First paragliding experience in Flüelen – Switzerland

I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky … – and if you don’t believe probably you shouldn’t sign up from the very beginning for such an adventure. Paragliding – as exciting as it seems, I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s an adventure sport and either you want to make it a once in a lifetime event or practice it on a professional level – it sure requires some guts to do it. Considering that it’s been for ages on my to do list and theoretically I could have done it anytime in the past, I would say that you will just feel when you are really ready to do it. Really ready it’s relative though,  before take off your pilot will ask you: ” are you ready” and of course you will be completely lost and won’t have any idea wether you are ready or not, but about that a bit later on.

As a person who likes to share strong emotions and experiences with someone who is on the same page with me, in a rather unusual setting I met the right person. She’s Kaola, the girl I called a couple of times koala – I’m pretty sure you can understand why, don’t you? – and after a few emails and phone calls with our paragliding professional, Marcel, we were all set up for our first ever paragliding event.

  
The excitement before the flight was as big as during and after. Exchanging a few lines with Marcel the previous day was totally helpful, he is easy to talk to, funny and positive, so I was sure to fly with him, feeling somehow a specific trust level. Kaola was going to fly with Phillip, who is the other half of our paragliding team. The preparation takes around 10 minutes, during this time we joke around and take pictures, put the harness on and check a couple of times if we are well tied to our pilots. 

   
 Marcel explains the easy steps the passenger must follow and from there on we rely on the force of nature, in this case the wind. Lucky us, cause Mr Wind starts to blow gently so when I hear: “Run!”, the good listener I am, I do exactly that. From then on it’s: Wow! In a few seconds we are up in the air, above the trees, the streets,the lake, the people, above the world. You don’t even have time to be scared, you are too busy enjoying the view and experiencing this unique feeling. To be honest, actually you really don’t have any reason to fear. The seat is comfy and the flight smooth, the view absolutely breathtaking and such a relaxing silence that I wish I could float for hours up there. 

   
   
I took the chance of interviewing Marcel up in the air while he was flying me around and found out that besides the hobby of flying, it’s also his full time job, taking aprox 5-6 flights/day. The whole equipment weights aprox 25 kg and during the way more than 10 years experience he has, he just suffered minor injuries, managing to bring  all his passengers to the ground in one piece and fully satisfied.

  
Me: How did you discover your passion for flying?

Marcel: Exactly like you ( laughing ). Took a tandem flight and loved it, so I continued and now it’s my living.

Me: Which was your most memorable flight?

Marcel: I did many great flights in various locations around Switzerland and not only. The first flight for sure it’s memorable, but not necessarily the best one. I did a flight once in Brazil that lasted 12 hours. I covered a few hundred km. That was amazing!

Me: Wow! ( completely overwhelmed) How did you manage with the basic needs for so long? And I assume it must be tiring too…

Marcel: Eating and drinking is not an issue, I can carry the products and eat, drink without any problems up in the air. Toilet can be an issue though… At the end of the day I am tired, yes.

Me: I read online that there’s no age limit for the passengers. Is that so? Did you have any extremes?

Marcel: Just a week ago I flew  with a 5 years old kid and my oldest passenger was 81. 

Me: Could you imagine yourself doing something else for a living? What could determine you to give up flying?

Marcel: I could  never give up flying!  ( very, very firm) I could imagine working something else, of course, and I sometimes think that yes, I do this now but what will happen let’s say when I’m 50 and maybe can’t do it anymore, what’s next? But I definitely wouldn’t want to give up flying!

  

During the discussion I was looking down at the mesmerizing landscape and under me the everyday life was having it’s own rhytm, the cars where going on the streets and it looked like the pieces of a moving puzzle which I could almost touch and rearrange the way I wanted. The wind was blowing us, we took turns, we were gliding and I was even managing the direction at some point, which for sure wouldn’t be a smart idea for more than 2 minutes. The landing is a whole adventure itself. A roller coaster kind of sensation with turns one after the other with a great speed in a spiral down until you nearly reach the ground. After a little more run and that’s what I call landed succesfully!

Advertisements

Hiking spot:France – view: Switzerland 

Geneva, as city is not too bad, it’s location is convenient either you wish to visit Switzerland or France. The local bus in less than 20 minutes takes you to the border and literally you walk out of the country easy as it sounds. No border officer to nag you, no formality – at least not on this lovely Wednesday. However, for a second it feels a bit like the middle of nowhere and slightly confusing but the view is interesting.

 At the cable car station, asking for directions it’s impossible not to notice a bit of the typical French arrogance, which actually makes me smile back cause my mood is too good today to be disturbed by such manners. It seems that Megan and myself are the only brave gals determined to hike up to the top of Mont Salève, which at first sight seems to be just a massive rock.

  
As we follow the trail, trying to find the well hidden signs, we realize that’s it’s not an easy hike – we are both beginners, let’s be clear about that – sweating becomes normal, some complains are hard to avoid, but overall it’s a fantastic work out. Even if the trail most of the time takes you between the trees, in the middle of the woods, at some point you reach some great viewing points and the view gives you the push you need to continue. 

   
 
The path, then some steps, the steep trail – all lead you to an unexpected sight: a village up in the mountains.

   
 
It’s quiet and away from the busy cities, all surrounded by green trees, in a picturesque setting there are several little houses, a church, a cafe and even some locals speaking decent English. I’m in a very positive way surprised! 

  

Leaving the cute village behind, our aim is the top, in order to reach it we continue on other steep paths leading to some other unexpected locations.

  
Buddhist center? Yes, that’s right, I didn’t expect to find that up there, but I enjoy this day full of discoveries. And who wouldn’t enjoy  also this beautiful nature which surrounds us?

   
    
 
I’m just wondering why all those young people we see at the destination had chosen taking the cable car instead hiking up? The satisfaction you have when you “suffered” to reach the top must be incomparable. Your legs are shaking, sweat is trickling down your back under the T-Shirt and your face is all red, but brightens up as you look down and see the perfect picture: the city, the lake, the trees, the roads, the moving cars – and you are all above them, watching in silence as if time stopped for a while.

   
    
    
 
For me time stopped for a while… I lie down, the sun burns my cheeks and I like it, I breath in  the fresh mountain air, I enjoy the French spot and I admire the Swiss view. Voila!