Kendra's Chronicles: A Meaford teacher shares her travel stories
Have you had that dream where one minute you’re walking or running and then the next you’re flying? Well, that’s exactly how the take off from paragliding works.
Jamie, one of other the teachers on our trip, a married couple from Colorado, and I hiked fifteen minutes to a clearing on the side of a mountain that overlooked the town of Mürren. Once up there, we picked the order we wanted to paraglide in, signed a waiver and chose which tandem pilot we wanted. The married couple was older, so they were asked to go first in case they needed assistance taking off. I quickly jumped in the third spot, and Jamie went fourth.
“Have you always done this?” I asked Marcel as he fitted me in my harness.
“No, I quit my ‘real’ job five years ago and have been doing this ever since.”
“What did you do before?”
“I worked for Switzerland’s secret service.”
I laughed, “No, seriously, what did you do?”
“...Well, I feel much safer now knowing that I chose you as my tandem pilot,” I said as he finished suiting me up.
The set-up for paragliding didn’t take long, and before I knew it, Marcel was counting us down. We began to walk down the hill, but once the parachute caught the wind and was off the ground, we started to run. Once the wind picked up the parachute, the running turned to flying - just like in those flying dreams.
“What do I do with my hands?” I asked Marcel when we were in the air.
“You don’t have to do anything,” he replied.
“Done!” I smiled, sticking my arms out as if I were a bird. For at least half of my paragliding adventure I didn’t hang onto anything; my hands were either outstretched or resting in my lap.
For days leading up to us paragliding, our group watched countless people paraglide past our hotel patio as we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So, when Jamie and I left that morning, the other teachers stood camera-ready for us to fly past them. As soon as I had a visual of our hotel, I shouted their names and began waving like a wild woman.
The area we paraglided in is known as ‘The Wall’, and for being one of the deepest U-valleys in the alpine world. It’s famous for its exceptional natural beauty, endless waterfalls, and breathtaking Jungfrau mountain range.
After we soared along ‘The Wall’ and were kept up by the thermals, we did our first corkscrew turn along the cliff face.
“Do you want to fly?” Marcel asked.
“Put your hands in the loops above you and just hold them steady. When I say left, pull a little with your left arm, and when I say right, pull a little with your right.”
“OK!” I said a little too enthusiastically. Given that I am in no way, shape or form a pilot, I should not have been so carefree or eager about taking our lives into my hands, but I was! And it was a success!
After Marcel had taken the reins back and we had sailed along the ridge for several minutes, he asked, “Do you want to try the roller coaster?”
“I don’t know what you mean by that, but yes!”
He turned his GoPro camera to video mode and handed it to me before he shouted, “Hold on!”
Marcel pulled hard with his left arm and in an instant we were completely horizontal. Then, he pulled hard on his right arm, and we whipped around to the other side. He continued to do this but pulled a little harder and faster each time, so it was as if we were a pendulum swinging in the sky. After we had done this five or six times, he adjusted the position of his arms so that we flew in a continuous downward spiral towards where we were to land – completing our roller coaster extravaganza.
“Oh...my...God, that was so cool!” I said, gleaming from cheek to cheek.
While we gracefully glided our way back to Earth, everything about the paragliding experience came to fruition. Objects that seemed only miniscule minutes before grew larger, which put into perspective how high we had just been! The sun was out (the weather had been quite temperamental), the wind was warm on my face (regardless of how high or how windy it had been), the makeshift seat I was in was surprisingly comfortable (harness included), I had just flown through the Swiss Alps and seen some of the most beautiful terrain I had ever seen in my life - AND it was only 10 a.m.!
“So how does the landing work, is it like skydiving where I need to keep my legs straight so yours touch the ground first?”
“No, it’s similar to the takeoff. One minute we’ll be flying and the next we’ll be standing. We just continue to float our way down to the ground.”
“This is incredible!”
As Marcel piloted us, I continued to hold onto the GoPro and film our landing. It was seamless and smooth, just as Marcel had said, but what we didn’t factor in was the heavy amount of dew that would still be clinging to the grass in the landing field. So, when we touched down, Marcel lost his footing and grabbed hold of me to help steady himself. Despite us not actually falling, we immediately burst into laughter – and that is exactly when the GoPro stopped recording.
What an unforgettable experience.
For more amazing photos, pick up a copy of the September 18 print edition of The Meaford Independent!