Fly the Friendly Skies

October 2, 2009

Captain Smith, at your service. Daily departures over the Sacred Valley outside of Cusco, Peru. Training? None whatsoever. Experience? I watched a video once. Thrills? You betcha.

Paragliding is arguably the closest a human being can get to the feeling of flying (unless you're the Birdman). I convinced a couple of similarly crazy Dutch friends, Ruben and Tessie, to join me on a tandem flight near Cusco. Our (fortunately) experienced guide, José, picked us up in the morning and we drove to the take-off site. Upon arriving, we were treated to stupendous views of the valley below. We would soon jump off a cliff to get a closer look.

Tessie and Ruben went first. I got some great shots of them flying over the valley. What I didn't capture was their bloodcurdling screams of terror. Just kidding.

Our takeoff site was next to a pre-Incan ruin site. It was pretty neat to think that we were soaring over the remains of an ancient civilization. They probably would have thought that we were Gods.

After watching my friends take off and come back in one piece, I was ready to fly. With butterflies in my stomach, I suited up and prepared to run towards the edge of the steep cliff. What happened next can only be described as a pure adrenaline rush.

The first 10 seconds of the flight was a total blur. Once I recovered my bearings, I realized I was grinning from ear to ear. I did not stop doing so for the entire 20 minutes or so that I was in the air. At times we would be drifting peacefully, only to suddenly catch a thermal and proceed to soar upwards majestically. Every quick turn upended my stomach and brought another amazing perspective into view.

By the time we landed, I felt like I had just been on the most thrilling roller coaster of my life. My head was spinning, my insides were upended, but I was smiling. Ruben, Tessie, and I got back into the car with José and motored back to the city. Mission accomplished!


  1. Beautiful, man. I like the full documentation of the experience...including video and aerial shots. Where next?


  2. Thanks! I just left Arequipa and am at Lake Titicaca now. Then on to Bolivia!