So it’s about 11.30am, I’m sitting at Cuchi Corral, a lookout point high up over the valley about 9km west of La Cumbre. For the next two and half hours I drink mate and sit enjoying the sunshine waiting for a thin length of nylon attached on top of a stick to change direction so that it blows away from the edge of the ledge. Around about 2pm the material begins to flutter in all directions and then, finally, the winds change direction and start to blow into the hillside. And why, you ask, am I aimlessly waiting for the winds to change? Because now, I can go paragliding.
Fifteen minutes later I am strapped into my harness seat, my instructor Fecho is strapped into his and attached to me and behind us, spread out on the ground, is a huge orange and white parachute attached to us via hundreds (it seems) of brightly coloured ropes. Suddenly a guy in front is pulling my harness and we are running down the slope, the wind catches under the chute and pulls us up, higher and higher until we are soaring over the valley far above the heads of those below. “¿Vale la peina?” (Is it worth it?) says Fecho behind me. “Si, si, si!” I reply grinning like an idiot. “Vale la Peina!”
Flying was amazing, really indescribly, wonderfully, breath-takingly amazing. There is enough wind to keep you circling over the valley, twisting and turning above the trees, indefinitely. Once you are airbourne nothing else matters. I forgot that I hadn’t eaten breakfast, that I sort of needed the toilet, that I have another overnight bus journey tonight, everything but the sensation of gliding through the air. I was so preoccupied I even forgot to be annoyed that George Bush is still president, that is the magic of flying! I don’t think I’ve fully come back down to earth yet.