I visited Baños, Ecuador with my sister in December 2016. Located in the northern foothills of the Tungurahua volcano, Baños is known as the “Gateway to the Amazon.” It’s an adventurers dream with a variety of activities to choose from bungee jumping, to canyoning, to white water rafting, to bridge jumping, to bike riding up to more than 60 waterfalls.
I decided to jump on the Baños bandwagon and give paragliding a try. The images that came up in my google search made it look so easy and peaceful. But when I got on the hill that was to serve as our launch pad, I had a pretty major freakout. The people who went before me hit some wind patterns that took them too high and they had to do a crazy downward spiral to lose altitude. Watching them get smaller and smaller as they soared among the volcanic mountains with an expansive valley below made me dizzy. I kept picturing myself floating away and shaking with fear up into the sky.
The pilot I’d be riding with made it pretty clear that he does not like negative energy and would not take anyone who was frightened. I did my best to stifle my nerves but literally started crying out of fear when it was my turn to take flight. Here’s a pic of me, with the pilot, giving my best shot at a smile before riding:
Luckily the take off was fast. A few steps forward and the powerful parachute swept us away. Before I knew it I was sailing up into the sky.
The view from the sky was incredible. I could see the silhouette of volcanoes and mountains against the late afternoon sky. We gently floated over the valleys below and the feeling of weightlessness was incredible. The winds were pretty strong but it actually did feel really peaceful once I was up there. I guess I was gripping onto the ropes pretty tightly because the pilot instructed me to relax and put my arms out to the sides like a bird. It was weird to feel suspended in the air with nothing to hold onto.
After about 10 minutes the wind started getting stronger so I decided we should head back. The descent was a little scary because we kept swinging above the hill from once side to the other. Upon landing I could feel the force of the parachute trying to keep me off the ground so I made the mistake of grabbing onto the groundsman whose job it was to deflate the parachute. The pilot yelled at me to let go, which caused me to fall in a pile on the floor. Whoops! Luckily he was still able to (mostly) deflate the parachute and the landing was considered safe.
Overall, I’m so glad that I decided not to back out and reminded me that I love adventure! Here are some of my favorite pictures – Thanks to my sister for capturing: