Paragliding in Argentina – A Photo Essay

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

The last few days of 2009 were at hand, and after almost two weeks lazing around in the beautiful Mendoza, Argentina, I needed something to get the blood pumping.  I first tried a zip-lining excursion with a friend and we both agreed that it failed to give the adequate rush we were looking for.  Thus, we set our sights higher (and peer-pressured Pete into joining us).

We set our sights 1,300 meters higher. Never before had the three of us tried paragliding, and it seemed like a perfect way to send 2009 out with a bang.

And hopefully not a splat!

Pete and I rode in the back of a shallow pick-up truck to the top of the mountain.  We held on for dear life as we were constantly jostled on the bumpy road, the driver whipped around every tight corner.  At that point, we figured that if we could survive the drive up the mountain, we could survive jumping off of it.

The sight of this bag gave us some comfort.  That initial comfort didn’t last long however, as we saw one guy chicken out at the last minute, and also remarkably watched one single jumper fall from the sky.  As we were waiting for our turn, we heard a course of people shouting “Mira, mira!” (Look, look!)  We ran out from under the shade in time to see one lone jumper falling straight down, her emergency shute deployed but obviously not working.  Others tried to contact her on the radio to no avail. When she disappeared behind a mountain, the guides turned to us, shoulders shrugging, and said: “Okay.  Your turn now!”

 

Getting the equipment ready for a jump.

 

Pete deep in thought… “This isn’t so bad, right?”

 

Relaxed and ready to go! Pete was the first to be airborne.  It happened so suddenly – the tandem jumper would just begin to yell “Corre, corre!” (Run, run!) when the wind was perfect. There is no weirder feeling then to be running towards the edge of a mountain, knowing that soon there would be no ground beneath your feet.

 

And, he’s off!! My heart stopped for a brief moment when Pete ran off the side and dipped below the mountain and out of my sight.  Soon, the thermals lifted him up and within view.  I could breath again.

 

And this is me, seconds later. Note that my “extremely-thrilled” face and my “so-scared-I-think-I-pooped-my-pants” face is pretty much the same, only I can tell the difference.  I won’t tell you which one this is.

 

More of Pete in the air.  The beautiful city of Mendoza is in the background.

 

 

I was on the ground first, waiting for Pete as he circled above, preparing for his landing.

 

On the ground and heading back to our hostel, this was our best attempt at our “we’re-superheroes-that-just-ran-off-a-damn-mountain” face.  It obviously needs some work.

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39 Comments

  1. Oh you and your daring feats! I bet the view was spectacular and the adrenaline rush was on but it is something that is not for the faint of heart. Glad you had a good experience but I think I’ll watch from the ground.

    1. It was pretty awesome! And when all you can hear is the wind, with that view…it’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before!

    1. We did have a blast! But that was my first, and last time doing it. I think I found my “extreme-adventure-limit”. We’ll leave the more extreme stuff to you guys… 🙂

    1. Pete is scared of heights too, so I was actually kind of surprised when he decided to join us. I think he figured he couldn’t be outdone by two girls – ha!

    1. This would be a quick cure for that! Pete is afraid of heights too, and after this, he decided he wanted to try sky diving (he has yet to do that though!)

  2. Wow we all look so incredible handsome on that last picture….hopefully we can practise soon together on our Superheroes face after new adventures in los Paises Bajos.

    1. Haha, yes, we are SUPER superheroes in this pick! That’s why this picture made it onto a pack of playing cards, right? Can’t wait to see you amiguita! 🙂

  3. Oh my goodness, haha, I could NEVER do this! Sounds exhilarating though. What happened to the girl with the emergency parachute that didn’t work???

    1. We never found out what happened. We checked the news the next day to see if there were any stories on it and there was nothing.

  4. Holy crap! What happened to that lady, did they find her??? You guys are brave. If I saw someone crash right before my own takeoff I might have taken it for a sign. You earned those superhero faces.

    1. We don’t know what happened to that lady. The last we saw of her she was drifting straight down and when she went behind a mountain that was the last we saw of her. The thermals were crazy that day and on liftoff you pretty much just shot straight up. She had to of been a good 500 meters above us on top of the mountain then something went wrong… She wasn’t flying tandem, and her worst yet, no radio so nobody could contact her. I hope she was ok.

    1. Mendoza was a great spot to do it. But so is La Cumbre – I think they’ve hosted some world championships there before (although, I think the mountain in Mendoza was higher).

    1. It was fun! Not sure either of us will do it again, but I’m glad we tried it. Pilot rating? Yeah, that would never happen here – ha! Good luck!

  5. This looks like sooo much fun… Not sure I could do it, though. But what a great thing to try.

  6. YEAH!!! i knew i was in for a treat when i read your line, “I first tried a zip-lining excursion with a friend and we both agreed that it failed to give the adequate rush we were looking for.” wtf?! seriously? you’re a badass! 😀 this is amazing- LOVE how you did it as a play by play. takes me right there (well, as much as is possible!). do you remember the company name or how much it cost?

    1. I’m trying to convince Dalene to jump out of the plane next. Neither of us have skydived, but I’m game if she is… She keeps saying no (for now, bwah-haha).

      In regards to cost it was around $50 and you are up from 25-35 minutes. I was up for 35 min, Dalene for 25 minutes (I got lucky with better thermals). In regards to the company, let us get back to you (we’ll send you an email). We have it somewhere 😉

  7. Very cool! I would love to do this. Did you feel a bit of safety doing tandem?

    Have you seen the guys that have the flying suits? They jump off of some pretty high mountains and just dive off the face – then their “wing suit” fills up with air and they are flying.

    1. Hey Don, I felt safe the whole time being tandem. I have seen the flying suits, they are INSANE!! I don’t know if I would tandem for this though 😉

      1. I don’t think you CAN tandem for the flying suits. I’ve only seen one-person jumps, and it’s not a thing tourism guides do, as far as I know. I think it’s a small collection of thrill seekers who are connected to this extreme sport.

        1. Yeah, I’ve only seen solo jumps as well. I was just jokin’ around with the tandem stuff for that craziness. I have seen some pretty cool videos of it, but unfortunately I’ve also seen some go very wrong. It’s a risky extreme sport. Thanks for the comments Don!

  8. It’s crazy how you’re just sitting there, isn’t it? We went paragliding in Colombia and had a great time. Probably wouldn’t have done it, though, if we had seen what you saw first. You guys are brave souls!

    1. Good question. And one I chose not to think about at the time. And looking back, I can’t believe we did it either, actually. I try not to think about it too much now, or I’d never sleep at night… 🙂

    1. Thanks Jeannie! It was exhilarating, for sure. Although that was my first, and last, time. I’m not kidding to say that I had to check my pants when I got back on the ground. 🙂

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