“Welcome to heaven” my pilot says as we soar several hundred feet above the city of Medellin.
Your instructor will buckle you straight into your harness, fit your helmet and take off before you have time to feel afraid.
Sailing hundreds of feet above solid ground, with only a glorified jacket between your body and certain death, is off-putting for the majority of the sane, mortal population.
Against all expectations within a few moments you will begin to feel at ease, at that insane height in the air, and enjoy the spectacular view below. The paragliding harness is surprisingly comfortable. Get over the vertigo long enough to appreciate the perfectly angled recline, and paragliding will feel more like an airborne deckchair than an extreme sport.
|“Open your wings!”-Paragliding instructor|
Glide with the birds
As your instructor steers you towards the drifting birds the reality that you’re flying hands-free will hit home. The fabric wing that makes the canopy of a paragliding apparatus is designed to mimic bird flight. Paragliders use “thermals,” bubbles of rising heat energy, to attain impressive heights. Thermals and “ridge-lift,” wind forces that bounce off hillsides, create a greater pressure upon the bottom of the kite wing than the top and lift the entire apparatus from the ground. Birds are natural indicators of thermals, giving an authentic “flying” experience.
My instructor urged me to “open your wings” as we circled above the take-off site, experience had not jaded my instructor as he pointed out coffee plantations and waterfalls. With the city of Medellin sprawling below, and surrounding Andes mountain range, views will not disappoint. The San Felix site permits in-flight use of cameras, allowing all those who do not own a helicopter a unique opportunity to take birds-eye Medellin photographs.
Landing was at the back of my mind throughout my flight, but despite warnings of “bumpy landings,” I experienced a smooth glide back to launch site.
How to get to Medellin Aeroclub
Take the metro to Caribe station and follow the walkway to Terminal del Norte. The Belmira 16 Express will pass the paragliding site, otherwise ask for “San Pedro de los Milagros” and “San Felix”. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at “Restaurante el Voladero” or “Aeroclub.” The bus journey will take around 45 minutes.
Price, booking and pilot
Book in advance, but call on the morning to check climate at the launch site. Arriving before midday is recommended.
At the time of writing, the price for a 20 minute flight is 80,000 COP or $40 USD.
Reuben Vargas, with over 17 years flying experience and great English makes an excellent choice for first-time flyers.
- First-hand account by Jenna Hutber (Colombia Reports)
- Fun Activities (Paragliding Medellin)