I’m sitting in the back of a minivan, riding up a mountain. The radio is playing: ‘Knock Knock Knockin’ On Heavens Door’ by Guns ‘N Roses. I smile, because knockin’ on heavens door is exactly what I’m about to do. I’m going to jump of this 1.034m high mountain and see Andalucia from the sky, paragliding.
Andalucia is famous for it’s white towns. These publos blancos are little villages with whitewashed houses located in a beautiful patchwork landscape of mountains, terracotta fields and green olive trees. I wanted to see all of this from a different perspective: from high above in the sky!
Which is why I came to Algodonales, one of the white towns located in the beautiful Parque Natural de la Sierra de Grazalema. Zero Gravity, the paragliding school here said it was the perfect place to fly over the countryside like and with the local vultures. I didn’t need more to book a tandem flight.
I met our instructors Javier and Pablo at the El Cortijo restaurant in Algodonales. They were still having some tapas. We joined them and listened how they preached the Andalucian way of life:
‘Our life is outside. Houses are for sleeping. We fly, we eat tapas, we listen to guitar players in the streets. We enjoy life.’
Sounded like something I was going to give a try! And so we drove up the mountain for my very first flight. I was excited and my legs were slightly trembling. Have I ever mentioned that I’m afraid of heights? Yes so jumping of a mountain is quite the adrenaline shot for me.
But Pablo looked worried and said: ‘The wind is off. The condition is not good to jump.’
And so we waited and waited.
After half an hour Pablo called me: ‘We go!’
Pablo gave me instructions on what to do: ‘When I say RUN, you run. Yes? You just keep running. Even in the air you keep running until I say STOP. Ok?’
I nodded. Got it.
‘Ok. So RUUUUUUUN!’
I started running like hell.
We reached the end of the running strip when Pablo suddenly yelled: ‘STOOOOOP !!!’
I stopped running. Dust flew up as I was sliding down and we came to a stop just before we hit the bushes below. My heart was racing.
Pablo cursed: ‘Puta de madre! What just happened? The wind is off.’
He explained that we had to wait until the wind would turn and try again.
But the wind settled and it became even harder to jump.
Pablo called it a day: ‘We can’t fly today.’
I gave him the sad disappointed puppy look. Especially because my wife who came along had just jumped and was soaring through the air.
Pablo: ‘Ok ok. You wanna try one more time?’
Me: ‘Yes! Yes I do.’
We headed to a different take-off point from which we needed to run like crazy to make the jump.
Pablo told me: ‘You need to run as hard as you have ever ran. Ok?’
I nodded. We had to make it.
I ran. Almost falling over my own feet. Almost falling over Pablo’s feet behind me. I ran like an idiot.
And suddenly it happened.
My feet no longer touched the ground.
And Pablo yelled: ‘Yeeeeeees!!! Ow my god. Thank you for running!’
I laughed and sat back.
I relaxed and took it all in. The beautifull landscape 600 meter below was awe-inspiring. I saw the mountains, little villages and the patched countryside.
Pablo asked: ‘Do you want to try a spiral?’
Emmmm. I get car sick and motion sick pretty fast but for some reason I nodded.
And the glider started sizling through the air.
The world under my feet was spinning and I was yelling: ‘Wooohooooow!’
It was ten times better than any rollercoaster.
A short 7 minute flight later we landed amidst the fields where grazing sheeps looked meekly at us.
Pablo and I laughed and high-fived.
And the first thought that popped throught my mind was: I need to fly again.
But first we had a drink and enjoyed life the Andalucian way.
Do It Yourself
Tandem flight can be booked at Zerogravity at €90 p.p.
A normal flight takes about 20 minutes but you’ll need to plan half a day (pick-up, preparations etc) around it.
You can park for free at El Cortijo restaurant in Algodonales.