I’ll skip the last two days because frankly they weren’t very interesting. Football yesterday all day, lots of rain… Saturday night clubbing and a late night rave atmosphere at Club Carnival just outside of town.
Today I woke up at 9:00 after a pretty long sleep. I asked Diana, the wonderful girl who works here at the hostel to instruct me on how to get to the ParaGliding site and then I was off. I had to make my way to the metro station and take the train to Estacion Caribe where I would buy my bus ticket to San Felix. I boarded the bus which became more and more crowded as the trip continued. Eventually an older lady had gotten on and after no locals offered their seat I got up and told her to sit there. Her daughter was with her and I showed her where I needed to get off and she promised to warn me before the stop.
I arrived at the site and was asked to read the waiver just in case the winds took us the wrong way into the mountain and I was crushed. I watched a video of some other person doing the take off and then a video of someone landing. The videos were 4 second clips. Basically, I was told to run run run run on take off and then put my feet high in the air on landing. A lot of the conversing before hand was in Spanish. The person responsible for locking me into my suit and strapping the harnesses was no more than 15 years old. Ah, Colombia.
Here comes the best part. The pilot pulled a flask from his pocket just as he was strapping himself to the chute. I looked at it and he said, “Don’t worry… it is empty.” I would be much happier if he had said it was full. A shot of Aguardiente at 2400 meters high in the Andes mountains would have been fun. And that would have meant he was sober. Either way, I didn’t worry too much the whole deal and just started to run run run when I was told to.
We took off down a decline and then shot up in the air as the wind took us. It was amazing. I have these dreams where I’m able to fly but I always have to run run run run and then spread my arms and legs to sort of float up. In fact, I had that dream last night. It was so much like that. I thought paragliding was quick where you just descent slowly but the pilot has the ability to keep you up there for as long as you want. We circled around the side of the mountain for a bit and checked out a couple of waterfalls. Then he asked me to lean to the right, “derecha por favor Joseph, derecha mas.” So I did what he said and we slowly climbed higher and higher until clouds began either being at eye level or below.
It was so cool to see the tops of mountains below me. The city was down below too but we didn’t hover over it. It was difficult to see Medellin itself but the pueblo nearby was clear. Birds were hanging around us and a couple of other paragliders as well.
We spent a good 30 minutes in flight and on the way down towards the end he asked me if I wanted to do some adrenaline stuff. Even though I was already beginning to feel sick to my stomach I decided why not? He told me to shift quickly to the left and then to the right and then very quickly and hard to the left to make us lift and spin in a circle. I watched the ground and the houses below start swirling at me pretty quickly. It was quite intense but soon after landed and I was safely on the ground.
All in all it was a great experience. I loved the location with the mountains and the clouds. I went alone but that was OK since they can only take one at a time. It was a pretty personal experience. The pilot asked me if I was bored because I was quiet but I was really just taking it in.
Oh, and the best part… the afternoon of paragliding in total cost me $40. 🙂 (80,000 pesos)