Suitcase and World: Come fly with me!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Come fly with me!

So excited when I woke up this morning. Yesterday, Maria had Sue arrange for us to go paragliding. I've not done this since my trip to Turkey and I was very much looking forward to doing it again. Maria had never been and was absolutely terrified....not surprising considering she's afraid of heights. I understand the need to do things outside one's comfort zone and tried to help calm her down.

Then original plan was for us to leave the hotel at 9am. The boys had departed earlier in order to go fishing. I had hoped to go fishing as well but the tug to go paragliding was stronger :-)

At 11am, a guy named Christian showed up at the hotel to tell us that the winds were not blowing in the right direction....basically blowing towards the launch site versus away from the launch site. My heart sank. He said he would call back at 11am and if the winds were blowing in our favor, we would plan for a 12:15pm departure.

So, we had to wait and with that, Maria, Mo and I decided to grab some breakfast. Ernie and Carol happened to be at the same restaurant. They are such a funny twosome - it was nice to have a good laugh or two to perk me up.

After breakfast, we did a bit of *window* shopping as we meandered our way back to the hotel. Along the way we bumped into Christian who gave us the thumb's up. We're on for departure at 12:15pm. Woohoo!!

Maria and I on the way to the lauch site.

On the dot at 12:15pm, we met up with Christian. He had arrived with a flatbed truck, like the one we rode to/from visiting Maximón. Seated on the truck was a scruffy looking blonde headed guy and an older white haired guy. The blonde introduced himself as MAsi and he would be either my or Maria's tandem pilot. The white haired guy introduced himself as Jim....a transplant from Vancouver, BC who was hitching a ride up to the launch point for a solo flight.

The ride to the launch site took about 40 minutes.  The last 20 were completely off road so it was a VERY bumpy ride. Here's what it looked and felt like riding on that bumpy road.


It was the typical hazy afternoon in Panajachel.  Even so, the vista of Lake Atitlán from high above was spectacular.

Sue (left) and Maria (right).

As soon as we arrived at the launch site, MAsi and Christian got ready. Because she was so nervous about the whole thing, Christian spent a few minutes explaining to Maria exactly how tandem paragliding is done - starting with the parachute prep all the way to launch.

MAsi prepping the chute.
I was keen and eager to get off the ground so I kept pestering poor MAsi.

Me: Are you ready yet??
MAsi: No.

Five minutes later.
Me: Are you ready yet??
MAsi: Almost.


Finally, it was time to get harnessed in.

MAsi getting himself harnessed in.
Final prep....getting ready to launch.
Check the chute lines
Pull and run!!  It was a strong wind.  I stumbled twice before I got off the ground.

We're in the air! Yay!

MAsi and I got a bit campy 2000+ feet up in the air. I blame it on the adrenaline running through my body :-)

Shortly after MAsi and I took off, it was Maria's turn to lift off.   Unfortunately, she was so, so petrified that she wanted to go down as soon as her feet left the ground.  Christian basically did nothing more than launch and drift towards the drop point.  Poor thing.  I can only imagine how terrified she must have been.

MAsi and I hung up in the air for about 40 minutes and he took as many opportunities, as the wind drafts would allow, to do spins. Luckily for me, I don't get dizzy or nauseous easy because the winds were strong so the spins were fast and high.  SO much fun.

It was much too soon for me when we landed.  I could have soared and floated forever as could MAsi.  After we touched ground, which by the way, I did not have a graceful landing, we packed up the gear and waited for the truck to arrive.  Maria looked and felt relieved to be on terra firma.  I was still on an adrenaline high.....wishing I could go back up for another flight.

MAsi (left) and Christian (right)
Later that night, Sue told me she found out that MAsi's real name is Marcell Schrittwieser and that he's an Austrian paraglide acrobat champion.  That explains why he did so many spins (I lost count after 6) and why he said he could land on water.....if I wanted to.  I did want lots of spins but graciously declined on the offer to land on water :-)

Damn....if I had found out earlier that he was a paraglide acrobat, I would have asked him to take us for some tumbles and rolls.  Oh well, opportunity lost.  But, here's a video of MAsi in competition action.....see how a real pro does paragliding :-)

If you ever end up in Panajachel and have a hankering to go paragliding, here's Christian's business card.

Contact Christian and he'll set you up.  MAsi was only planning to hang around for the summer so unless you head to Guatemala soon, it's not likely you'll get him as a tandem pilot.  No matter though.  Hovering like a bird over Lake Atitlán is not something you will forget anytime soon!!

Update:  April 17th.
Today, I got a Facebook message from Christian.  Completely unexpected as we had never exchanged contact information.  What a nice surprise though and talk about the power of the internet and social networking - he got to my Facebook account via my blog which he found via Google.  So, I wrote him back....never know, might find myself back in Panajachel one day.....and in need of tandem pilot to fly with :-)