Colombia

A bit of Colombia, Argentina and Philosophy: The curtain falls

Bogota has its upsides - View from Montserrate

### Prologue – Caution: Learnings inside

It is incredible, how fast one adapts to luxury. My first thought of the Buenos Aires airport Business lounge was: That’s no match for Zurich. My better half called me a snob, so better live up to it as long as I’m literally in that cloud: Now after tasting a non disclosable amount of argentinian wines and a sneeky priority boarding past the long Economy queue, a round of five star menus and a few episodes of the big bang theory later I am comfortably lying in this huge airplane bed/seat and turning my phone clock forward by 5 hours.

Here I am. Non-murdered, non-robbed, (so far) disease free after 5 months of travel, 6 local SIM cards, an almost uncountable number of new friends, a visibly aged paraglider with over hundred south american flights in the most diverse areas, half a terabyte of pictures and videos plus some of the strongest memories of my life impossible to capture on camera. I simply could not have planned this trip any better nor would I ever have adapted differently to the major changing influences – one being the encounter of my little sunshine and the other to be covered further on.

A valued coworker once told me, she always plans her first days and her last days stays ahead while leaving room for flexibility in between. For me, the last days stay does not need to be planned because till then you’ll have met friends, that then will be there for you as you will always be for them.

A few years back, when I was interviewed for my current position, one question was challenging my team player flair since as a paragliding pilot one might be a lone wolf because there’s just one seat in that game. This cliché stems from a passive point of view and could not be further from the truth.

You have the potential to be the biggest influence in your life.

me (if this existed before, please inform me)

If I learned one thing down here, it’s that whatever you do, there can always be a team. It’s your choice to create it, to strengthen it and to better each members position in a way unimaginable to each one on his own.

Another thing I learned is how much fun it is to challenge yourself. Setting goals that seem out of your reach does not have to be done by your boss or your teacher. I am completely and utterly amazed, in what playful ways your brain opens itself up, shattering mental barriers, deciphering, learning and not just saving but truly understanding the essence of some of the most complex phenomenons this world has to offer once the motivation to understand comes all from within. And then… there is no stopping, anymore.

As cheesy that line sounded back at the university “a student’s brain is not a barrel to fill but a fire to enlighten” as true it is.

I’m… obviously just a very slow learner ;-)

A third and last lesson I’d like to share here is: There are two kinds of people at the spectrum’s ends: The ones that will always search for and find ways to get your money and the ones that would not take it even if you begged them to. From a utilitarian perspective, the only difference is the time horizon of a persons mind. Actively refusing money is an act of non-monetary investment into trust and friendship. Two things, that live longer and are more valuable than any money. And ironically, two things, money can never buy. Only the absence of it.

Of course, at this point you might have enough of coffee cup motivationals or strongly link my writing to the lower air pressure on 10'700m so without further adue, let’s go back to where we left off: My beloved mosquito bunker in the jungle outside Iquitos, Perú.

Learning no. 4: Always find someone in life who can balance yourself.

Two become three: Road to Bucaramanga and the advent of a second German

Silke and I finally see our last jungle camp day and already a cute couple – but of course not as cute as us – is ready to replace us as mosquito blood donors.

Sunshine and sunset in Taganga

One last night in Iquitos and an early but long speedboat ride later – after a silkenian flirtatious avoidance of gringo luggage control – we are in Leticia. The three country border town that gives us a glimpse of the relative wealth, Colombia seems to have: The streets are clean, the cars are shiny, the people dress well and the police actually helps. Talking about low expectations: We stay at the Jangada hostel in a room that actually has an outside window and no mosquitoes. We almost dance of happiness… until we see the restaurant prices. It seems to be time to accustom to a higher cost of living. Which albeit is ok for these last days on the continent. From Leticia – (considering the airport) surprised that the plane is not made of wood – we fly via Bogota into Bucaramanga and encounter a pilots wet dream: Not only is the hostel on top of a hill and our room overlooking the city’s stunning night lights but the take off is literally 20m away from the hostel. A few hours later, Benjamin arrives. Fresh from Switzerland. Joining for (what was supposed to be) a 2.5 week relax vacation. Of course there is a lot to make fun of. He has three times my luggage’s volume and weight with him. But what first seemed to be the typically overly prepared swiss tourist, Silke and I soon transform to be our valuable third musketeer on our awesome adventure.

Bucaramanga Bucaramanga Flying

Silke has her second tandem flight and seems to enjoy my and Ben’s radio chats while she steers her way (mostly downwards, hehe) along the luxury villa filled green ridge over Bucaramanga. After two days of flying in this nice but lazy spot where one simply never has to walk thanks to toplanding and shuttle service – unless of course you actually miss every single thermal service point in one go… bah – , we take the night bus along the Venezuelan border north to Santa Marta and the cute Caribbean seaside town Taganga. This despite of Ben’s numerous safety warnings. Or maybe because of them, just to tease with him.

Driving on top One of countless rides to the take offs. The legs hanging in front of the car belong to Ben.

It’s quite interesting that I went from initially the same attitude to my today’s relaxedness within my four months here.

Taganga and my first underwater diving kiss

Since my german entourage already had their divers license I could splash around in the 0 visibility pool on my own and did my Openwater Padi in three days to finally link my nickname to something. The subsequent dives with Ben and Silke were truly pure fun with lots of colors, fishes, relaxed mereman-ing and velocity in finishing my air supply. But my girlfriend always has an octopus (secondary regulator) for me since she herself does not seem to need any air. My 200 bar go down while she uses 20 (probably only for the buoyancy device). Well, big guy, big lungs. Tough luck for me, I guess.

Diving Silke and me posing

Taganga Idylic Taganga

A hard goodbye from Silke and a hard landing for Ben

Unfortunately after the beautiful days at the beach and under the sea, our ways part while Silke takes a flight to Curaçao and Ben and me to Cali for flying in the world known XC mekka region around Roldanillo and Ansermanuevo.

Take off Take Off near Roldanillo

Ben dreaming of thermals… wait what?

Nano, our local host and Ben

Child Folders Child labor but those kids earn insanely well. Paragliding in Ansermanuevo is a business for all ages

Dogs Nanos dogs are humansize

Dogs … and so adorable

Another beautiful XC day ahead

Take off Roldanillo Take Off

Paragliding Flying

What follows is a time span of hundreds of whatsapp heart symbols with my girlfriend, beautiful XC flights with Nano, Pablo, Godines and many more over kilometers and kilometers with landings in the most remote spots, some more voluntary than others. The latter notion includes one incident that completely changes our plans:

Ben’s accident and the hospital marathon

First off: My unlucky friend is now back in Switzerland after two successful surgeries on his way to bettering. But let’s start at the beginning: After a nice flight I look at my mobile and I read a message of Ben, that he had an accident. Now Colombia has a relatively good infrastructure but when something has to go really fast, suddenly it seems the whole world is blocking you. I manage to get a friendly motorbiker to take me along and we meet Ben arriving down from the hill, carried by the locals. I will never forget my first thought: Why don’t they have planks of his size? Colombians are so short, I still wonder how they fit poor 190cm Ben into that Ambulance. The same problem persists in all hospital beds in the subsequent marathon from Bolivar’s village hospital to the renown Cali Valle del Lili.

Bens hospital room view was not too bad

A mere ten days of international teamwork, insurance and hospital fighting and one hell of a strong Benjamin later I can finally wave goodbye to him while the nice Rega ladies take him on the Lufthansa flight back to Switzerland. Relieved but exhausted I head for my second last stop:

Bogota, alone again (and the ugly city does not help)

How different does it feel: Now that my girlfriend and my friend have left the continent, everything seems surreal. I have a hard time adapting to it, again. It’s time to free the head by a nice, dynamic flight in Sopó near Bogota. Only via website I contact Miguel and Fabio and everything works smoothly.

Bogota has its upsides – View from Montserrate

After getting my glider a bit wet I was happy that I stayed in a spacious dorm with openminded co-guests.

Flying around Sopó near Bogota Bogota Gold museum

Okay, I have to interject that I am very tired now and will skip another fair bit of story:

Onwards to my Baradero friends I met in Rioja

After flying to BsAs I get a warm but surprisingly photo-loaded welcome by Augusto and Martin. Together with Apfelmus, Christian and Pablo plus his lovely family, they make me feel so much at home I forget that it’s my last three days on the continent. I could not wish for better people to accompany my last days here and as an additional plus they introduce me to cutline flying which in a ‘flat as a mirror’ region is the only way to ascend to a height from where the termals take over the job of keeping me in the air.

Swiss Little Swiss Colony in Baradero, Argentina. So cool to see so many (swiss) german texts and pictures here.

Pull Up Paragliding Getting pulled up. What a weird feeling

A shame that it’s already over and of course, a priority queue back home is already waiting to be filled up, again.

Transatlantic flights are better enjoyed in BC ;-)

SIM cards All your SIM cards are belong to us

However, the plans for next and over next years are already in the making. So let’s see what the future brings. This continent definitely hasn’t seen me for the last time. Ok, el fin, the end, das Ende. I hope you guys enjoyed reading all that and bear with me whenever in a conversation my eyes start to glow and I begin with “…that reminds me of that one time in South America…” ;-)

All the best Patrick