Annecy is built alongside a beautiful lake, and to appreciate this lake, we cycle around it and paraglide over it. Atop our rented orange cruisers, Lindsey and I take to the lake’s bike path. The path is crowded with other cyclists, walkers, runners, and rollerbladers. The sun comes in and out of the clouds, making it really quite warm. We stop frequently for pictures, cherries, and the occasional dip in the lake. We end the ride hungry and sweaty, and ready to find a hearty sandwich made of mostly baguette.
The following day, we soak up the same view from a few thousand feet in the air tied to a parachute (and also tied to someone who knows what he’s doing). This paragliding route is so popular that there is an air traffic control person on take-off and landing. I calm myself a little by estimating how many gliders there must be every year, and decide that it has got to be safe. But still with a lot of adrenaline, I run off the equivalent of an alpine black-diamond ski slope. Shortly after, my heart rate slows just a touch as I settle into my seat, but given my intense fear of heights, I never totally calm until landing. The rush of air around us, the view of the lake below, being at the same level as the alpine peaks, and sharing this rush together makes for an amazing 30 minutes!
Stefan says to me, “On the count of three, we will start running. And don’t forget to not sit down.”
“Right,” I reply. “I guess I’m ready.” I ineffectively try to wipe the sweat from my face on this scorcher of day.
I think of all the not-so-reassuring words that fellow flyer and classmate Matt has given me throughout the last couple days in preparation for this moment. “Even in the worst case scenario, at least there will be little pain.”
I’m waiting for Stefan’s count of three to begin any moment and it feels like I’m waiting forever. I find myself holding my breath in anticipation until I cannot hold my breath any longer because of my quicker heart rate. I tell myself that I get more than my money’s worth for these types of adventures assuming that the best measure to use is heart rate per dollar. My fear of heights causes my heart rate to scale quickly at such moments.
Paragliding Over Cape Town from Andrew Stein on Vimeo.
“One. Two. Three.” We start running and of course I begin to try to sit in my harness well before it is time. I receive a quick scolding and immediately stand up and resume running.
Before I know what has happened, we are seemingly weightless, Lion’s Head Peak is to our back and Cape Town’s coastline is ahead of us. We hit a small thermal updraft and climb a little higher before beginning our descent. Once I feel supported by the parachute above me, I begin to relax and couldn’t be happier that I was convinced to fly via paraglide over this great city.