It was the first day of March and questions were ping-ponging around in my brain, standing on the mountain top in San Felix, Colombia. Properly secured to 25 meters of parachute material via spectra lines, now resembling that of a crows nest, as I stand safely on the ground looking to the sky. Moments before Rachelle made an approach but overshot the intended landing zone as I stood admiring her paragliding skills from the ground. The last 90 minutes of our lives were spent together in the sky above Medellin, Colombia, a city once dominated by the powerful drug lord, Pablo Escobar. Pablo’s foot print is strong in the history of the city, originating the Medellin Cartel, at one time responsible for 80% of all cocaine smuggled into the USA. Medellin, the place where Pablo took his last breath on December 2, 1993, along with Colombia as a whole, has been working diligently to disprove the global perception of nearly a quarter century ago, while rebuilding the reputation of this beautiful country.
From launch at 7900 feet the views of Medellin were all encompassing through a translucent haze settling over the city from above. With strong lift and confident piloting, after 10 days flying in Roldanillo, both Rachelle and I found ourselves at 9500 ft now exchanging our objective of going up to descending towards the earth as the site restricted flying above 9000 ft since it was active airspace for much bigger and powerful forms of flight…747 jet wash = throw your reserve! Sending the glider into a spiral the blood flow favored my feet, bleeding altitude and increasing endorphins before softly touching down in my original origin. There goes Rachelle over shooting the landing as I un-hook myself from my personal airplane, stowing electronics, as my mental seat belt sign de-luminates. This is when the questions initiate and only rapidly increase as I look to the sky. “Where is Rachelle? Did she decide to go back up? Maybe she is just out of sight flying?” As my head sits erect rotating while surveying the sky her purple glider is no where to be seen. Not content with waiting on the ground I hook back into my glider, double checking my leg straps, chest strap, reserve handle while spreading my limp glider across the grassy knoll. “Launch,” I proclaim as air fills my glider with life, transforming this limp piece of nylon into a capable aviation method. Once in the air it became utterly clear where Rachelle had gone and it was not up or behind the tall trees…she went down as her purple glider lay out stretched on the hillside still attached to her petite frame. Flying closer she sat slumped over on a steep hill and the only thing I thought to yell was, “Are you okay!? Are you okay!?” She was conscious but lacked an audible response to my somewhat trivial question, as thoughts began to race through my skull bouncing back and forth as to what happened. Without the advantage of communication, perceived answers attempted to prove fact to my personal theory. “Did she sprain or break her ankle? Her knee? Leg?” Finally a response came in the form of a whisper, call it an inside voice, in this outside venue. “No,” a simple word electing a powerful, emotional, focused response. My immediate desire had me on the ground as soon as possible as I assessed landing right next to her. Fortunately my logical thinking overrode my emotional impatience concluding if she crashed here why would my fate be any different? Grabbing the next thermal I elevated away from her with the main landing zone my only conscious thought utilizing all my skills in order to safely but rapidly get to the ground.