Chinchero, Peru... Gliding over the Sacred Valley
Aug 6, 2005
|Woke up the earliest ever since I have arrived into Cusco... For at 7:30am, Suz and I were being picked up for some paragliding in the Sacred Valley. Have been looking forward to it for a while, but Suz wasn't too confident about the agency, as the staff seemed pretty dumbfounded by all of her questions, including, "Do you do paragliding?" So why did you book with them, I asked her? Well, actually, it was one I told her about, as recommended to me by some Israeli friends. Still, the agency simply booked us with a paragliding company, so we hoped that the company itself is ok!!
It was a bit of a slow start, as usual, when having to wait for the car to turn up, and then going around town to pick everyone else up as well. Luckily, there were only eight people, so the round could have taken much longer. We didn't actually meet the others, as there were three cabs driving us, and Suz and I took a little nap on the way to Chinchero.. yes, there again for the third time!
We were greeted by Leo, the boss of "Flying Expeditions", in very good English, and briefly shook hands with the other two pilots. There were eight of us, to be split into three different flights. Leo did ask me and Suz to go first, but Suz needed some breakfast (free fruit buffet available), so Laura, Jenna (UK) and a scared looking girl from New York were strapped in for the first flights. Laura and Jenna gave us their cameras for us to snap their take off (needless to say, I took more than was required), and we had the advantage of having a preview of what was to come. Listened to Leo giving Laura instructions of how to take us, position in the air and how to land... The fright on her face just made the instructions go straight over my head. I was glad to have another go at listening to it!
The take off was a lot lot quicker than I had expected, and the flight (20 mins) was also longer than I had thought. When they land, a car would pick them up and drive them back to the take off site, so we could go next. The hour following, we found a good spot with a natural head cushion to nap and soak up some sun. Have to admit, was talking so much poor tired Suz didn't really get a nap... Just when she was drifting off to sleep, the girls returned, and it was our go!!
This time, I managed to follow the instructions a lot better... When the "chair" - an oversized stuffed backpack protecting the back and butt (for landing, and for sitting during the flight) was put onto my shoulders, then Leo checked that my helmet was nice and secure. When the parachute was strapped onto him, and then connected to me, they waited for a gust of gentle wind, and I was told to walk. A slight problem, instead of going forward, the weight was pulling me back. Not to worry, "run!" Leo commanded me, and I consciously tried to minimise pumping arm movements (as laughed about during "practice") as not to elbow Leo in the face before take off. To be honest, I was a bit worried about falling over whilst running over the bumpy uneven slope, but there wasn't much chance of that, as only three steps later, I was already running in the air, and we were off!! Off!! Wheee!!!
We made a wide curve, following the contour of the mountains, and I hastily rescued my camera - tucked into my chest, to take some photos. The first ones weren't great, as managed to take up the frame with a shot of my wind blown combats... But soon, I got the hang of it, and of course, took lots of photos, and even some videos (unfortunately, not able to upload them onto here).
It was so beautiful flying with a bird's eye view of the landscape below. Looked up at the sun shining onto my bright yellow paraglider, and admired how strong the fishing wires were holding the weight of two people! Noticed how my pilot, Leo were navigating by pulling two cords on either sides, and of course, had to ask if I could have a go. Luckily he didn't hand the controls over to me completely five minutes into the flight (he never asked if I had flown already before), and I basically put my hands behind his. But his arms were longer than mine, and I felt a bit like a puppet making negliable movements... This stopped when he found a thermal, and did some "tricks" there. Went round and round really fast and a little loop-the-loop, though we couldn't go upside down - of course! We spent a lot of time near a cliff, as the wind can't blow through it, hence goes above it, creating a nice little thermal for us to circle in a figures of eight. We even followed Leo's "teacher", an eagle flying below us, for a while!
Suz and her pilot were quite close by before, but about twenty minutes into the flight, they ran out of the thermal and landed. Though feeling a little naseous, I asked Leo if we had to land as well (obviously not wanting to yet), and luckily we stayed airbourne. In fact, an Israeli girl and I had the best flights of the day... I took off at 10:50, and landed at 11:39, hence almost 50 minutes of flight! Most people only get twenty minutes!! We were very very lucky!
Leo pointed at some trees around the corner and said that's where we were landing. We were about 500m in the air, and were in a stream of "perfect wind", and he handed the controls over to me totally... wicked!! But only for a few minutes, then we descended slowly. He told me which field he was aiming for (luckily not a wet muddy one), and then was told to put my feet up, and we landed with one tiny little bump on my butt, and my feet fell perfectly onto the ground. It was the perfect perfect landing, and within seconds, I was unconnected, and back to freedom!! Not feeling too wobbly, and "helped" stuff the paraglider back into the bag, and wore my "chair" back onto the road, where Suz and the car were waiting.
My ears felt slightly blocked, and had some trouble unblocking them, as have caught yet another cold (thanks Philip!!). The Israeli girl was feeling quite sick, but Suz was fine... until after the car ride back to the take off site! Poor girl! We had to wait for almost another hour, as there were still two Israeli guys waiting their go. But the wind was already blowing too strong, and at 1:30, the girls went back to Cusco by car, as the boys wait out the wind through lunch. It was a great experience, and we got back to Cusco much much earlier than the expected 5pm, as told by the agency. Great! Even made it back for a spot of lunch to quite my stomache!! Nice!!