(scroll down for video…you don’t want to miss it!)
Here is how NOT to start your first paragliding excursion:
- Be picked up from hotel a half an hour late by what you hope is an ‘official’ paragliding company.
- Be picked up NOT in a tough-looking jeep or truck or even a bus with company logo, but in a beat-up, old, unmarked Renault.
- Leave town to head to the canyon and return to town about one minute later to drop off one guy and pick up another random guy. While you wait in hot, dusty car, driver goes to corner shop to buy himself some snacks and drinks.
- Leave town again. About five minutes later car engine chokes and dies. Car has run out of gas.
- You run out of confidence.
Yes. This is how it went for me. It was a very auspicious beginning to my paragliding adventure in San Gil. I have to admit, this seemingly crazy, tape and band-aid operation wasn’t giving me the amount of confidence I wanted in the people that were about to have mi vida en sus manos.
But I wasn’t going to bail. I am sure they are some how licensed or at least trained…or just kinda know what they are doing, right? This wasn’t the U.S. They didn’t have a slick bus or truck with their logo on it and there may be fewer regulations (sometimes a good thing and sometimes bad), but they did have nice business cards and even an office. That had to mean something, right? Right??
Meanwhile back in the car with no gas, our co-pilot (and the guy who would be my tandem jump pilot) jumped out (it wasn’t far to land) and ran up the street for gas while I and the two other guys just sat in the car and spoke in Spanish. Well, they did. I just sat there (awkward whistle). They seemed quite relaxed so I tried not to worry or over think it. Oh, did I mention, I was their only passenger for the day? Five minutes later we were at a gas station, all filled up and ready to go. Vamos!
Paragliding Chicamocha Canyon
About 30 minutes later, we arrived high above Chicamocha Canyon and pulled into a dirt parking area. I was then given NO instructions as they started unloading the car and eating some snacks. Finally, the guy, who I learned was my pilot said, “Ready? Let’s go.”
We walked on a narrow path up a small hill and could then look all the way down into the brown and green-hued canyon.
Before I knew it, he was buckling me into my harness (it seemed sturdy) and telling me to ‘RUN! RUN!’ off the cliff. That was literally all the instruction I got. I didn’t even have time to think about it, let alone ask any questions (sometimes a good thing for me) and…we were flying.
Wow. It was amazing and much more relaxing and quieter than I expected. We just drifted around like a bird swooping and diving and just letting the wind and thermal air pockets carry us around the sky for about 45 minutes. We could have just hung out and had a picnic lunch up there. Figures at some point I started thinking about food.
Check out the video here:
- $85 transport included to and from the canyon (albeit a bit shaky)
- 45 minute flight high above Chicamocha Canyon