As strange as it sounds, it’s human to dream of flying. Many of us watch birds glide overhead, wondering what it’s like to soar on the air currents running through the sky.
We’ve gone to incredible lengths to get airborne, and in today’s world, flying is one of the most popular forms of transport.
Unfortunately, the sensation of sitting in an passenger plane seat is nothing to write home about, and it’s certainly not an extreme activity by any lengths.
No, we humans are completely and utterly insane, and our pursuit of the extreme means that we put our lives on the line in search of that vivid, heart-pounding adrenaline rush. Don’t get me wrong, I’m cooked, too.
Paragliding is one such sport, exploiting rising air currents, or thermals, to fly hundreds of metres in the air.
On any clear, calm day in Cape Town, one is likely to see dozens of paragliders taking flight from either Signal Hill or Lions Head – and if you’ve ever been up there, you’ll know that they often carry thrill-chasing passengers.
In the age of drone photography, people have developed quite a taste for aerial photography. Paragliding satisfies that taste, except for one major difference. You, my friend, are the drone.
EWN's very own Refilwe Pitjeng ticking one off the bucket list. Credit: Mikail Baker
Prepping for the experience is quick and simple. In fact, it’s just a matter of adorning an extra-large backpack and signing some standard indemnity forms.
Gearing up for launch. Look at the excitement (fear?) on Sbu's face! Credit: Mikail Baker
Take off, as you’ll find out, is slightly more complicated. It requires a vigorous downhill run-up at the precise moment when winds pick up, launching you over the edge in what is quite genuinely a monumental leap of faith.
The rubber launch pad sat atop Signal Hill. Credit: Mikail Baker
If the wind spirits have blessed your departure, you’ll be swept onward and upward along the face of the mountain, and then over the suburbs along the picturesque Atlantic Seaboard.
If you’re worried that it’ll be a rough ride, don’t stress. After the drama of lift-off, it’s all a gentle cruise over what looks like a very, very detailed image from Google Maps.
The view from above. Credit: Mikail Baker
That is, until about two minutes before your landing. Paragliders are thrill-seekers by nature, and all they really want to do is share that thrill with you.
“Do you like roller-coasters?” I was asked. Trust me, your answer won’t change the outcome. A pilot’s trademark trick is a spin that flips you 90-degrees, giving you the full g-force experience. Imagine being inside a giant washing machine. You get the idea!
The finale is truly not as bad as it looks, ending with a gentle planting of your backside on the grass of the Sea Point promenade.
The whole experience lasts about five minutes, but can go on for much longer if conditions are perfect.
It’s the perfect answer to thrill chasing within the city limits, and let’s not forget – Cape Town is not just any city!
To book an experience like this one, trawl the internet for any of the Cape’s several paragliding operators, or get some help from the people over at www.shotleft.co.za.