Chasing the hang gliding fun…

If you followed us through our Alaska adventure, you know that Jorge didn’t get a chance to hang glide on our journey. Although we visited numerous flying sites, the wind and the weather never cooperated with us. As we visited flying spots in Colombia, we felt a sense of deja vu…the sites in Bucaramanga and Canyon de Chicamocha, Barichara, and Armenia…all were either overbuilding or underperforming for the day and we worried we would be fouled once again. The sites are spectacular, and we will certainly revisit on our return trip with more time and more patience for perfect conditions.

You can see from the pictures that the launch areas and flying sites are incredible. When we arrived to the steep drive up to Canyon de Chicamocha, we were welcomed by three pilots who frequently offer tandem paragliding flights from this remarkable and rugged place. The dirt road to the top was an adventure in itself and when the local water delivery truck met us on the road, our 4-wheel drive and extra low gear paid off! That’s right – he was delivering water to the large tanks held on the roof of each house…no utility departments in this neck of the woods.

Once we reached the top, we were stunned to find a huge AstroTurf launch area – a perfect setting for a paragliding. If you ever get a chance to visit and want to take a tandem flight, you will certainly want to connect with Chicamocha Paragliding on Facebook…these guys were really nice and have great passion for the sport and this special site!

The Bucaramanga Parapente group was also very welcoming. The site has a renowned teaching facility and people from all over the world come here to learn to fly from the experts. The flying is good for learning all year. The day we visited, we watched a couple from Switzerland take a couple of their first flights with an instructor flying right over them. The landing area is close by and the retrieval was quick.

There is a nice pilots’ lounge area and we were happy to have our sticker placed on the reader board for everyone to see! We will certainly to try fly here on our way back home next year.

As we made a choice about where to go next, we considered the likelihood of quick flight in Roldanillo, the site of this year’s Colombian Open Competition. Roldanillo is known for its world class competitions and many of the sport’s top pilots spend the winter teaching here.

We were met by three wonderful friends – Pollo (Jheison Piñea), Dani, and Sebastian. We arrived too late to fly the first day, but spent time getting to know Pollo and working on a hose assembly for our propane tank. Jorge spent over two hours working with the owner of a local ferretería (hardware store) making a hose that would allow us to fill our tank from another, as there is no simple gas station propane filling option here…we always need our HomeDepot!

We headed up to the launch first thing the next morning and it was delightful to see Jorge setting up for the first flight of the trip! He was excited to fly in a place where he has watched others fly from afar. The locals were eager to help with the set-up and check out our truck and gear. Within no time both Jorge and Pollo were in the air.

I have always been the driver for Jorge’s flights and have no trouble navigating narrow dirt roads, steep terrain or unfamiliar territory, but this was my first drive in South America. Fortunately, Dani and Sebastian road with me and the retrieval was smooth. After about an hour of flying, both pilots landed in a small sugar cane field near a house filled with kids. Everyone came out to greet us with looks of curiosity and uncertainty. I am sure that large flying objects coming to land next to the house were something they had never seen before! Pollo was especially patient with the children as they asked questions, helped break down equipment and experienced ‘Jolly Ranchers’ for the first time. Watching the smile on Jorge’s face after flying Roldanillo was priceless.

This week’s theme – Always find joy in the happiness of others.

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