“¿Alguien habla español? Necesito a alguien que hable Español,” Hector, a Guatemalan paragliding pilot asks. He can’t speak English, and wants a passenger who can speak his language to some extent. I raise my hand. “Poco,” explaining I’ve been learning for 8 weeks. That’s enough for Hector, who straps me into a harness and begins the safety procedures. Speaking at a ridiculous pace, I make out ‘3,2,1… slow… fast… practice…”. I get it right and can practice take off as he grabs onto my harness to mimic how the parachute feels when you run against it.
The wind is perfect on our second attempt standing over Lake Atitlan, the second largest lake in Guatemala. Yesterday we were here again, waiting for the southern wind to pick up- or the northern wind to die down. After an hour of waiting, we gave up and went back down to our accommodation. “Manyanas [tomorrow],” the driver of our van said, quietly. He kept his word and picked us up the following morning.
After the four girls take off, and subsequently land, the pilots return to the top of the mountain and we attach ourselves firstly to them, and then to our parachutes. We wait. A piece of plastic attached to a stick in the ground indicates when the wind is ‘perfecto’; and then I don’t get time to think. Hector and I stand our ground as the parachute attempts to pull us backwards, and then as it rotates up above us we run with it. Within 5 steps, I am airborne and walking in the air. Hector tells me to stop. Innecesario. I stop and admire the incredible views of the blue lake below me, the volcanoes standing proud on the horizon and the many houses piled into Panajachel, where I have been staying with the group.
We fly around the lake for 40 minutes or so, talking about football, fish and my travels in broken Spanish, before spiralling down in nauseating fashion (causing Australian Lango to be sick in between his legs – “I hope someone wasn’t underneath me!”) and landing in front of an audience on the beach. We reconvene with the girls and catch a water-taxi to begin our homestay on the other side of the lake. An excellent morning, and money well spent.