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Paragliding Women Take to the Air
by Martina

Paragliding Women Take to the Air

By Martina

Paragliding Baja
Paragliding Baja

Leaving the beautiful Bajamar community I was stopped at the front gate. A woman carrying a huge backpack on her slender shoulders was waiting for a ride. I hollered out the window, “Which way are you going?”

She pointed north, “La Salina.”

“Great, I’m going that way, get in.”

And just like that this story jumped into my car. The story will take us off a cliff to soar into the sky, flying over the sparkling Pacific. The story will tell us about the great birds’ flight into the thermals as trusted companions. The story will call us over the hills into Baja’s wine country. We will land and come full circle in a very fun way. When a story finds its Teller, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Her name was Nydia. I assumed she was backpacking and could already sense a story coming.

I commented, “So, that is a huge backpack. Where are you going?” Nydia smiled, “Oh, no, this is my paraglider.” Now the story was really compelling and begged to be written.

I exclaimed, “What? Really? A woman paraglider, this is great.” Nydia laughed out loud and we sped on to La Salina where her car was parked. Arrangements were made to visit her little breakfast casita in the Guadalupe Valley wine country. The story kept writing more good stuff, now there was a place to eat. But wait, the story doesn’t end there.

Paragliding Baja
Paragliding Baja

A week later Nydia was waiting at Grillos de AlXimia breakfast casita. A cute name meaning 'little cricket' of AlXimia. We picked seats outside in the sun next to the dormant vines. Her old dog lay in the sunshine. Nydia began her tale. It was love which started the whole thing. She had met her soon to be husband, Alvaro, and seeing him take off into the sky under a bright colored sail, she was captivated by the freedom and grace. But it took her three years to finally sign up with an instructor. “I took it really slow. This is an extreme sport and not easy for a woman.” She went on to share that in Baja there are two women, she and her friend Ursula from Tijuana, and only 29 women paragliders in all of Mexico. Paragliding is more popular in Europe and Nydia knows an 80-year-old woman who still flies.

Pilots come down from Torrey Pines and San Diego to find the best places from which to take off. One area is the hills above La Salina. She laughs and tells a story on herself when taking off from there. She was flying and the conditions shifted. She had to land in the hills between the toll road and the free road. The walk back to her car took an hour and a half. Nydia says how important it is, especially for a woman, to always be aware of the safest places to land near a house or a road in order to get help more easily. It means being present and alert to all conditions.

Nydia shared, “Flying is like a meditation. It is a beautiful experience. It is so quiet and oh the freedom you feel. It is a connection with nature and I connect with the wind and the birds. The birds our are best friends. They show us how to use the wind and the thermals. When we see the birds in a thermal, we join them. In this circling pattern I sometimes fly just off the wingtip of the vulture or hawk. We always watch their flight because with their guidance we can go with them to the next thermal.”

Paragliding Baja
Paragliding Baja

Nydia shared that there are several kinds of pilots. There are pilots who love the competition, others like to fly long distance and brag about how many kilometers they have flown. While others want only to disconnect with the worldly obligation. This experience of flying free only to enjoy the experience is what she loves. Nydia added, “These are my moments with me.” But she admits that she would like to take a long flight one day and is practicing in order to have the strength to sustain this experience. She said that pilots in Columbia can stay up for 5 hours because the conditions are so good. From her experience Nydia explains, “Here in Baja we go out and it is perfect, but 45 minutes later the wind conditions change. We have to be all the time looking for a place to land. We don’t want to walk two or three hours back to a ride. It is much better to be safe to avoid an accident."

Accidents do happen. Alvaro had a serious accident that resulted in a broken back. Nadia herself has had two accidents, one resulted in an open fracture of her wrist. “We know that we are exposing ourselves to the possibilities, because it is dangerous. I know it isn’t easy to understand for the people who don’t fly. They will think it is more dangerous because we fly so high, but actually the landings and takeoffs are more dangerous. When you are really high, it is the safest, because if the wind shifts, we have parachutes that will take us gently to the ground.” She went on to say, “It is excessive confidence that causes most accidents. We really have to listen to our inner voice. If my intuition whispers quietly not to fly. I don’t fly.” Nydia says the key to maintaining fitness is to practice all the time. “I fly two or three times a week and then come back to work.” She checks the Windy app for wind conditions, then drives from the Guadalupe Valley to La Salina. She has to hike to the mountain top, to fly one hour. She lands, packs up the glider and walks to find a ride to take her to her car. Then back to work she goes. Now that is what is called true love of the sport. Yet to Naydia it is a gift of freedom to start a demanding day.

Alximia Baja
Alximia Baja

Nydia closes up her little breakfast nook and we head on to AlXimia winery to meet her husband, Alvaro Alvarez. The story dropped the last piece into place. Years ago, I’d met Alvaro when I’d written his story about AlXimia for Baja Bound’s wine country column. AlXimia, pronounced as if the X was a “ks”. The meaning of X for some Mexicans is that something is “excellent.” His creation is a stunning building. It looks more like a landing craft out of Star Trek. The brilliant design by Alvaro has a critical function in wine production and includes super adobe, sunlight, gravity feed and rainwater catchment. As I walked in, Alvaro waves, busy with the stainless-steel fermentation drums. Once inside the complexity of the massive structure astounds the senses. There is a hush as if walking into a cathedral. Nydia pours me a perfectly chilled Sauvignon Blanc. The first sip had a lovely crispness, full body and an exciting finish. Chef Javier Lugo shared his menu and I selected a small thin-crust pepperoni pizza. One bite into it I realized Javier had transcended the average pepperoni pizza bringing it to an exceptional level.

The story comes to a close and the Teller wants to finish by saying when we follow what calls us, when our hearts yearn to go beyond the comfortable and the norm, we inspire people just by staying true to what we love. Nydia and Alvaro are a true expression of life being taken it to the highest levels. In more than paragliding and wine making they have been willing to jump off a cliff and catch thermals.

Related article:
AlXimia Winery

About Martina

Storytelling is an ancient oral tradition among many of the world’s early inhabitants. Martina, author, freelance writer and journalist, presents her version of how storytelling can vividly portray travel in Baja. Her stories are visual, vibrant and authentic with intriguing hints of Baja magic filtering through her words. She has traveled and lived in both states of Baja California since 1993. Martina offers the reader a truly heartfelt journey. Enjoy! Martina can be reached at: mteomaya(at)gmail.com.
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