I had just paid for my paragliding jump and stood nervously in the Turkish sunshine as the words of the holiday rep came back to haunt me. 'Don't book a paraglide jump, there's already been a fatality and the seasons only a week old.' I push those thoughts to the back of my mind assuring myself that I've wanted to do this for ages and I'm not going to chicken out now. I look high into the sky and watch as another paraglider comes slowly into focus floating gently through the small cloud above the mountain tops. 'Look at him' I think to myself trying to muster up courage. 'I bet he's having the time of his life up there'. I glance over at my wife who assured me that she's glad it's me that's doing the jump and not her and asks to be reminded where my life insurance policy is kept. This brings a chuckle from the local booking agent who points to an approaching jeep. 'Here comes your ride up the mountain now' he says. Then he turns to my wife and says 'You'd better take a picture of him now while he's still in one piece' I laugh with him and kiss my wife goodbye. 'Have a beer waiting for me when I land' I say to her jokingly as I'm led off to meet the approaching jeep.
If you're looking for some of the most exquisite and pristine territory in the United States, you'll find it in Oregon. The state offers a tremendous number of places to view its scenery. From the coast to the top of Mt. Hood, there are plenty of scenic areas in Oregon to visit. A fantastic way to learn about a state is to drive its roads.
The National Scenic Byways Program's mission is to 'provide resources to the byway community in creating a unique travel experience and enhanced local quality of life through efforts to preserve, protect, interpret, and promote the intrinsic qualities of designated byways'. To become a NSB, the road must offer some sort of unique archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational or scenic quality that would be of interest to travelers along the way. So, of course, it comes as no surprise that Oregon has five National Scenic Byways. Here, I've listed three that showcase Oregon's fabulous mountains.
While kiting his wing one day, Andy, a pilot, heard a distinct but quiet voice saying, Hello. What? asked Andy. Echoing through his risers and brakes, the wing quietly whispered, You must listen closely, and I will help you become One with my fabric and the air you fly in. I will teach you to speak the physical language called Winglish’.
Andy, lost in thought over this unexpected communication, let the wing fall back to the ground. He attempted to talk to the wing by asking questions in his head, but no response. Finally, he gave up and decided to go back to his practice. As soon as the wing was airborne again, he heard, Hello again, Friend. I can only communicate with you through your risers and brakes.
The good news is, it's safer than it's Extreme Sports image would have you think. Of all the so-called Extreme Sports, paragliding has perhaps the widest range of participants. In Japan, you will find old people serenely gliding across dormant volcano slopes. Through the Alps in France, you might spot daring young men pushing the limits of their skills and their paragliders while flying cross-country in challenging conditions.
Have you never flown in a paraglider, either alone or in a tandem wing? Are you hankering to just 'give it a try', but not yet sure whether you actually want to take it up as a sport? If the answer to both questions is 'yes', then this article is for you.
The advertisers of paragliding adventure holidays take advantage of the sport's currently good safety record. You might see lines such as this:
'Bali Adventure Paragliding is safe, secure and is a totally new experience not to be missed.'
Well, the second bit is totally true, the first bit might be glossing over the occasional twisted ankle or bruise from beginners attempting their very first landings. But under ideal tourist-flying conditions, yes, it's pretty safe and secure! And of course, you can't go wrong if you are under a tandem wing with an instructor doing all the flying.
Now of course, every sport has its risks. Also, aviation in general has it's risks. So Paragliding, being both an adventure sport and a form of aviation, also has a degree of risk. When it comes to safety though, the aviation side of paragliding is all-important. All pilots are trained to operate their aircraft safely, by minimizing potential risks. In some cases it's a matter of pure judgement such as during an approach and landing. Or it might mean sticking rigidly to a check list while preparing to leave the ground. The joy of flying, year after year after year, is the reward for doing it right.
Just what is a typical paraglider pilot? The short answer is there are none. The slightly longer answer might be well, a lot of them seem to be guys in their 30s or 40s. Surprised? Isnt paragliding one of those scary, risky, over-the-top activities in vogue with the young and daring? No, it isnt really, although there is some potential for danger as in any form of flying.
So dont expect to go to a paragliding location and find pilots fitting some sort of Extreme Sports stereotype. Being more of an aviation sport, and relatively cheap and easy to get into, paragliding does attract a wide variety of participants. You too could learn to paraglide and amaze your friends!
Europe is where it all started, and it is there that you are more likely to spot some interesting, umm, extremes in the sport. In that corner of the world, childrens camps sometimes include paragliding as an activity! At the other end of the spectrum, there are many older pilots. That is, those well past retirement age! What better way to keep life interesting.
Heck, Ive even seen a video clip of a dog going for a ride, clipped into a special doggy harness alongside the pilot. Wonder how much flying time a German Shepherd needs to log before going solo. Hey, dont laugh, paragliding is almost that easy!