Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

If Pigs Can Fly... Why Can't I

Paragliding didn't sound too exciting at first. Why waste a precious day in glorious San Gil strapped to a guy and floating through the air when there are more adrenalin-pumping activities to do? Like bungee jumping off a bridge over a rushing river for US$12? Or cooling off at the natural pools under the waterfalls FOC?

We've seen people paragliding countless times along the beach, strung along by a speedboat. I did it in Phuket when I was 15 - and wasn't exactly thrilled by the ride. In fact, I got rather bored up in the sky, all alone for 20 minutes without anybody to share the experience with.

Well our new friends from the Netherlands, Kamile and Iris just had to show us stunning photos of their paragliding experience in the hills of Curuti, a small town near San Gil. And boy were they nice photos! We realised that paragliding here relied solely on the instructor's ability to read the winds and guide the parachute through the air. You're not strapped to anything on land - like a fast-moving vehicle or speedboat - that drags you along. It was the closest you could get to flying without wings.

And so, off we went to the hills, COP 120,000 (US$60) poorer but nonetheless pretty excited. We were bundled off in a van with an American couple from California and a lovely, friendly couple from Belgium.

We chatted with the folks from Belgium who took a real interest in the languages spoken in Singapore. We learnt that half of Belgium speaks French while the other speaks Flemish - so it's possible that the people in the North have problems communicating with those in the South, and that seems to be leading to internal conflict. Can you imagine if we never made English the national language in Singapore?

We arrived at a farm in Curuti, apparently the starting point for our paragliding tour!

Bunches of sticks with legs...

This was no ordinary diary farm, pig pen or vegetable patch. Check out what was being cultivated:

Not your usual salad ingredients...

My brother's favourite plant: the tobacco leaf

Yups, we were right smack in a tobacco farm! We had to hike through the crops to get to the top of the hill.

See those tiny specks amidst the crops? Yeah, that's us

Tobacco flowers - the pretty side of smoking

Being the shortest and thus the lightest in the group (thankfully, still the lightest - would be monstrous if I were squat but heavier than everybody else), I was chosen to be the guinea pig to test the wind. If the wind couldn't pick me up, nobody would be soaring through the skies that day. I was strapped up and... and... left waiting in my snail shell for the wind to pick up.

My extra saggy butt acts as a chair once airborne and also as a spare chute

Smile! Sammy the Snail wants to take your photo!

It was not the best of days for flying - the wind was temperamental. Strong and gusty at times, followed by a sudden lull and complete stillness. Now, that is not good!

My instructor getting his parachute ready...

...while I relax in my snail shell

And then all of the sudden, we're ready to launch ourselves off the face of the cliff!

Great! Enough wind to get us going!

I didn't quite know what I was suppose to do... so I kinda did a combination of running while standing, running while sitting, scrambling forward, getting dragged forward... and somehow, I made it into the air!

All carabinas secured? Check!

I'm fllllyyyyiiiiinnnggg!!!

We spent a good 10-minutes soaring above the treetops and enjoying the view from above. Then we started to... descend? And I thought, wait this wasn't right! We were suppose to land back up on the plateau where we started!

Down... down... down... we went... and I landed, very surprised, right on my butt... on a farm.

With cows.

Er, captain? I think we've landed on the wrong planet

I looked around to find my instructor gathering up the parachute while muttering "muy mal, muy mal" (very bad). He unlatched me from my snail shell and chucked it into my arms and with a single word - "Vamos!" - we started walking back uphill. I was seriously dreading having to walk all the way back up onto the plateau when a van came rumbling along and rescued us from the gruesome climb.

After spending 10 minutes trying to get the van out of the ditch (it fell in there while trying to make a 3-point turn and the engine died), we were back up on the plateau. My instructor bundled me up in my seat again, saying "otra vez, otra vez" - one more time? Sure!

And up we went again!

Guiding the parachute using arm power

People watching is a favourite activity - even when up in the sky

Beautiful views all around of the lush green Colombian countryside

Tobacco farms

I thought the guy's control skills were pretty good - he could bring us pretty low to the ground, zooming in on the houses even... which was really, really low....

Wahhh, a close up on the roof tiles?

Then, I realised that we seemed to be nearing the ground at a rather high speed - he was going really near to the water holes and bushes.... gosh, when was he going to pull us back up?

All of the sudden, he exclaimed "otra vez, otra vez" and I thought he was trying to pull a fast one, tricking me into thinking that we were going to crash land again. I replied, "Hahahah, nonononono!"

And he replied, "SI SI SI SI SI SI!!!!"

CRASH! I was dragged through a wall of tall prickly bushes and landed heavily on my butt... again!

Sheepish look after achieving his 2nd crash landing for the day... with his first client of the day!

Okay, how are we going to get out now?!

Clutching my snail shell in front of me and using to bash my way through the tall plants, while hopping through pools of cow dung and slapping insects on my legs, we finally made it out of the bushes and onto the road.

Oh wait... I had to climb through some barbed wire first...

You're not suppose to go paragliding IN there!

Scratches galore from the barbed wire and bushes

And look who I found stranded along the road too!

Hola bebe! You crash landed too?

My instructor said, "Caminamos!" (Let's walk!)

I asked him, "Caminamos hasta....donde?" (We walk until....where?)

He replied... with a shrug of his shoulders!! And so, we started our walk back to nowhere.

Where are those donkeys when we need them now...

We stopped to gape at some chickens... while the villages gaped at us. Dan whipped out his camera to snap a few shots of the chickies, and the lady acceded by sprinkling more cornfeed to attract her whole entourage of hens for the photo shoot!

Calling all models!

Group picture!

My hen-some man

After almost half-an-hour, the van carrying the other American and Belgium tourists finally came rumbling down the road and rescued us from our miserable chicken-watching fate. What a luckless windless day it has been for us!

And that was just me griping. I'll let Dannie tell you about his experience through this spiffy HD video that he put together. I think he at least had a better flight than both my flights put together!


Tracy Su said...

Spiffy video indeedy, I especially lurve the soundtrack! Hahahaha...sorry to hear about your scratches though :(

Also, nice clear shots of your shoes, velly goot! *thumbs up* from your friendly sock doll maker :)

Stephanie said...

omg!, this is so amazing. :)
ouch... sorry about your scratches.

Liming said...

I can see that your husband's fringe has grown! Time for another haircut (please take more pictures)

justjunice said...

Absolutely fantastic!
You couldn't have captured it in better fashion!

me like!

Yi Lin said...

Hey girls! Thanks for the comments.

The scratches were pretty light, so no biggie. What was bad were the horrid insect bites that only itched really bad a few days later! I would have worn trousers if I had known it was going to get rough!

Liming - re the hairy hub: stay tuned for his next post...

iluzdaf said...

Beautiful beautiful! Green with envy.

Yi Lin said...

Thanks Fadz! Dan captured the beauty (and adrenalin factor) of the flight really well in this video, huh! The tour companies offer bungee jumping off a bridge for US$12 too - perhaps that's something people can do with the numerous bridges in Pittburgh! For the same price too!

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