I was recently lucky enough to be invited to a paragliding trip to Colombia.
In the months leading up to the trip, individuals far more capable and organized than myself began putting together a loose itinerary of the upcoming trip. This was a perfect scenario for me. There’s a delicate balance between overplanning and underplanning. While there’s much to be said about my style of “winging it” (no pun intended), I suppose it’s good to know how we’re gonna get around, where we’d fly, and be somewhat sure there’s a place to sleep when it gets dark.
Enter Richie, the fantastically stereotypical paragliding tour guide, and I mean that as a compliment. Richie would supply the Van that would cart us from Buaramanga, Chicamocha Canyon, Medellin, Demasco, Roldanillo, and every fly site in between. He’d line up the Hostels, provide site briefings, and do what was possible to organize a retrieve after landing.
So enough babble, off we go. As with every single god forsaken airline flight I’ve been on….My flight was delayed leaving Albuquerque. After missing connecting flights and being diverted to Miami for an overnight stay, I was grumpy. A night of self pity in a cramped Miami airport hotel room, I wake early to resume my duties as the airlines punching bag.
Arriving in Bogota and more comically tragic interactions with airline minions, I settled in for a long layover. Connecting flights were all booked up to Bucaramanga. My first Colombian meal would have to be at Crepes-n-Waffles restaurant for a bill so small I thought it had to be a mistake. So far so good.
Bucaramanga! Arriving late and confused, in my typical fashion, I do my best to negotiate a taxi to the place I think I’m supposed to be, somewhere on a mountainside above the city there’s allegedly a hostile and a bed for me. Buca is a vibrant city, up and coming. Highest income per capita in Columbia and a growing middle class they say. The literacy rate is said to be 95%. There cheap nfl jerseys are lies, damned lies, and statistics. The cab drivers blank stare when presented with my map suggested that he was a 5 percenter. My first impressions of Colombia outside of an airport terminal made it clear that I wouldn’t be let down.
Arriving at the “Nest” hostile I meet Richie and the gang. I spend the night drinking cervesas and listening to stories of everyones epic flights today, nursing a growing hatred for airline logistics. No matter, they’ll be flying and adventures tomorrow. Chicamocha Canyon is a Valle deep (someone said CHEAP 2000 meters?) and blazing hot desert canyon in the middle of an otherwise very wet and green landscape. Sounds like big air thermals, cheap jerseys just the thing to cure jet lag and clear ones head.
After a sleepless night on the top bunk, we’re packed in the van and on our site way. We pick up the Brits at a much swankier pad on the hilltop and it’s clear I’ve come with the right group. Enroute, and the conversation is a welcome distraction to the harrowing curves and steep shoulders as we scale our way up the side of the canyon to launch. By the time we arrive, I’ve managed to convince my new friends that the “colonies” are in fact still there, and that despite what they’ve heard on the news, have grown into a legitimate country.
On launch, we did what paraglider pilots always do when arriving at a new site. Fucked around for an hour, staring of into the abyss, waiting on the winds. The winds reverse, and cycles get stronger along with my nerves, so I spread out my gear and strap in. Richie gave a site briefing, words about something-or-other, and how to avoid death by doing or not doing this-or-that. Finally, we were out of excuses not to fly. Not wanting to launch in wholesale jerseys rowdy air, I was second to launch, and made it look quite difficult. All the mundane travel time, money, and frustration evaporate with the first few turns in a house thermal and I once again remember why I do cheap jerseys this to myself. Brendan Reid, whom I’d later learn is a very accomplished comp pilot and Scottish distance record holder launches after me and makes me look like the amateur that I am.
Soon the air is filled with lunatics and we have a blast. Once I’ve had enough, I follow a few new friends down to the bottom of the canyon and land in the sweltering heat next to the river. Unholy, hard to believe kind of Marketing heat. Lung searing, gringo killing heat. To avoid immediately baking what’s left of my brain, we jump in the water and stay there until everyone is down safe. Thai’s video below sums up the day much better than my rambling, and you owe yourself a treat after enduring the above.
To be continued…..