Rubén goes flying
January 22, 2010 Leave a comment
By Rob Packer
A few weeks ago that now feel like an eternity, I stayed with my friend Jimena in Bucaramanga. According to the street signs on the main roads into the city, Bucaramanga claims to be many things, such as the “epicentre of fashion” in Colombia, which was news to everyone in the car who thought Medellín was, and a “cosmopolitan and global regional city”. When I arrived in Bucaramanga though, my parents had told me that Bucaramanga was the Colombian capital of parapenting, although a quick Google of the sport brought up parapenting locations in Bucaramanga, Bogotá, Medellín, Villavicencio, in short, pretty much everywhere in the country. Wherever the Colombian centre of parapenting might be, it’s one of the things to do in Bucaramanga so we went up onto the hillside to one of the parapenting stations to take to the skies.
We arrived and I was struck by how quick it was: give you name, ID number, money and weight and you were up in the air within seconds (for super-light Jimena) or minutes (for heavier me). The girl taking my name misheard me and my name for the afternoon became Rubén. I actually enjoyed my new alias so much, especially once it was given a Santanderano spin to Rubencho, that I never told Germán, my parapenting guide, that it’s not really my name.
Parapenting is the kind of activity that you want to say feels really scary. But being attached to a parachute and being guided over the landscape above Bucaramanga felt surprisingly pedestrian. There was part of it that felt like you were sitting in an armchair in the path of a ventilator and watching videos. On the other hand, the view is spectacular.
The question of what Bucaramanga is famous for seems to be something that concerns the town’s government a lot. If it’s not parapenting, it’s definitely not fashion and despite all the bilingual signs on Bucaramanga’s metrobus network, it’s not really a global regional city, what is it? I’d say it’s a relaxed city of spectacular sunsets with incredible people whose hospitality became more and more jaw-dropping with every day that I stayed in there.