Paragliding in an alpine paradise
Butterflies filled my stomach and my body tingled with nerves.
Erm, was it wise to put my life in the hands of a scruffy-haired, stubble-faced dude in flash sunglasses?
I stood on a steep grassy slope kitted out in a harness and helmet, poised to tandem paraglide almost 1,000 metres above Interlaken in Switzerland.
“When the wind is right we’ll start running – are you ready?”
I’m not used to running with a Swiss man strapped to my back but, yeah, I guess.
One step, two steps, three, four, five, six – and, then, a split-second rush of excitement, fear, adrenaline and doubt before it actually happened.
Woohoo, it worked – I didn’t mess it up. I’m an adventure legend.
My feet left the ground, forfeiting the solid, secure feeling of planet earth in favour of the glorious and surreal world of floating around in open air.
We rose higher and higher, circling upwards into the sun-drenched blue skies like a soaring bird.
And, as the take-off high dissipated, I was consumed by the calm and serenity of the experience.
This is totally, utterly fun. And so relaxing. I think I could do this forever.
My legs dangled freely from the seat, nothing between them and the 800-metre drop to the valley floor.
Gusts of wind blew in my face and my eyes darted from left to right, feasting on the views of the lakes, mountains and rivers that make Interlaken a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts.
It felt like we were flying.
I was living out that childhood dream of being able to take to the skies. I was seeing the world from a whole new perspective.
And it wasn’t scary at all.
Bungy jumping and sky diving, which I’d done in New Zealand several years before, gave me a dizzying high – an intense cocktail of terror, delirium and relief to be alive.
But paragliding was simply tranquil.
Life is unfair! I sit at a bloody desk in an office for 40 hours every week, but this guy gets paid to paraglide.
My floating fun was however on a strict schedule and, just as I was feeling truly relaxed, my bubble was burst.
“We are going to go down in a minute, are you up for some spins?”
Hell yes, let’s do it.
And then the gentle floating became a blur of spinning and speeding and swirling.
Views whirled, air rushed into my face and the ground appeared to rise at a remarkable pace.
I whooped with joy.
But I didn’t have long to savour the moment, as the instructor quickly lined up for a landing in the field below and blurted out some instructions in his Swiss accent.
Uh-oh, I didn’t hear a word of that. What did he say again? Oh crap, here comes land…
My feet touched down easily, despite my clueless technique.
It didn’t matter what I did after all. My instructor was in complete control, expertly guiding us to the ground safely like there was nothing to it.
Phew, I didn’t break my legs or, more importantly, make a fool of myself in front of the watching crowds.
We high-fived in true adventure activity style and, well, that was my paragliding experience over.
170 Swiss francs blown in 20 minutes. That’s 510 francs an hour.
But, hey, who’s counting?
It’s not everyday you get to fly like a bird in an alpine paradise.