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Day 158 Medellin, Colombia: Parapenting

Parapenting= Parasailing.

Even though we were crashing pretty late, I still couldn’t sleep in like these guys. I would still wake up around 9am. Since everybody was laid out and were probably going to be like that for three or four more hours, I decided to see if there was something that I could do. Anna was downstairs so we talked for a bit. I asked her for some suggestions. She pointed at the wall where there were pictures of people parapenting. Basically, it is like sky diving in that you use a parachute, but it is different in that you utilize the updrafts off of the mountain side to take you up rather than jumping out of a plane and going down. I said okay, set it up. She called the guy and he was there in twenty minutes. Without much of a thought, I was going sailing over Medellin in a parachute.

I will load up the photos at the bottom of this entry, but the days events warrant a little explaining. Everything happened pretty quickly, so before I knew it I was on the back of this guys motorcycle and we were zooming up the mountain side. At the top of one of the hills, there is a group of companies that specialize in the are ot Parapenting. My guy, it was so fast that I forgot his name, was building a little house/office right along side the other businesses. He showed me his place and then showed me where his group stores their parachutes. It was a small room with a bunch of racks holding the big parachutes and harnesses. In another room was a parachute out of its pouch hanging from the rafters. That one he said was ours. It had gotten wet the day before and he had it hanging to dry it out. The weird thing was when he told me that you shouldn’t do it like that and he never did it that way before. Great. Why would he tell me something like that. So after we get the chute down, we take it outside. He looks around and says that instead of taking off with everybody else at the launch pad which would be a ten minute hike up, that we would just go down below the buildings to a steep incline and take off from there. I just kept reminding myself that it wasn’t like we were jumping off a cliff and everything had to perfect or we would crash into the rocks below. This was more of a grassy hill that dropped off into the rocks below. Great. He calls one of his buddies to come down to help us take off since the winds were just not quite right. Great. He strap himself to the two tethers, and then I clip into his harness. His buddy is holding us from being pulled backwards as the wind starts to whip up. Finally, the wind snaps the chute open and he yells to start running. I lean forward and his friend grabs on to me and we start stumbling down the short embankment. Within seconds we are lifted up. As soon as my feet leave the ground, the chute yanks to the left and we head straight for the only tree on the hill. Lucky its only a baby and I catch that sucker right in the crouch. Once I am drug through the tree, he tells me sorry, the one side of the chute didn’t open up and we got yanked side ways. Great. We take off and it is actually exhilarating. We just float around with the wind. He tells me about thermals (upwind), and he shows how we can gain altitude as we swirl around the thermal. We do the opposite of a normal parachute and glide upward as we twist and turn around the thermal. Soon we are at the top of the mountain and we are looking down on the other people who are actually using the landing/take off field that they built. We go way up and I take some pictures. The thoughts that go through my mind are the total loss of control when you are in the secondary harness. You are basically just like a baby in a car seat. The other thing I notice is that at the end of every turn you go through this period of weightlessness. Its kind of like feeling that elevator rush as it first takes off. Well, to me, it didn’t feel so cool. Actually it made me kind of queezy. I didn’t have long to worry though as we circled around the landing/take off field. He said something about checking it out, so I figured we were going to buzz some people. I got my camera out to take some closeups of people and their frightened expressions as we swooped by them. Well, we did one swoop by them, and then when we whipped back to go back over, the wind cut off because we were on the back side of the hill and we whipped it right back into the side of the hill. Luckily it was newly plowed soiled because we smacked right into the side of the hill. All I could hear him say was oh oh, and then sorry, sorry, sorry. Great. It took a moment to unwind us and I finally got free. He started quizzing me on our flight path, but all I could think of was that we flew into the side of the hill, what part of that didn’t you understand. While they got things straightened out and he went to talk to his friends I just watched as some of the guys did aerial maneuvers. It made me just sick watching them, knowing how queezy I got from doing lazy turns. These guys were getting perpendicular and whipping it back and forth faster than a roller coaster.

The second flight was a much better lift off since we had a huge almost flat hill top to take off of. It was mowed grass so there was no problem with footing. As soon as the wind filled the chute, we lifted straight up with hardly a jerk. We hit a thermal and slowly started to rise. I got my camera out and started taking shots. We would bounce from one thermal to another getting higher and higher. He drifted us over the edge of the city and then back to the thermals so we could get high enough to see over the mountains. As we got higher, the turns got tighter and we started to get into this constant whipping motion. Thats when I started to feel not so good. He told me that his first twenty times of doing this he felt sick but just kept on going until he got used to it. Great. With a few more I was getting really sick. Now he told me the procedure for me to puke. Great. I hadn’t planned on puking, but just being sick for a while until we were finished Now all I could think about was puking and how I was supposed to lean back and aim for the whole between my shoulder and his chest. I also was supposed to tell him when so that he could angle us just right. Great. That picture was now embedded in my head.

Not having a clue how long we would be floating around, I asked him how much longer. He said that he just wanted to get a little bit higher so he could show me this valley at the top of the mountains. I just told him, that if all of this was so that I could see some valley, I was fine with saying screwing the valley and getting my ass back on the ground. He asked me for the time and I told him it was thirty minutes. He comes back and says okay five more minutes. Now, I thought it was odd that he said we had to stay up there for five more minutes. Being a diver I just figured it was some sort of decompression issue althout I couldn’t understand why since we weren’t all that high up. Maybe it had to do with the up and down that we were doing. Finally, I jsut asked why the five minutes. He just said that was the length the flight time was supposed to be. What the hell. I said, dude, I’m done, lets land. So he says okay and we do the whip it back and forth and finally have a good landing. With that, my parapenting career ended. He did explain that I would probably not be so bothered the next time since I would know what to expect. I figure I will try it one more time, but I never got sick jumping out of a plane and drifting down.

The rest of the day I napped in the hammock. Parapenting kicked my ass. That night however, Medellin kicks off the party weekend. Here, thursday through saturday are club nights. The Zona Rosa changes from a sleepy little park to a neon light, house music blaring, people out and about, party town. The whole house went out to Club Blue and danced the night away. It was a energetic fun night that lasted until 4pm and half the house crawling back home.

Pictures of Parapenting to follow:


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