We’re climbing higher and higher into the green hills of Medellin, Colombia. My heart is beginning to race. When Dan asks me if I’m alright, I casually say, “Oh, yeah, I’m just a bit carsick.” LIES. We are about to go jump off a cliff, and I am FREAKING OUT.
Colombia is an adventure sports paradise, and paragliding was one of the things that we (read: Dan) really wanted to try. Plus, it’s much cheaper than in the States. I guess Colombians are a bit smarter than we are and don’t want to pay oodles of money to have the shit scared out of them. I had tried paragliding before in the Alps (on skis) and had survived, so I thought I would be fine. Silly me.
By the time we reached Zona de Vuelo, I couldn’t believe how high above the city we were. My thoughts at this time were tending towards, “Maybe there’s a nice burro that can take me back down,” as my eyes began to search the hill for willing donkeys. After being momentarily distracted by some of the biggest fake boobs I have ever seen (apparently, plastic surgery is huge in Medellin, and I mean HUGE!), we paid $40 each and met our guides.
We all climbed up a hill to the take off spot, which was pretty much a pleasant little field… surrounded by some not so pleasant drop offs. Hmm, is it too late to run away? I was then strapped into a parachute with my guide attached behind me. Yup, too late.
We were instructed to run towards the drop off, letting our parachute catch air behind us so we could start flying. Sure, no sweat. Dan took off first, and within seconds, he was really really reallly high. Omg. Do you think he’ll notice if there’s another paraglider in the sky or not? Will he believe me if I just say we came back early?
But before I knew it, my guide was telling me to run towards the edge, as well. I was afraid my legs weren’t going to move, but I didn’t have to worry for long because after about three seconds my feet were off the ground. And all of a sudden, I was flying!
I could lie and say that as soon as we were up there, it was relaxing and beautiful and I wasn’t scared at all, but anybody who knows me would know that was a boldfaced lie. I. Was. Terrified. Thank goodness my guide couldn’t see my face, or we probs would’ve aborted after six seconds.
My 30 minutes in the air went something like this (in half Spanish/half English, but I’ll spare you the ridiculousness and just leave it all in ingles.)
Guide: Are you okay?
Me: Oh, yes! [NO! I am flying 3,000 feet in the air. Held up by A CLOTH DIAPER. And WIND. Does that sound safe to you?]
Guide: See those birds? We are going to climb to them!
Me: What? Um, birds? I’m fine where we are. We shouldn’t bother them.
Guide: We will climb to them!
Me: [Cries silently.]
Guide: Relax! Take photos! (For some idiotic reason, I was the one delegated to hold the camera.)
Me: Okay. [Holds arm out and quickly presses the shutter button several times, not even looking where I’m aiming so I can quickly grab the hand straps again.]
Guide: No, really. Relax! Take more photos!
Me: Uh, sure. [Does exact same thing I did before.]
The sport is really cool, with the paraglider completely depending on the thermal winds in the area to ascend or descend through the air. Crazy! And scary! Gee, I sound like such a wuss from this entry.
Though I was pretty scared for most of it, I definitely relaxed towards the end (really!) and would even do it again. It is an amazing experience, especially to see the massive city of Medellin from a different perspective. Only next time I’ll be taking a Valium beforehand.
To get to Zona de Vuelo, take the bus towards San Felix from Medellin’s Northern bus terminal. Our guides were awesome, some of the first to introduce the sport of paragliding to Colombia, and I would highly recommend the company.
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