An Airborne Adventure

‘Oh no, let’s not get the lift, let’s walk,’ Sophie said adamantly, ‘it’ll be so much nicer and I can take photos.’

‘Really?’ I replied, ‘You know that this is a ski-resort in the winter…think about ski-lifts, they take you up a long way.’

We were in what has become dubbed as the Himalayan Playground and we were about to go Paragliding.

‘No, no it’ll be fine, it’s not that far, he said it was by the fourth pole.’

And so we set off, Sophie in a pair of green jelly shoes and myself in a pair of non-grip, worn out deck shoes. Twenty minutes in, the path disappeared and we had to clamber up an oppressively steep hillside through dense green sticky plants. Clinging on for dear life to the stems of the abrasive flora, I slipped and slipped and slipped some more before finally collapsing to my knees to concentrate on breathing.

The air felt thin and my lungs ached, they yearned for oxygen. Sophie remained very quiet behind in full knowledge that I could lose it at any second…I examined the situation for a good five minutes, I could give up and go back down or I could suck it up and continue. I don’t like re-tracing my footsteps so I chose the latter, but this time I went for a different tactic – all fours.

This proved much more successful – my fingers ripped into the soil as I hoisted myself upwards and thought fondly back to my childhood and the hours spent in the garden pretending to be Mowgli or Tarzan. Sophie and I would tie Werther’s Originals to pieces of string, tie them to trees and then swing from the branches trying to catch them. As I lost myself in memory it wasn’t long before I found myself at the top and…hyperventilating.

Sweat poured down my face, bits of shrubs clung to my hair – I looked like a deranged creature, not a ‘the extreme sports lover’ look I was going for. Sophie panted behind me as we ran the final leg up to the two men arranging our parachutes.

‘We’ve made it!’ I wheezed and fell to the ground.

‘I am knackered’ Sophie wheezed back and fell next to me.

‘Ready?’ the youthful guide said enthusiastically.

Ready? No I bloody well wasn’t, I could hardly breathe and I felt dizzy and disorientated. I needed to rest.

‘Please can I have a little break first?’ I replied.

Apparently I could not. The weather conditions weren’t good and we had to jump right away. Wonderful I thought as he strapped me in and gave me instructions – which I could barely hear my heart was beating so loudly. They were something along the lines of: run to the edge of the cliff and under no circumstances jump – or was it under no circumstances don’t jump…fight natural instincts or not? Just as I was about to clarify the count down began: three, two, one…

My legs quavered; a mixture of fear, adrenalin and exhaustion – and they felt detached as they hurtled the rest of me cliff bound. ‘To jump, or not to jump? – that is the question,’ I mused as we got dangerously close. I couldn’t decide and instead of making a decision my brain just pulsated between, ‘fuck, I’m going to die’ and ‘fuck, Ro-bag’s going to kill me.’ Three metres, two metres (shiiiiiiit)…jump, not jump, jump, not jump….

Finally I made the executive decision, the decision that works whenever the world gets too much…and as my right leg hit the edge of the precipice – I shut my eyes.

Air whistled past my ears and my legs swayed limply beneath me, I was alive and I was airborne. I opened my eyes. The clouds were just a few feet above us, the valley glistened green below and birds squawked from either side angry at our invasion of their skies. It was magical. Swirling left and then right, to and fro, to and fro, we glided slowly over the pines, then the river, then over the zorb ballers before it was time to land.

‘Straight legs,’ barked the voice behind me (I’d almost forgotten there was someone else with me).

I straightened them and clenched my jaw ready for the impact…and shut my eyes again. A small jolt and we were back on the ground and back by the lift. As he detached me from the shute a wide grin spread across my face and as a small thud sounded behind me, I turned and met the same grin etched over Sophie.

Paragliding in the Himalayan Playground we decided unanimously – was epic. Do it – but take the lift! 

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