Paragliding was never high on my to-do list. I always thought it involved running off a steep hill with a large man behind me, who would inevitably topple over me when I didn’t run fast enough, leaving my body and ego bruised. It didn’t seem worth it for a 5-minute adrenaline rush.
So when friends visiting from the United States arranged a day trip to Sopó – a small town northeast of Bogotá – to try paragliding, I wasn’t sure I’d do it. But I went along, planning to cheer them on.
The trip to Sopó is easy. Take the TransMilenio to the Portal del Norte and grab a connecting bus to Sopó (about 40 minutes). Then take a taxi to Parapente Paraíso. It’s a popular destination, so the cab drivers know where to go.
We arrived late in the day, around 3 p.m. The drive up the hill to the lodge is steep, and my friends and I got out at one point to push the cab uphill. The lodge, which doubles as a restaurant, was packed with people sipping hot tea and waiting for their turn to paraglide. With wood floors and benches,huge picturesque windows and a fireplace in the center, the building is reminiscent of a ski lodge.
The view was breathtaking. From the top, you can see the dam that covers the old submerged colonial village of Guatavita and the white-walled buildings of the reconstructed Guatavita nearby. Mountains, rivers and small towns are spread out beneath you. Paragliding was starting to sound more appealing.
Visitors can also watch the takeoffs and landings from inside the lodge. The process didn’t seem nearly as brutal as I had expected. The takeoffs looked effortless, with just a few running steps before launching into the sky. The landings looked soft, too, with the pilots standing on foot and the passengers scooting to a comfortable stop in front of them. I decided to give it a shot.
My name was called and I hustled over to my assigned parachute. I was strapped in and we were in the air before I realized what was happening. I was ready to hear the wind whipping against my ears, but it was quiet, almost eerily peaceful as my pilot steered us over mountains and dipped us a couple of times just for thrills. About 15 minutes later, we landed softly back where we had started.
I arrived back just as my husband was taking off. After soaring for a few minutes, he started descending far further into the valley than my friends and I had gone. One of the workers came over and told us that the conditions weren’t safe for them to land back where they started, so he would be landing at an alternate site and taking a truck back up to the lodge.
He still enjoyed the ride. And fortunately, the lodge had chocolate with cheese for us to drink while we warmed our feet by the fire and waited for his return.
Paragliding costs $100,000 pesos per person, with discounts for larger groups. The company also has a paintball course.