I’ve been afraid of heights my entire life. But I had been afraid of a lot of other things (spiders) too that I don’t fear anymore (almost) and it’s only because each time I was presented the opportunity to face those fears, I said, “Yes” before I had the chance to contemplate. That’s the thing about each time I travel, it makes me feel like I am responsible to complete at least one personal challenge and push the boundaries just a little further.
So before I can think about it, I am standing in the G-Force Paragliding store in Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola, having just signed up to tandem paraglide over the strikingly gorgeous Lake Wakatipu. “Be here in twenty minutes”, says the friendly redhead behind the counter. “Twenty minutes, that’s too long”, I think to myself wanting to get it over with quickly. After pacing around the area forcing myself not to chicken away, I head back and meet my pilot Gav. He smiles warmly as he introduces himself and his colleague and I instantly decide that I like him and that he won’t let me die. Talk about paranoia.
Some off the paranoia wears away as the next twenty minutes are spent hiking through a chilly forest with trees that block most of the much needed sunshine. I rub my hands together, they’re freezing even in warm gloves as Gav’s colleague is talking about how he’s been a professional paraglider for the last fourteen years, as has Gav. It helps that he’s telling me this because I am now sure that I am in good hands. At the end of the exhausting hike, we are at the top of a hill from where we’re going to take off.
As the gear is being strapped onto me, Gav asks me if I am feeling good. Over the past few years, I have learnt that the best way to get over fear is to smile and pretend like you’re fearless. So I flash him a wide smile and say, “Of course!”. As he adjusts his own straps behind me he says that I need to help him by beginning to jog slowly and not stopping until my legs can no longer touch the ground. Before I understand what he means, he says, “Go” and starts to jog right behind me. We are now heading straight towards the edge. I begin to panic because well, it’s the edge and yell, “What should I do now?” and he says, “Relax, you don’t need to do anything”. Before I realize what is happening, I am shocked to see that we’re carried high up into the sky by the wind. I wiggle my body into the seat and my mind says, “Ohhh, so that’s how you get up here!”.
Once in the sky, I cannot believe what I am looking at and how it feels. “Like a bird, huh?!”, says Gav and in my state of amazement, I respond with, “Uh-huh”. It takes a few minutes to sink in that I am soaring over gorgeous Lake Wakatipu and looking down at the city of Queenstown. The lake shines in a pretty shade of blue and the face of the Mount Remarkables range is bathed in sunlight; the whole scene is surreal. I notice that Queenstown looks neat and well-arranged, its buildings like a set of Lego blocks from the sky. Gav sets up his GoPro camera and takes a couple of pictures. For the video, he spins us around to capture the thrills on camera. Once this is done, we soar calmly over the spectacular landscape, talking about my time in Queenstown, how he started his career and how much he loves it all. Can’t blame him, the view from his office is quite something!
He points out a green patch saying that we will be landing there and I need to jog again as my feet touch the ground. In a few minutes we have landed and are standing on the patch of grass. As I remove the gear, I smile widely and thank him for the experience of a lifetime. We click some pictures on the ground and he hands me the pictures and videos from his GoPro. We wish each other luck and off he goes to get back in time for his next flight. I stand in the green patch, still amazed, ecstatic and quite proud to have overcome my fear more than just a little bit. I thank my stars to be here in Queenstown, realizing what a big mistake it would have been to miss out on this experience.
If there is a place where you absolutely must paraglide, then New Zealand’s Queenstown is it. It’s not called ‘The Adventure Capital of the World’ for nothing! If you’re not a professional, G-Force is a great operator to go with, they are thorough professionals, extremely friendly and will make sure you are very comfortable every step of the way. I’d like to say a big, “Thanks!”, to them for making this one of the most memorable experiences of my life!
Disclosure: All opinions expressed are my own based on my wonderful experience with G-Force Paragliding in Queenstown and this is not a sponsored post or paid review of their services.
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