Paragliding in Paradise - Colombia
You probably think that Colombia is a dangerous place to visit. It used to be, and there are still areas I wouldn't recommend going to, but, in the past few years, under the leadership of President Uribe, Colombia has been changing. With its diversity of flora and fauna and huge areas of protected parkland, Colombia is becoming an ecotourist destination. Yes, there is a considerable police and military presence right now. But they have become a friendly and welcome force for the protection of citizens and visitors.
When Richi and Annie Mantilla moved their Vuelo Libre paragliding business back to Colombia and started offering tours to the unspoilt paragliding paradise of Santander, I had to go and check it out.
What I found exceeded my most optimistic expectations. Bucaramanga is a thriving modern city of over one million people located on the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes. Because of its unique location, the climate varies greatly within the bounds of the city. You can choose to live in the warm humid areas at lower altitudes, or enjoy the refreshing coolness of the hilltops.
With an exceptionally low cost of living, excellent low cost health and dental care, modern shopping centers, universities and the friendliest people on the planet, Bucaramanga is home away from home. Not once did we feel unsafe or threatened. I could live here and be very happy.
The glass roof of this modern shopping center retracts in fine weather to allow fresh air and sunshine into the central courtyard.
From the comfortable dining area overlooking the pool at the Hotel Club Campestre, where we stayed in the city, you can watch the paragliders on the ridge at Ruitoque as you eat your fresh empanadas with aji. Paragliding is a mainstream sport in this area. Everyone knows what parapente is about.
The images on these pages were taken by Rob Cook, Morgan Venable, Russell Agnew, Richi and Annie Mantilla, and myself. Together, we took 2,600 pictures in 11 days. What a beautiful place! Richi and Annie took great care of us, both off the ground and back on it. We all had a great time and can recommend this trip to anyone who loves to fly. Richi is also a USHGA instructor. If you want to learn to paraglide and get the most experience in the shortest time, sign up for lessons in Bucaramanga.