. Max Sela, 24 from Israeli fell to his death last Wednesday (April 08, 2015), after falling from a platform used in the zip lining. Media reports vary on exactly what happened, but local sources close to the Only Peru Guide say that it was human error on the part of Cola de Mono. If you are engaging in adventure activities in Peru, make sure you understand exactly what you are getting into, and understand the risks. Peru does not have the same safety standards as other westernised countries.