Paragliding over Medellín hills

“Are you ready?”

“Yess, let’s go!!” I almost yelled in excitement.

But no wait, am I really ready? Did anyone crash with this already? What if there is too much wind or not enough wind and we either get thrown around like crazy or free-fall in the endless forests below?

Too late. I had my helmet on and my gear strapped on me already, and two guys were double-checking if they attached the right harness to the right rope. “Just run as much as you can, don’t stop,” one of them told me. “But I though I came here to fly,” I tried to be funny again, at the wrong time apparently. I was the only one who laughed nervously.

In that moment the wind took me and my pilot Daniel behind me what felt like 3 meters up in the air. We were back on the ground in a second, the two guys pulled us down, and I started running as much as I could, as I was told. My feet only touched the ground once or twice and – wooosh, we were up in the air; this time just going up.

In the first few seconds I couldn’t believe the whole situation.

That I’m actually doing this. Me, I hate rollercoasters and would never in my life even think of going bungee jumping or sky diving. But now I was paragliding in the middle of Colombia.

Then I couldn’t believe my eyes. Such an unbelievable view! Medellín, a 2,5 million city and Bello, another half a million town below me looked like they were built of legos and I could touch them if I just lean forward a bit.

Paragliding from San Felix. Medellín in the front and Bello on the left.

“Your hands are free, you can let go,” Daniel told me. “Uhum,” I mouthed, but in my head it sounded more like: “yeah dude, there’s no freaking way I’m letting go.” With my left hand I was clinging to the rope so hard my knuckles started hurting after a minute in the air, and with the right one I was holding onto my go pro so hard that the print of the handle was tattooed on my palms.

“This is so beautiful,” I said a million times, my camera recording revealed later. The city on one side and countless fluffy green hills full of forests and meadows on the other side. I could see the Medellín airport and downtown skyscrapers. On the left side crowded barrios of Medellín hills started, they looked like lava spilling down from top of the hills. Just at the end of the high ground with the take-off ramp there was a big yellow farm that used to belong to the one whose name they don’t say in Medellín, Pablo Escobar. I had so many thoughts and none at the same time.

The sunny hills of San Felix.

I kept looking at my feet, dangling in the air, trying not to move them too much. If I just lifted one leg a bit, both Daniel and I would move and he had to find the right balance again, pulling those magic strings up and down. Though I was told that’s not true, I had the feeling it is better for our survival if I try to stay as still as possible, which is why I announced every movement of my arms or legs to the poor guy behind me.

“At the end we can do some acrobatics, if you want,” Daniel told me at one point.

Ah, right. I forgot to tell him in the beginning that this is something I don’t want at all. I just want us to land safely, no acro crap. That’s what I told him too, but apparently not in a serious enough tone. It was around then that I realised that all since the take off about 15 minutes ago, I haven’t closed my mouth yet; I just couldn’t stop smiling. I guess “no, I don’t want acrobatics in the air” with a huge goofy smile on your face doesn’t really mean ‘no acrobatics’.

So I got some. Just before landing we twirled left and right a few times, so much that we were parallel to the ground. My stomach was in my throat, but I still couldn’t stop laughing over my screams.

The landing which followed was the smoothest part of the whole flight. I still had that goofy smile slapped on my face when I kept repeating to the two guys taking off my harness that “this was so amazing and I want to do it again!” My legs were weak for another hour or so and my hands only stopped shaking after I watched another two rounds of take-offs.

What a day!

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    carmelinee Written by:

    A journalist turned media analyst turned storyteller. Already had a near death experience white-water rafting the source of the Nile, came three meters close to a green mamba and peed in front of a boat of thirty strangers in the middle of a rain forest. Stay tuned for new stories from my trip in Latin America!