Saturday, May 10, 2008


Today I went paragliding. Well, when I say 'I went paragliding', I mean I drove over an hour up a mountain, sat and watched others take off, swirl around in the air currents and then land. My daughter, her boyfriend and best friend went up there for my daughter's birthday present. I was designated driver, caterer and support personnel. I had a ball.

We stopped at a narrow strip of green grass that disappeared over the edge of the mountain. People would lay out long narrow sails, straighten ropes, click themselves into harnesses and onto the sail, fluff the sail to fill it with air and then simply walk off the edge. It was exhilarating, and I was just watching.

The process took some time. There was one tandem flight before our group. They managed to catch a few really good thermal currents and stayed aloft for quite a while. Then we had to wait for the air to be right again. It was changeable all day, sometimes brisk, sometimes flat. My daughter was first off from our group as it's her birthday next week and this was the present from her boyfriend.

I love watching my daughter experience something new. The mix of apprehension, sometimes fright, anticipation and excitement on her face is wonderful. Her eyes were shining and she couldn't stop smiling.

The wind dropped suddenly just as they left the ground and they dropped quickly over the edge, never gaining the height some of the other flights had achieved. I've added a short film of their take-off. They even made walking off the edge of a mountain look natural and peaceful. I don't know how long they managed to stay aloft, perhaps 50 minutes, but most of it was out of view. I wandered over to a separate section of the lookout every now and then just to make sure they were still in the air (I'm a mother, I'm allowed to worry). In the end they couldn't find the right currents to bring them back up the hill and had to land at the bottom.
We drove for 40 minutes down a winding road to collect my daughter and her flight controller and then brought them back up to the top. Even losing sight of them for a time and having no response on the two-way radio for a while, I was still much calmer than I was when my daughter tried rock climbing. I don't know why. Floating around like a bird just looked like a more natural, less violent or intrusive activity that clinging to sheer rock faces.

The verdict from my daughter was that the adrenaline rush is higher with skydiving (her birthday present two years ago) but the length of enjoyment with paragliding is much better.

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