Last time I was in New Zealand, I remember watching people paragliding off cliffs near Queenstown with the rest of my family. Turning to my mother, Samantha, I commented “I could never do that” and she agreed. Well, four years later I’m back in the same place only this time I’m the one running off the cliff with a parachute (and guide) attached to me!
(For those of you unfamiliar with paragliding, Wikipedia defines it as “the recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders: lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched glider aircraft with no rigid primary structure. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing comprising a large number of interconnected baffled cells”)
What made me want to do it? Well, NZ is known as one of the adventure capitals of the world- bungee jumping, skydiving, rafting, zorbing- you name it, it can probably be done here! While traveling by bus, almost everybody around me had done some form of adrenaline-inducing activity. And nobody regretted doing it. On our way into Queenstown, we stopped for people to go bungee jumping (I watched) and I thought I’d like to challenge myself to do something that scares me. Not bungee (too scary!) but maybe something else.
A quick Google search led me to paragliding- it involves heights (which I’m not fond of), but no falling (hopefully). So, I signed up, paid, and committed myself.
The morning of, the bus picked us up in Queenstown and drove us out to Coronet Peak. And we start driving up, and up, and up, to a point high enough up the mountain to go gliding. My instructor introduces himself, straps us both in and gives me these instructions: “When I say go, start running!”. So, we start running and, as we near the edge of the cliff, the parachute lifts us up into the air and we’re flying!
It was awesome! Drifting peacefully over the valley, beautiful scenery below and around us. We drifted gradually down before landing in a field where the van met us. Would I do it again? Definitely! Not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. Who knows what else I’ll try while I’m here? NZ is full of opportunities to try new activities and to realize that they’re not as scary as you once thought. We’ll see!