Adventures in Colombia

 

It is interesting in these well-known places how you get to meet people from around the world and the coolest skill here is to be able to speak many foreign languages. Sometimes knowing English might be enough if you travel to Europe, India, Australia or New Zealand, because it is a very global language. But in Latin America, not so much. Here people speak Spanish and only rarely they can speak English, so it is good to be able to communicate with local people. On the other hand, there are many foreigners but not all of them speak English. So here I have practiced my English, French and Spanish and the fact is that people are very curious to know about Romanian. All of them are very surprised to find out that this is a Latin language, spoken in a country surrounded by Slavic and Hungarian speaking countries.

In fact, people in this sport are very open-minded, there are people that travel a lot and see lots of things and that helps them understand differently the world around them. And it is not only about paragliding, it is about what happens when doing this, how you get back home after landing in a very remote place (which can be an adventure even in your home country), how you interact with the other pilots on the take-off or after landing, how people make groups for traveling or different adventures, etc.

About adventures, every day is a new story. The day it really rained a lot since we’ve got here, we decided to rent a motorbike in the afternoon. The weather seemed ok at that hour and we decided to ride up to the take-off and that area, on a paved and steep road. However, the rain started again so we made two stop-overs because we were all wet and we could not see forward. It was a cool adventure, but I wouldn’t ride again if raining.

One of the days I flew to the South but I landed near Bolivar because I couldn’t get back. A guy on a motorbike stopped near me trying to make a conversation but I couldn’t understand what he was talking about so he left. He got back with a cold bottled lemon juice and he understood that he has to use simpler words in order for me to understand Spanish. The retrieval was fast, Don Fernando took me by car, a very nice elder man with whom I talked about Medellin, Cali and Cartagena which he recommended to visit.

On 13th of January was the first day of the Colombian National Championship and I thought that it will last longer till we could take-off because of the 70+ pilots registered in the contest. But in fact it was ok, we waited longer because of the rain, but after that, I made a nice flight with Vladut.

The day before leaving in the trip to the north, I landed on a field and then a guy from the USA landed there also. I waited for him to pack his equipment and we headed to the gate, but it was closed so the only way out was climbing over the gate. So this is what he did and when I tried that, a piece of the metal gate broke, entering in my right foot. Since I don’t really react ok when I see blood, I had to sit down for a minute. Thank you Steve Mcbee for having and using your first aid kit!

So this is how I ended up in ER in Roldanillo, where I got an antitetanus vaccine and some stitches, with the recommendation to use antibiotic for 7 days and no entering the water with the wound (just before leaving to the seaside). My experience in the Roldanillo hospital was pretty good, it didn’t last that long, the doctor was very young and careful and although he couldn’t speak English very well, he used Google translate for easier communication.

Later edit :

Even that Roldanillo is a very well-known place for paragliding and so many pilots come here this time of the year for free flying or contests, the retrieval in case of emergency is very late and there are many things that can get better in this community related to this thing.  Accidents happen and paragliding is not the least dangerous sport ever, so the local authorities should mobilize to do something about this, with the help of local pilots and the ones that come here often for flying because I think it is completely unacceptable that a rescue from the mountain to take 6 hours. There is a lack of information at the take-off and in the city of Roldanillo, there is a lack of interest to solve these kinds of problems that often occur. People are not prepared to help the pilots who suffered an accident and even if they want to help, they don't know the procedure if there is one.

About 3 weeks ago I witnessed a bad situation with a flying mate, which eventually ended up ok-ish, but still... After an early take-off,( because the week before was British open so every day we took off after the competitors) that day I had one of my bumpiest flights, with lots of asymmetric collapses and a cravat, that made me land pretty soon. But I landed OK.  The thing is next second I heard a colleague of mine saying in the radio station that she landed on the mountain and her foot hurts. So I asked her location and tried to help by calling the ambulance. I didn't know the number but I asked people in the village. They called the hospital but no answer, then a taxi came and he called the hospital and they said that if the patient is on the mountain, we should call the firefighters. No-one knew the number so the taxi driver took me to the HQ, where they said that another department is on that accident, the Civil Defence. So the taxi driver took me there and they were like... Ah OK, we will come. I had the location so I took them there in the village and then we hiked up for like 1hour to get to the patient. Meanwhile, her boyfriend was already there with her and also the kids from the village. The retrieval from the mountain took 3h to get her in the village, so a total of 6h since when she called her accident until she got to the hospital. Her foot was broken and she needed surgery. That s bad, but actually not that bad... If there had been a blood loss, the patient would have been dead probably in 6 hours. That is bad. That is bad structure, I did not know the procedure if they had one.. And the people here working in different departments have no clue what to do and who to call. That is bad... Bad news actually because it was not the first accident here. Another friend had a back injury a week before and the ambulance came, took him to the hospital in Roldanillo and they sent him home... And he actually had his back broken and in need for back surgery and he was walking around for a week without knowing that because the hospital sent him home. And after a few other tests and CT, he found out that he should have not left the hospital like that. They should have sent him to a more competent hospital if they were too small or unprepared or unqualified... This is what I was talking about... This is a bad-organized community, the Roldanillo authorities and the flying community also. Before these accidents, I had no idea of who I should call in case of emergency, there is no number written at the take-off or in the city center or elsewhere. You can check over the Internet, but Colombia has a bunch of different numbers because every institution has its own line for emergencies and they do not communicate among them.

This is something I don’t get... paraglider pilots come here for 20 years and this small town earns lots of money from these hundreds of pilots coming here every year in full season. I’m not saying that people won’t come again, but I think that there are a few things that should change around here, for people safety.

on our way by motorbike
on our way by motorbike
con Don Fernando after retrieval
con Don Fernando after retrieval
at the take-off during the Colombian National Championship
at the take-off during the Colombian National Championship
the police at the take-off
the police at the take-off
the Willy
the Willy
a local finca
a local finca

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