Queenstown: the para-glide

Queenstown, located at a lake in between the Alps on the South Island, is the major centre of adventure activity. Jetboating, bungy jumping, skydiving, … Probably fun, but very expensive and not necessary to our opinion. So we decided to have a relaxing day, take the gondola up and enjoy the view over Queenstown and lake Wakatipu or perhaps go for a short paddle on the lake. While waiting for the gondola, we saw many paragliders coming down from the mountain, their colorful chutes contrasting with the blue sky. Peacefully gliding down or spiraling in acrobatic manouvres. Then, having a picnic at the top of the hill, I decided, why not? If anything, with such great weather, this is the day (pre-birthday also). And suddenly you sign yourself up, get your body weight written on your hand and another stamp saying ‘flown’ (to get the gondola up again). The pilot was this kind of cool and sporty guy. You know the type: well-trained, muscular, sun-tanned, sunglasses. Another chairlift up and a walk further uphill, so I thought, I have to run to catch up with that guy. But already at the first turn, he started saying that it was nice to be out of the sun for a while (Hot?), and in the second he wanted to have a break and catch a breath (Ehh, tired?). On top of the hill, there was a grass mat. The pilot laid out the parachute and I got a kind of backpack on with a build-in sitting compartment. And many straps, over your chest, hips, in between legs (‘Sorry’). Unprepared as I was, I was wearing a dress. And leggings, that was the good thing. He got himself in a similar backpack-chair and started to attach me to himself, himself to the chute, me to the chute. “Flying and landing is easy, but with the start I need your help”, he said. But when I looked down our 3m long ‘runway’, I saw… not much. Trees, deeper down… Hmm, very much against your own in-bred survival mechanisms to throw yourself in there. I had to walk forward, while he put up the chute and then we should start running. I did as instructed and started walking, but when he said ‘keep walking’ there was already hardly any ground under my feet. When the running part was about to start, we got a heap of wind and suddenly…we were flying! That was a very cool sensation to suddenly fly over the tree tops! And with the view on the blue lake and over the city, it was wonderful! And windy in the air. We flew at about 45 km/h, the pilot said. We went left and right, slowly coming down until we flew over the gondola station. “Hey, there is your boyfriend! Wave!” I could hardly find Patrik (hidden behind his video camera :-)), but the pilot could. That was practical (I thought), or amusing (hè thought: “You don’t even recognize him!”). At the very end, we made a spiral down, circling almost horizontally (at least, it felt like that ;-)) above the city and making me loose all sense of what was left and right. The landing was very smooth. Back on solid ground again. The 10 min flight felt like 10 seconds, unfortunately. And so it happened that I made my first paraglide! And so it happened that the rest of the day I walked around with my body weight written on my hand. Visible for the waiter who, when we ordered a beer, cheerfully asked: “And? How was the bungy?”

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