“Don’t just fly, soar.” Dumbo
Paragliding in Ecuador was at the top of my must-do list when we visited. I’m a big fan of The Amazing Race and had seen the contestants doing it a few years back and couldn’t get it out of my head. It looked like the perfect marriage of thrill-seeking and serenity.
This adventure also brought about some unexpected travel woes and larger lessons about human nature and that sometimes you just need to trust. More on that later…
Our one-week itinerary started in Quito, then we flew to Manta to stay on the beach, and we ended our adventure by taking a bus to Otavalo. Paragliding fell in the middle of the week while on the Pacific Coast. Our home there was at a B&B situated where the river and ocean meet in the fishing village of San Jacinto. I told our hosts beforehand that I wanted to go paragliding and they made the arrangements for me to go paragliding in Cruita. I couldn’t wait to go!
The Ride of a Lifetime
Our hosts also arranged a taxi to drive us twenty minutes away to a hilltop in nearby Crucita where I would para-glide. After our driver drops us off we find Raul, the gentleman that will be piloting the flight. The hills overlooking the ocean below are the perfect location for this activity; the views are spectacular and the winds are perfect for paragliding.
The first step is to get strapped in. I wore pants because I knew I would be wearing a harness and didn’t want to risk any painful strap burns. I was also given a helmet and felt completely safe. Safely strapped in, Raul stepped in behind me, pulled the wing up, and off we went!
Oh my gosh, what a rush! The weightlessness, the quiet whoosh of the wind as you soar, and the STUNNING views of the blue waters below made for one of my favorite experiences, ever. It was one of the most peaceful feelings I’ve ever experienced. I was hooked!
We flew for about 15-20 minutes and my only complaint was that Raul talked to me for most of that time. He was very sweet and was just asking general questions, but I wanted to really experience the calm, the quiet of the flight. In my head I was screaming “please, be quiet!” but I just quickly answered his questions and smiled as I took in my birds-eye view.
Raul went to land and the wind picked us up again and we circled around a couple of times. I was thrilled that I got more time in the air! The second attempt to land was successful and the only thing I had to do was brace myself enough that I landed on my feet. Easy!
I had so much fun and would have gone up a second and third time. My husband and daughter were waiting for me and I encouraged them to try it but they were all, “you couldn’t pay me to do that.” Their loss! And this was a bargain as far as thrill-seeking adventures go. I think I only paid about $35! After watching a few more rides, our stomachs were grumbling so we decided to leave.
How Do We Get Out Of Here?
Now, our host told us that Raul would make sure we got back to the B&B. But Raul was making money and wasn’t going to leave as long as he had customers. I didn’t blame him but I wasn’t sure what Plan B was. The take-off point is high up on a cliff and the walk to town involved walking down a long, steep hill. We also learned that there aren’t any taxis in the town of Crucita. So we were basically stuck.
Now, we are not the most spontaneous travelers. When things don’t go as planned, my husband and daughter both get pretty anxious. Their anxiety is especially bad if they don’t feel like they have any control in a situation. And this was that type of situation. We were in a foreign country, on top of a hill, our home for the night was 15 kilometers away, and we weren’t able to get any information on how to get out of the situation.
Every time a car came up the hill, we watched expectantly hoping it was a driver that could take us to San Jacinto, or at least to the bus station in town. But as each car parked and emptied we were left wondering how we were going to get back. Getting hotter, hungrier, and more grumpy with each passing minute.
The Kindness of Strangers
But Raul hadn’t forgotten us and asked a couple that he took flying after me if they could drive us to the bus station. This lovely couple, or angels as I saw them at that moment, agreed. We learned they had moved to Ecuador from Venezuela and they told us about the dire situation there. We were so grateful to them for their generosity.
This sweet, sweet couple drove us through Crucita looking for a bus station. They could have easily just dropped as at the bottom of the hill, but they went above and beyond and drove us to the town closest to San Jacinto and dropped us off next to a taxi stand. Before we left we offered them some money for their time, which they refused and responded they were happy to help us. It was such a wonderful display of kindness and really reinforced how an uncomfortable situation can lead to a moment of discovery that we now look back on with gratitude.
Honestly, I didn’t think anything about getting into the car with two strangers. (And this wouldn’t be the last time we did this while in Ecuador.) I believe in the inherent goodness of people. I’m not naive, and I try and exercise a reasonable amount of precaution around personal safety. It’s just not my nature to assume the worst of everyone.
I loved, loved paragliding so much that I’m hoping to do it again on an upcoming trip to Naples, Italy. I’m beside myself with excitement but the fam is still saying hell no. Paragliding in Ecuador was a once in a lifetime adventure and one I won’t soon forget.
This experience reinforced my belief that sometimes you just have to trust. Trust that people want to help each other. Trust that you will fly and not fall. You may even soar.
Paragliding is available throughout Ecuador and specific sites can found here.
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