When I was in Queenstown (the adventure capital of the world) I decided to split my available time between going river surfing and tandem paragliding. This post will hopefully give you an idea what the experience of paragliding was like. We were quite fortunate on the day as the weather was really quite pleasant, it was sunny and relatively clear with mild winds. I’m not an expert but they seemed like quite perfect conditions to go and run off a cliff. And why not? We got picked up in the company mini bus to drive up the windy mountain roads to get to Coronet Peak which would be our launch point. The driver of the mini bus actually turned out to be English and funnily enough it turned out the only Kiwi who worked at the company was the boss himself. This did seem quite bizarre but as time went on it became quite commonplace across New Zealand. Anyway, once we reached our destination we were paired up with our pilots and immediately got our gear on and were put in our places.
Before I knew it and with little explanation I was being told to start running. So I did as I was told and after about 15 meters of running we were lifting off the ground. Although I didn’t know much about it, the whole process was very gentle and I quickly relaxed into my seat and got comfortable. So then we started to try to catch the thermals to try and gain more height and prolong our ride as much as possible. It was such a nice day and the scenery was stunning. We were surrounded by mountains with Queenstown and the dazzling Lake Wakatipu in the background. We then went through the process of trying to find a decent thermal to bring us up to a nice height and along the way my pilot was filling me in on how it all worked.
Now, when I pictured paragliding in my mind I imagined it would be a gentle ride where you just take time to enjoy your surroundings and the feeling of floating through the air. I was wrong. Suddenly and without warning we dipped out of the thermals path and then my pilot indulged in rocking from side to side. After he had enough of this particular trick he thought it would be fun to spin us around as fast as he could. Well, he was right it was kind of fun. I was surprised that I could really feel the G forces that you are exposed to when involved in such activities. We continued this on much of the descent. But amazingly at one point I was allowed to take the controls and have a go at myself. I probably wasn’t any good but it was certainly fun to be in control of our movements. Before long we were getting close to the ground and had to stop with the aerobatic antics before gently touching back down on Earth. It may have started off as a gentle, sight seeing trip, but it turned into a thrilling ride and I loved every minute of it. Below is a video to try and help you picture what the experience was like. Unfortunately the video seems to have been corrupted so it stops just after 2 minutes but I feel it still paints a pretty good picture.