We arrived by car to a bluff where three companies launch their paragliding businesses, and less than two minutes later Terra was airborne. We had scribbled our names and weights onto a piece of paper and Terra was immediately rushed towards a guide, strapped in to a series of harnesses, and asked if he speaks Spanish. Before he could answer “no,” the instructor leaned back and a gust of air launched them off the side of the cliff. It all happened faster than the Coney Island 4th of July Hotdog Eating Contest. But there was no Joey Chestnut in sight.
We had signed up to go paragliding less than 10 minutes after completing check-in at our hostel in San Gil. Why waste time when we’re on vacation, we figured. All we knew was that it cost 70,000 COP each ($26 USD), would entail approximately 15 minutes in the air, and we were going to ask to go up separately so we could each use the GoPro while airborne. However, the whole thing had happened so quickly and suddenly that I found myself on the ground with both the GoPro and DSLR and only a slight idea of how to turn-on the former. Terra was having an actual pie in the sky experience, and all I could do was watch.
The scene was full of interesting characters: a woman whose job was to get folks in and out as quickly as possible, the tandem guides, a group of young men that help strap in participants, and a cute yellow lab named Beethoven who went batshit whenever someone left the ground.
Eventually I got my camera situation sorted and was able to snap both photos and video of Terra as he soared through the air. As soon as his feet hit the ground, it was my turn, and I was hustled into the same getup. Only this time, I had the GoPro ready on the monopod (not a selfie stick, damnit) and knew to simply let Ronaldo (not the soccer player) take the literal and figurative wheel. Beethoven did his thing at my feet and really went nuts when we crop-dusted him before heading out into the open air. You know I loved that.
I was surprised by how peaceful (or “tranquilo” as I described it to Ronaldo) it was up in the air—I’m not afraid of heights but I expected to feel a little bit uneasy. However, the sweeping movements of the sail made me feel like I was, well, floating on air and it wasn’t until my guide purposely zipped us around in circles that my stomach dropped and I began to feel queasy. Motion sickness was back to get me again, but at only 15 minutes long, I could survive. Even the descent back to the ground was easy and without worry, except for Beethoven who couldn’t contain himself.
Both Terra and I were glad that we took the leap and tackled an adventure so quickly after arriving; we simply wish that we had been a tad more prepared. So let this be your warning—if you paraglide in San Gil, be sure to get your act together in the car. Check out the highlights here and in the PHOTOS tab above.