I made some phone calls. Got directions on how to get the San Felix (pronounced: saahn-fell-eks) flight park. No one knows where the hell I want to go if I say it American way.
I want to make a test run to the site without my heavy wing.
I walk to the train terminal. Take the train to Terminal Norte. Then find bus terminal eleven and catch that bus to Belmira. Tell the bus driver that I’m looking for parapentes. This guy laughs his ass off and tells me to sit down. So I sit.
It is a total of 2 hours from door to door.
I check out the site. There are a couple restaurants.. Simple. There is a yellow stairway about 100m up the hill to the launch site. There are a lot of parapentes flying. They are all tandems… I walk up to the pilot entrance and ask a couple pilots if they habla English. One girl comes up to me and says she does. She is learning to fly. Through her, I meet one of the pilots and get a site checkout… Kind of. It’s brief and imperfect. No matter, I’ll just watch what everyone else is doing. I stay and watch. I’m jealous.. it is a nice day and I’m not flying….. I will fly tomorrow.
It’s three o’clock. I didn’t eat lunch. I’m really hungry.. Actually, I’m not even hungry anymore, I just feel wrong… I know I have to have something before I leave. I sit down at a table and order the almuerzo…. The lunch of the day. I wait.
20minutes….30 minutes… 40 minutes 50 minutes.. It’s almost dinner.
I am agitated. I get up and tell the waiter I will pay for my beer and leave. I grab a donught at a little stand I had passed up earlier… It’s now an emergency. I don’t want to feel crazy all the way down.
I catch the bus. Then the train. I’m glad I don’t have my wing, it is really crowded on the way home. I walk the mile or so back up the hill.
I’m starving. I grab some pasta at a nice restaurant near the hostel. And a couple shots of the local firewater for good measure.
Something evil has invaded my system.. I feel lightheaded and feverish. My stomach is gurgling ominously. I crawl in bed, completely exhausted.
I woke up after sleeping a full twelve hours. I’m a little shaky still and my guts are rolling unpleasantly, but my fever is gone and only feel a little dizzy.. I chug a liter of water with two Emergen-C’s in it.
I’ll be fine.
I eat a quick breakfast, gather my belongings and head out the door. 9:15.
I. Will. Fly. Today.
I take the train half way there but opt to take a taxi for ease of space. The bus was so busy yesterday. The taxi driver doesn’t seem to know quite where to go. He is asking a lot of questions. I ask him if he’s ok, he says sure. We head up in approximately the right direction. I know he’s lied to me because he keeps stopping and asking everyone if he’s going the right direction. We take a bunch of wrong turns and finally after passing the place the first time, we turn around and get there. It is now 12:15.
I’m starving, but look up and see people flying.
I’ll eat later. I hike up to launch and shake hands with a couple of the guys I met yesterday. I quickly lay out my wing and launch.. It’s pretty cross, but I get off perfectly. The air is smooth and cool. I head over to what I think is the house thermal. I climb slowly up the hill to cloud base. I can see all of Medellin. There are thermals everywhere and I’m super high. I fly like this for two and a half hours.
I am tired… And starting to feel really out of sorts. I try for a top landing but missed it by twenty feet or so. I can’t get up again quickly, so opt for the low landing. I saw a bunch of people land there yesterday..
I try to land for about half an hour. It is very lifty. I am a little light on my wing today.. The landing is a little funny. I have to kick some pinecones to get in.
As I come over the top of the pine trees, I notice something I have never seen before. LZ is angled very steeply downhill and then levels out. Instead of clearing the pine trees and just doing a couple more turns, I have a momentary lapse of sanity… and stick my hands way down in the brakes. Bad move… super bad move.
I stalled the wing.
At about thirty feet over the ground. My brain says.. PLF. Feet and knees together.
I burn in. Feet were under me, I twist my right foot out and jam my knee first into my chest then my face. Then my ass hits. Thank god for airbags… No big.
I’m out of wind. My ankle hurts. A lot. And I’m having trouble taking a breath. A bunch of people run over. I can tell they are asking if I’m ok, but I can’t answer them. In any language. Finally, I whisper.. “No habla”
A tall white guy comes over. He’s an ER doc. He took a tandem flight today. We sit for a while until I can get it together enough to say what’s wrong. It hurts to talk.
“yeah. I think I’m ok.”
He wants me to stand up to see if anything else is super wrong.
I stand up.
Same. Chest and ankle.
I sit around for a while and wait until I hurt a little less. A very attractive and sweet Colombian gal comes over and gives me some water.
ER doc looks like he is leaving. He speaks pretty good Spanish. I get him to talk one of the local boys into carrying my bags down for me. My ankle is starting to swell and I think I’ve cracked a rib.
It’s a long hike down without bags… The young man beats me down quickly and has already hailed me a cab. I pay him twice what he asks and give him a hug.. Gently. The ER doc jumps in with me.. His name is Eric. He is from Oakland. He travels three or four months a year. He is semi-retired and only forty years old. He has been here three days and never wants to fly again.
He helps me get back to my hostel (which I can’t remember the name of) and schleps my heavy bags up to my second floor room.
He wishes me well and heads out to the Zona-Rosa.
I need a beer.