Parapentismo!

…or Paragliding as we call it in English, which sounds much more boring to be honest.

Anyway, after a few days in Villa de Leyva, next stop on our way to the coast was San Gil, a little town that is rapidly developing a reputation as the adventure sports capital of Colombia. Rock climbing, white water rafting, canyoning, rapelling, hiking, mountain biking, caving…you name it, you can do it somewhere around the town in the Colombian Andes.

No, I have no idea why he has a chicken coming out of his stomach either

No, I have no idea why he has a chicken coming out of his stomach either

After overspending a tad in North America, I’m trying to get back under budget while I’m here in Colombia, so I reluctantly had to say no to the rafting (there’s plenty of time for that when I get to Peru I reckoned), and instead decided to go for the much cheaper option of paragliding.

San Gil park

San Gil park

I had no idea what to expect, but after a couple of hours drive through the hills, we finally made it to a little tobacco farm, where after a little hike we made it up to the launch site. After a little hanging around waiting for another group to go, it was soon my turn. It feels profoundly unnatural to be running off the side of a mountain strapped to another person, but of course the wind picked us up straight away and we were gliding gently over the valley with a view to the canyon in the distance.

I had mild worries I might find it terrifying, but in fact it was an incredibly sedate, gentle experience, floating around in near silence with stunning views over the landscape below. Marvellously relaxing it was, and nicely effortless, which was just what I needed after two strenous hikes the previous days. I came down feeling quite elated…a feeling which lasted all of about ten minutes until the next group went up, just as the wind changed.

Instead of the gentle experience I had, the expert pilots were executing tight corkscrew turns, then swooping down steeply and then soaring back up just as fast. Rather than the gentle experience I had, they got a full on adrenaline fest that looked incredible. I was green with envy at my bad luck. I tried to persuade them to take me up again but we were out of time. I tried to focus on how I’d felt before, but it wasn’t working. So now I’m going to have to keep trying until I get an experience that nearly makes me sick.

With my budget not running to giving it a second go the next day, we instead headed out of town to visit the nearby village of Barichara, another one of Colombia’s colonial gems. Perched on a hill, it’s another little stunner, and we spent a very pleasant afternoon doing very little at all, just soaking up the heat over a couple of nice cold beers. Next stop: the coast.

Barichara

Barichara

15 responses to “Parapentismo!

  1. Beautiful pics… glad you enjoyed the experience. Next stop a parachute jump, perhaps? With that you get both the adrenaline rush of tumbling out of a plane and the floaty-relaxing bit as you sail down to earth…

  2. Was close to doing some paragliding in Lima, but the weather wasn’t on my side either. Some great photos btw!

    • Cheers Christian! I here the paragliding is good in Medellin so will give it another go there, just hope the weather gods are on my side

  3. In Rio now where the hanggliding seems amazing! It’s also just about when my funds have tipped into the color of red.. damn it!

  4. You said paragliding was cheap…mind telling how cheap?

  5. that statue picture is freaky!

  6. Loving the pic of the sunshine through the trees at San Gil park – fantastic

  7. GEOFF, you’re a true tourist. I’m a Colombian expat living in the South of England and reading through your blog and seeing your photos makes me miss my home country (with a laugh), at the same time it convinces me there are still plenty of beautiful places there I need to explore before going somewhere else.
    Just so you know, your blog and flicker photos is becoming a common reference for other Colombians, who thank you for documenting so extensively the experience and also feel grateful the country you’ve encountered gave you a world-class trip.
    Do count on me for further advice on better food or paragliding choices, whale-watching or any other SAFE adventurous activities. (the suicidal-driving over-enthusiastic AC comment is utterly hilarious)
    Greetings

    • Wow, thank you Hugo. It’s getting comments like this that really make writing this blog worthwhile. It’s great to hear a Colombian likes what I have to say about their country – it truly is an amazing place and I’m just glad I can do my bit at helpoing to spread the word. Even though I was there for six weeks there was so much I didn’t get to see – I’d love to return one day to get back to all the places I missed.

  8. Geof I have to thank you you’ve made my day! I’m a Colombian living in Mexico and seeing and reading about your trip to mry country made me teary eyed. Its so beautiful and I’m so glad its finally safe to travel around Colombia and have people from all over see how amazingly beautiful this country is.
    About the food…. well I LOVE it but I grew up eating it :) for the future keep in mind these dishes: Sancocho: Chicken broth soup with potatoes, corn and amazing flavours.
    Bandeja Paisa: huge plate with meat, “arepa” our tortilla, red bean stew, chorizo, rise….did I say it was huge!
    Ajiaco: Soup you’ll find in the area of bogota, also made with chiken but a true Ajiaco uses over 10 different types of potatoes, most of them only grow in the area and also has indegineous spices.

    OK, thanks again for sharing your trips, I’ll be reading all your stuff before I go on my next vacation! :)

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