Saturday, May 1, 2010

Inspiration to Fly

This is an article about my experience paragliding that my Mom asked me to write for the Focus on Mexico newsletter.

Inspiration to fly.

By: Lily Barker
“It’s about the moment when nothing else matters, when you’re catching an experience that will turn into a long lasting memory”

Have you ever dreamt that you were flying? That you were soaring over the expanse of the lake, with mountains underneath you and a blue sky above? Well, not only have I dreamt that but I did it. One word: Paragliding.

Activ8 Chapala, a program determined to showing people the real beauty of this world, and of this area. They offer many different experiences, such as Paragliding, 4x4 Adventures, Climbing, Rappelling, Kite surfing, Sailing, among others. My Mom, Kristina Morgan heard about them a couple months ago, and as a gift for my 16th birthday, decided that she’d give me the chance to do paragliding.

It started the night before my birthday, I was sitting on the couch reading a book when my Parents came into the room and asked me if I had ever heard of Activ8. I replied asking if it was the yogurt that is popular around here (activia). Laughing, they shook their heads and explained the entire surprise. It was very exciting.

I got up bright and early the next morning, ready to go. Got in the car with my parents and drove for a good 40 minutes to El Chante, a small town just before Jocotepec. We met up there with the Activ8 group, Peter Brinkeby, Andres Ibarra Gomez and Camillo Ibarra Gomez, they took us all in their 4x4 truck up one of the nearby mountains until we were at the very top. During the 30 minute car ride, we learned that Peter, who was born in Sweden and has many years of experience regarding the outdoor life, was going to be the person I would be riding tandem with during the paragliding. He was also named 2nd best paraglider in the world in 2002. Let’s just say, this reassured my Mom.

Once we arrived to the top of the mountain, we all got out of the truck and marveled at the incredible view below us. We could see almost the entire lake, all of Jocotepec, Ajijic, and many of the smaller towns in between and after. It was a beautiful day, with just enough wind, a wonderful blue sky and minimal clouds. The lake looked less green and more vibrant so far up, giving the area such a majestic feeling. I was then suited up and harnessed to a parachute, and was given the instructions of doing anything and everything Peter told me to do. I stood back to back with Peter, looking down at the view in front of us and waited for him to tell me to start running. Five minutes later, after a very tense silence, he lifted the parachute and I could feel the wind filling it up as I started moving towards the edge of the cliff. Next thing I know, my feet are no longer touching the ground and I am in the air, slowly gaining altitude as the parachute is propelled by the wind.

I could no longer feel my own weight, as I soared through the sky with the wind in my face and the sun at my back. Peter began to teach me how air really works, explaining that we needed to find a Thermal, which is basically hot air and cold air that has mixed together creating a sort of whirl of wind. This is what allows birds to glide long distances without flapping their wings the entire time, and helping them gain altitude. Any time that you see birds above you circling the air, it is not because there is food underneath them that they are looking for, it is because they found a thermal and are trying to fly with it, to rise into the sky.

The entire experience was spectacular. I could see everywhere, and from so up high the mountains were a beautiful green. The lake was many different sparkling shades of blue, and any constructions were just little tiny specks compared to the wondrous beauty of nature around me. Peter taught me how to steer the parachute, using two very simple breaks.

I was in the air for a good 45 minutes. Sometimes just floating in the sky, using the wind to keep us there, rising in a thermal that we had found, gliding over the expanse below us, or even doing aerobatics over the lake. The experience was definitely one that I will remember forever, and it was an amazing way to begin my 16th year of living. It really inspired me to do things that I enjoy to do more, and it opened my eyes and helped me see that this world is so beautiful. Everything that we could possibly need is right here, there’s nothing that could make it more perfect.

Later that week, I emailed Peter and thanked him for the experience, and also asked him about joining Activ8 hopefully after this summer. They shared with me a wonderful motivation to continue working with nature, and showing the rest of the world what an incredible place we live in. I am very glad that my parents were able to give me this life-time opportunity, and I couldn’t thank them or Active8 enough.

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