I am one of those people who get very nervous just climbing up a few rungs on a step ladder.
But I can look down from the local Mirador’s and admire the spectacular views without feeling in the slightest bit queasy and don’t have any fear of flying. So when I announced to my husband I was going Paragliding he told me I was quite insane.
After a few failed attempts at getting a suitable time and date I eventually made contact with one of the local paragliding clubs and asked about a tandem ride. As the annual Paragliding competition was due to take place at the end of the month I expected to have to wait. The response to my e-mail was quick and before I knew it I had agreed to meet one of the lads from the club at 5pm, one Saturday tea time.
I parked up near the local bus station in Frontera and jumped into his people carrier. As we drove up the old road I was asked if I suffered from sea sickness. Not really was my reply as we turned off the road onto a very narrow and steep climbing track.
Very quickly we were parked up and I was advised it would be best if I put on the warm coat I’d taken and was also handed a pair of thermal gloves. I have to say, neither were really needed. I was then strapped into a harness, given a hard hat and given a safety briefing and instructions on what to do. The chute was then clipped onto my harness and I was left facing the drop on the take off point, with my pilot stood with his back to me. The chute filled with air and I was taken backwards before we stopped dead. The wind had dropped. Second attempt I ended up sat on my bum on the floor and feeling a little bit nervous.
Thankfully on the third attempt all I heard was run, run, run and we were off. I put my arms through the harness and shuffled back into my seat for the ride. My camera in hand and the Go-pro on a selfie stick recording the journey.
It was a wonderful feeling with the wind rushing past and no other sounds and the views were absolutely fantastic. As we flew over a nearby building everyone waved at us. We soared above the local landscape and looked down on the tracks and roads below. It was very easy to get your bearings and work out where you were flying over. My pilot saw a group of seagulls below us and headed over towards them and we hit our first big thermal. We rocked a little as we climbed higher and higher towards the ceiling of cloud. We soared close to the sheer 1000 metre tree lined cliff face with its hidden ravines and gorges. At one point I felt as though I could have reached out and touched the trees. Higher and higher we soared and entered a white wall of cloud. I could see absolutely nothing, and just hoped we were still facing out towards the sea. (I was later told the pilots have a compass and keep heading north when this occurs).
As the clouds started to clear I had a marvellous view over the El Golfo valley out to a very blue sea. I could see Roques de Salmor to my right, along with Punta Grande. The winding wooden costal path to La Maceta was clearly visible. Then above the sound of silence I heard the bell strike the half hour in the bell tower at the Candelaria in Frontera.
We then floated along the valley towards Tigaday and could hear the publicity van doing its rounds advertising local Canary Island wrestling later that evening.
I was so engrossed in watching the scenery that I kept forgetting to take photographs to show the vivid colours and stunning landscape I was privy to be enjoying from above.
We then headed out towards the coast and flew over the huge emergency water pond, used by the helicopters to fight forest fires. The evening sun was glistening onto the remaining windows of the abandoned Monastery and shining off the miles and miles of banana plantations below. There were also fields and fields of pineapples. You could see the line of cars parked in La Maceta, no doubt many would be enjoying an evening swim in the natural seawater pools there.
We then swung back round over Tigaday and over the local the children’s playground. You could hear the little ones shouting up at us, so we gave them a friendly wave as we passed along the tree lined street known as “La Rambla”.
I was then reminded of the procedure for the landing as we circled around this area to lose some height to enable us to land safely. We seemed to hit a little turbulence which took my stomach but nothing to feel worried about.
As we dropped lower I slid forward in my seat a little and unhooked my arms from within part of the harness. The ground was fast approaching and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself as I started running, but in mid-air. As we turned again I could see a small wall approaching and thought I couldn’t run over that. Then we hit the ground, no running just a skid in the loose grit. An apology was forthcoming from the pilot after the very abrupt stop. I was left with a souvenir of shoes full of tiny pebbles.
As I stood up I felt a little queasy, but nothing too bad. I was unhooked and the memory card from the camera was removed and handed to me as part of the package. Enabling me go home and replay the flight all over again.
Would I do it again, you bet and I would hope for less cloud.
Why not come next year and watch the 23rd Annual paragliding competition in the valley of El Golfo. The competitors take off from the mountainside above the valley.
This competition is one of the most important paragliding meetings on the world stage.