When my sister-in-law first mentioned taking us paragliding, I panicked. I saw flashes of Darwin Award winners paragliding to their ultimate demise. My heart started racing just thinking about it. When the day finally arrived, we were uncertain whether the conditions would permit us to fly, but we drove out anyway. Worst case scenario we would take a hike and have a nice picnic with my sister-in-law and her husband. After a lovely hike and lunch, we checked out our "take off" area.
Conditions were good.
Picture the scene: the top of a hill in Umbria (on the border of Marche), horses roaming freely, a bright blue sky speckled with clouds here and there, and luminous parachutes being fluffed up by the wind as each paragliding trainee runs down the steep side of a mountain until eventually they're running through the air.
We strapped in and took off.
One you're airborne it's a very relaxed flight-- you don't actually realize how fast you're moving through the air because it is quite smooth. It was nice to watch our videos afterwards because we can see the other flying in the background and get a sense of the speed.
I flew with Maurizio, the owner and principal instructor at the school, Monte Cucco in Volo (Monte Cucco in flight). We glided back and forth over the hills for about 20 minutes, before beginning to descend to the landing area. The descent is an adrenaline rush, as you are essentially doing big turns/loops in the air. The sensation is like being on a roller coaster, but without the security of the carriage attached to a track. Despite all this, it wasn't scary.
When you land, you need to begin running in air (like you were at take off), so that when you meet the ground you're already in motion and don't fall forward because of the force of the earth stoping the flight.
The view is unparalleled, and it's the closest you can get to flying. Maybe next time we'll try sky diving. Maybe.