Today was our last day in Bariloche. We have both really enjoyed our stay here and would happily come back again, rent a villa, do the two day trip to Chile, more walks, fishing, etc.
Being the last day, well morning really, we were keen to make the most of it. We were up very early, 6am, both feeling knackered from the fishing and walking. I feel pretty rough. Holiday “Delhi belly” has set in and I’m suffering with really painful stomach cramps. Stef as usual is fine and went for breakfast while I finished the packing.
This morning I’m amazed at what we’re doing. For a long while I’ve wanted to do a parachute jump but Stef was so anti it I didn’t want it enough to fight my corner. But today we went paragliding.
There were meant to be four other people as well but they backed out. We met up with our paragliding team (Martín, Maximo, Pablo, etc.) at 8am in central Bariloche. They were a bit mad and you could sense that they lived by the thrill of extreme sports.
We drove out of town to where we would land and transferred into a 4x4. I felt so bad by this stage that I nearly backed out but it’s something I wanted to do so I kept on. The 4x4 took us up the mountain along a dirt track barely wide enough for the car. The views were stunning. You could look across all of Bariloche, Lago Gutierrez and see Cerro Catedral and Tronador.
When we got near to the top we had a short ten minute walk to the jump zone. The guys we were with were carrying twenty kilograms of equipment each and set off almost at a run. It was high altitude and for me the walk was a killer (combination of altitude, lack of fitness and severe cramps). By the time I got to the jump site I was wheezing and coughing and generally feeling rough.
It was very windy and we had to walk down the hillside a bit for our jump zone. Then out came the kit. You effectively sit in a type of harness that is attached to a qualified pilot who has a parachute backup. For take-off you have to run until the canopy fills and takes off. In walking boots and on rocky ground this is almost impossible. Stef got off ok but I fell – not due to me this time, the canopy didn’t open fully.
Once up the sensation was fantastic. You’re flying through the air with only a sheet of material preventing you from plummeting. The sensation is incredible and you feel the thermal currents lifting you and steering you around. The flight itself was short and probably lasted about ten minutes. They were the most incredible and, in some ways, scary, minutes of the holiday so far. I continually felt as if I was going to fall.
Before we landed Maximo hit a thermal and span us round 360°, fantastic feeling of no control and loving every second. The views on the way were stunning and I wanted to keep going but our landing site was fast approaching. I could see the cars and the paraglider Stef and Martín had flown in. Then it dawned on me that to land I was going to have to hit the ground running. Running from a standing start was bad enough and I guessed that it would be pretty tricky to hit the ground at a run. Two steps and I was sliding along the floor on my front coming ever closer to a clump of plants – we stopped just in time.
Stef landed in similar spectacular style although he went backwards, not forwards. He also hit the ground at 40km/h and is now nursing a slightly twisted left ankle and a very badly bruised right big toe. Just like Dad with Mum, when I’m feeling yuk Stef does something to ensure he gets the sympathy (by the way my bad gut is just psychological!)
We were met at the landing site by a very friendly dog that was like a tame Rottweiler. He kept playing, jumping up and rolling over, and generally enjoyed the fuss and attention.
We’ve exchanged addresses etc. with the jump team and offers to get in touch if we’re ever visiting respective areas again. Then headed off to Cerro Catedral, Argentina’s largest ski resort. This was fairly small by European standards and it was odd to see a ski resort off season and with no snow. We took the cable car almost all the way up the mountain and the ski lift for the last bit. We had our photo taken by the official photographer who has promised to send it on to Buenos Aires – we’ll see if it ever actually arrives. [It never did] More incredible views from the top, time for a quick coffee and then we had to head off to the airport for our flight to BA.
We’re both absolutely exhausted. I feel physically sick I’m so tired and we’re getting snappy with each other. The car rental has charged us $90 for scratches to the paintwork. Fair we suppose but they’ve been so offhand it makes you want to argue the toss. Neither of us were very comfy on the flight. My seat was slightly on the small side with permanently fixed arm rests. A couple of extra inches would have been good but I managed to get some sleep and felt a bit better by the time we got to BA.
A very friendly lady at tourist info gave us maps and guides to BA and Argentina pin badges. She told Stef he had to give his to his fiancée when he married. When I joined him I got one too and it was only later that we understood what she was saying: an Argentinian is marrying the crown prince of Holland and will become the next queen of the Netherlands.
Our hotel is living luxury. The reception is very ornate with lots of marble, mirrors and statuesque reliefs. Our room is spacious with a chaise longue and we gratefully crashed for a while. A knock on the door yielded complimentary champagne and canapés and we toasted Michael and Sarah who got married today in Sri Lanka.
Showered and changed we hobbled round the corner to a café for a few drinks and a meal. Stef is in quite a lot of pain. We’re both bruised and aching from the paragliding. We had planned to have an early night but our food took one hour to arrive and it was 12.30 before we made it to bed. This was after entertaining the night reception staff by pushing and pulling the door to try and get it open only to find it was locked. We could hear them creased up in fits of laughter inside.
Bed, bliss, goodnight.