In addition to its delicious culinary offerings, Lima, Perú is known for surfing and paragliding off the cliffs in Miraflores (a trendy and touristic neighborhood). Paragliding is very close to actually flying like a bird. Did you know paragliding was invented by a Frenchman, Jean-Claude Bétemps, in June of 1978? I recently learned this while reading on a commercial flight.
I had only flown in a paraglider one other time, and enjoyed it, so I had to try it again. Miraflores has a nice “Parapuerto” (paragliding port) where one can always find people flying and giving rides, especially in the early afternoons when the wind from the coast seems to pick up, hitting the buildings and creating “dynamic forces” that enable and favor operations. They take passengers up for approximately 10 minutes on a first come, first serve basis for about $75 (and includes a video of the entire flight). However, I was lucky enough to be able to do this on my birthday (since my flight back home was delayed by a day thanks to Tropical Storm Imelda) at a discounted price of about $57.
Source: Google Maps
Source: Google Earth
Paragliding is fairly simple. The ingredients are walking/running feet to gain speed during takeoff, a fabric (often nylon) wing which you unsheathe from its pack, and wind to fill your canopy with air and create lift. One can direct the glider by pulling on handles, one on either side above the shoulders. You want to turn left, you pull left… you want to turn right, you pull right… The more you pull, the steeper the rate of turn and the more likely you are of losing altitude as well. The canopy is also equipped with brakes. Pulling down on brake toggles causes the trailing edge to flare down, increasing the angle of attack and slowing the speed.
So, when we were ready to depart, my instructor inflated the canopy behind us. We checked it to ensure the lines were all connected and attached correctly and to see what the wind was doing. We then walked slightly back and then forward to gain momentum. No more than four fast steps forward (yes, with heels and all) and we were in the air…
It was fun to cruise up and down the city and coast and it was as comfortable as sitting on a couch. We stayed above the height of the cliffs during most of the flight and we got as high as the tallest building in the area, the JW Marriott hotel by the Larcomar shopping mall. After peaking my curiosity, my research revealed that an average paraglider gets a lift-to-draft ratio of 7:1, meaning, in still air, the forward horizontal speed through the air is 20 mph and the vertical descent speed is 3 mph. It is honestly so relaxing one could even have a quick conversation with the pedestrians nearby.
Above, with the paragliding port behind us
Much like we do with aircraft, we did a non-standard (right) traffic pattern and came in for a controlled and smooth landing. I’m convinced I should learn how to do this on my own… It should not take more than a month at the right location (coastal areas or mountainous areas are best) and with the right weather (wind and/or thermal) conditions.
If the wind is too calm (which it does happen often…), you can try flying in a powered Paratrike; however, they operate from an aerodrome south of Lima. It is unclear to me which one they operate out of but I would not be surprised if it is from San Bartolo.
Flying is freedom! Fly safe and fly often!