Fly Like a Condor…

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For pictures from Paragliding and Mendoza, click here. G´day once again from the road. My last post before Buenos Aires will be about the incredible experience I had this morning. After yesterday´s bus trip, on the way back, we had to think about what we´d like to do today. Jody wasn´t up for returning to the same area again. However, I was very keen on getting to the top of a mountain. I don´t get those chances too often. I was pretty much desperate to find a trekking group. Last night, I wandered the streets asking various tour companies about options. Sadly, there were really no intense hikes to find to my liking. It seemed my best option would be a 2 hour trek to a mountain top, followed by a series of rappels back down, followed by lunch and a couple hours soaking in hot springs. Sounded right to me, and wasnt too costly. HOwever, not knowing our bus plans, I couldn´t commit on the spot. The trip was due back in town between 6 and 8pm, but I didn´t know when we´d leave. Read on.

At the night meeting, I learned that our group would meet at 6, and leave town at 7pm. D´oh, so much for my plans. The guide had a few other options for me, but they all sounded pretty crap. Moutain biking a half day, which covered a mere 10km was definitly not in my cards, given the last outing. However, a small group of my new friends convinced me quickly that I should bo back to an earlier plan…. of …. Paragliding!! Yup, I signed over my life for a chance to fly like the condors. Yee haw!

Now, I´ve done a buch of skydiving in the past, all solo, so I had no real apprehension, but this would definitely be a different trip. This time, I´d be going tandem, and the take-offs and landings are much different. I was stoked, and definitly up for it. We had to leave at 8am, and it was a rocky road to get where we needed to be. There was basically no briefing, but the operators seemed to genuinely love their jobs, and it inspired confidence. Another great bonus: I was allowed to take my camera with me for the ride! Unlike skydiving, you gradually run off a cliff, already under full sail, so there is no terminal velocity to worry about. We just clipped the camera to a carabiner, and I was free to use it all the way down. Being a tandem jump, I wasn´t doing any of the work either.

The whole experience seemed akin to being a Joey in the mother kansgaroo’s pouch. I rode in front of the pilot, sitting quite comfortably in a sling-type seat. On the way down, I snapped away, even during out acrobatics. The pilot estimated we hit about 3g´s. Cool stuff. I should have shot a mini film, but didn´t think of it till too late. My flight time was only about 15 minutes, and I really wish I´d had longer. The pilot said his best time ever was over 5 hours from that spot. The view? Well, let´s just re-iterate there are no bad views in the Andes!!

A lot of time was spent doing nothing, but at least I got to hang out with everyone again, and talk about the experience, and relive it again. Highly recommend it if you want a very relaxing ride through the air like a bird. Bit chilly though! That about does it for me from Mendoza. I´ll sign off, to get some shopping done. See you all pretty soon. Gotta get some more wine and beer for the bus. Oh, and chocolate. Who knew the Argentineans made such good chocolate!

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