Today is going to be hard to beat.
My day went like this: wake up, eat breakfast -> run to the meeting point -> paragliding -> lunch -> biking in the Swiss Alps -> dinner.
If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I haven’t really planned this trip very well. Most days I wake up early, sit on my computer for half an hour and figure out what I’m going to do that day. It’s worked so far but I’m really trying to plan further ahead. But I’ve known I wanted to go to Interlaken since a friend told me about it in high school and ever since I booked my ticket, I’ve been looking into paragliding.
I don’t do very well with heights. On a high school field trip to one of those team building adventure course places there was this log bridge without any handrails high between two trees. I spent the whole day bragging to my friends about how easy it looked and how I was going to run across it when it was my turn. I climbed up to the bridge, took two steps out on it, froze, and climbed down. Heights have never been my thing.
With my fear of heights nagging at me, I saved booking the flight until last thing before bed last night. Then I went to bed, waiting on a confirmation email.
I woke up a bit late this morning without a confirmation email in my inbox. I still have two hours before my flight so I wasn’t worried. I ate breakfast, edited some pictures, and packed my bag for the day. Still no email. Finally, with half an hour before my flight I called only to find out I had misspelled my email when signing up and had to meet at a train station that’s a 20 minute walk from my place. I ran out the door and jogged to the station, arriving just as the van pulled up. With the rush, I had yet to fully process what I was about to do.
Fast forward half an hour in the van up a mountain while my pilot, a longhair and bearded Swissman, gave us a safety speech (and the bill). We pulled up to the takeoff site (I’m not sure if they call it a runway or not). It was a steep hill with a near vertical drop and a view of the entire city, and the two lakes, laid out below. We spent some time setting up the wing (which is basically a giant kite), strapped ourselves into our harnesses (which double as seat when in flight) and letting the other three pilots/passengers take off before us.
Then we were running straight down the hill towards the cliff. We got to the edge but still didn’t have enough lift to start flying and continued to run over and down the cliff. Then, without me even realizing it, we were flying! Trees zipped under us, the wind whipped at my face, and the mountain sat 20 metres below my feet. I settled into my harness (which is basically a super comfortable soft lawn chair with the most intense seatbelt you’ve ever seen) and flew! We circled with ten other gliders just off a mountain, catching and playing in the thermals. When we gained enough elevation we headed into the open air over the city and slowly descended with increasing steep and tight turns. My pilot (for some crazy reason) gave me the controls and let me try a few turns.
Oddly, I felt like I was in the seat of my kayak. You steered with your hips and your controls, pulling down on one of the two brakes to turn. I found it difficult to actually turn, as your really have to throw your weight into it.
Then my pilot took over again and steered us in for a gentle landing.
I was too excited to do anything right away so I wandered around the city for a little before heading to my place, having a quick snack, and jumping on a bike.
For the next two hours I biked along the crystal-blue lake, with the mountains on my sides, virtually alone towards a waterfall. It was nice to have so much time alone with nowhere to be. I’ve realized how little time I spend alone in my regular life. I’m either with people in class or at work, studying in a busy library, or out with friends. And if I do find a minute or two alone, I’m almost always on Facebook or texting someone. I’m not very good at being all alone yet, but I’m sure with all the practice I’m getting, by the time I head home I’ll wish I had more.