Ever dreamed of flying? Well, in Medellin that dream can become a reality. Paragliding is the latest extreme sport taking off in the city.
Medellin has quickly gained a reputation as “the home of paragliding” in Colombia, thanks to its sprawling hillsides, eternal spring weather and crazy “paisas” that are addicted to the unique sport.
The first paragliding company was set up in Medellin about 10 and the sport has continue to grow in popularity. Today there are more than five paragliding companies, all offering dreamers a chance to fly.
If you’re one of those dreamers, find a few willing friends and head to the popular jump site of San Felix, a scenic hour-long drive from Medellin. The view from the top is breathtaking, with thin clouds sweeping across the town of Bello below.
Before you can fly, you have to wait for the clouds to burn away and the wind to pick up. And then it’s time to fly.
The pilot spreads the parachute out along the hill, straps a huge backpack-chair to your back, attaches himself to you and commands you to “Corre, corre, corre!” As you fumble down the slippery hill, wondering what to do next, the wind catches and pulls you up. Now you’re flying.
The deceptive thing is how fast you can go. Thermal winds catch the parachute and swing you back and forth along the contour of the mountain like a parent pushing a child on a swing. Higher and faster. The sky is filled with 10 or so other gliders, experts and beginners alike taking advantage of the perfect conditions.
Once the initial exhilaration wears off you can take in the spectacular view. Tiny hamlets, sprawling estates, farms and tin shacks dotted the landscape. Even from hundreds of meters up, you can see children waving frantically at the colorful brushstrokes painting the sky, cows grazing on a steep slope or families enjoying lunch on their patio.
The most impressive part of paragliding is the peace. Relax into the seat, put your faith in the pilot and take in the breathtaking experience of flying. There’s no noise, no smoke, no runways or engines. Simply a clever use of nature’s gifts. A paraglider leaves no trace except a set of footprints running down a hill.
The landing is meant to be a soft touchdown, however sometimes the angelic landing you hope for turns into a wrestlers throw down, if the wind changes. You could be flying along gracefully when suddenly you feel yourself lying breathlessly on a mountainside, wrapped up in a colorful parachute. When putting yourself at the mercy of nature, you have to be prepared for anything.
As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”