…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.
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.
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.