Sunday, 22 June 2014

Another adventure.

Liberty Lykia
Ten years ago we went on holiday as a family to Lykia world in Olu Deniz, Turkey. At the time I was still suffering from depression, but was beginning to see a glimmer of light. One of the activities offered in the resort was the opportunity to go paragliding. Every day I would watch as different people gently glided down form the dizzy heights of Mount Babadag, a 1,700 metre high mountain not too far inland from Olu Deniz. I watched in fascination as one by one they landed on a very small area of the beach. Everyone of them had a look of sheer joy and exhilaration on their faces. I envied them, but would never have had the courage to do it then. Ten years on and all that has changed.

View from our balcony
I recently went back to Lykia World, or Liberty Lykia as it is now called. Before we went I announced to my hubby my intention to go paragliding. To my surprise he said that he would join me. In the week leading up to our departure he daily bombarded me with the statistics of how many people had been injured or even killed paragliding in the area: one of the downsides of Google. But it didn't put me off. I'd made up my mind and I can be quite determined when I want to be. Besides, Escape, the company who does the paragliding from Lykia World, had a 100% safety record. After dinner on our second night in the resort, no doubt emboldened by the wine consumed with the meal, my hubby announced that we should go and sign up to do it.

Me waiting to board the dolmus
I had to stifle a laugh when the gentleman who was taking our booking said to my hubby that he can tell by looking those that are definitely going to go through with it. Even at this point I could tell that my hubby was still not sure. We made the booking for three days time, Friday 13th, choosing to do the early evening slot as we were advised that this would be the most romantic time. The plan was that we would glide down side by side in order that we could experience it together. Well you know what they say about the best laid plans?
Watching a para glider from my sun lounger.

The day of the para glide dawned and all day I could hardly contain my excitement.My hubby not so much! I did assure him that he didn't have to go through with it, but he can be as stubborn as me.  From my position on a sun lounger by the pool, I watched as a steady stream of gliders landed on the beach. At 17.20 we made our way to the meeting point where along with another 6 people, including a young Egyptian boy and his mother, we piled into the minibus that would drive us up to take off point on the mountain.

Arriving at take off point.
 The dolmus, was packed Turkish style with one of the pilots lying on the floor, jammed between two parachutes. As we ascended the mountain I was amazed as I watched the tree line get smaller and smaller as we twisted our way up the steep narrow winding road. At one point we had a close encounter with a car on its way down the mountain. The driver of the bus and a couple of the pilots thought that this was hilarious and for the first time I questioned the wisdom of what I was about to do. My feelings of wonder and awe at the beauty of the landscape were replaced by sheer terror. But only for a moment. I had wanted to do this for ten years and I was determined to go through with it. Besides, the thought of driving back down the mountain was even more terrifying.

Take off point.
At last we reached the take off point. We'd been told that we would be given a fifteen minute training briefing. Instead, almost as soon as I stepped of the bus, I was introduced to Ozzie, my pilot, and less than five minutes later I was strapped up and standing a few feet from the 1,700 metre drop. My training consisted of being told that when he said go I was to start running and keep running until we were in the air. I had the dubious honour of being the first to take off.

After only two steps I was up in the air and soaring over the valley below. What can I say? It was the most surreal and amazing experience of my life to date and possibly ever. All my nervousness evaporated as I settled in to enjoy the views over the mountain and the Aegean sea below. It was really quiet and peaceful, the only sound coming from the rustling of the wind in the parachute. People appeared as ants and Lykia World looked like a tiny, toy town. I couldn't stop grinning. We were gliding through the air like the birds of prey you see circling their target. We glided over the stunning vista of the Blue Lagoon and out over the clear blue water of the Aegean. When we were about halfway down Ozzie asked if I was up for doing some tricks and suddenly we were spinning around in circles, the skin on my face being pulled back by the G-force. It was awesome.
Just after take off.

All too soon it was almost time to land and the second part of my training began. Ozzie told me that when he said 'stand up', I was to do just that and once again start running. I will confess to a little nervousness at this point. but I put my trust in his experience and relaxed. A couple of minutes later we swooped down towards the landing area and on cue I stood up and ran. Two young men were waiting and as we landed they rushed forward and grabbed me and  it was over. I felt amazing. Given the chance I would've gone straight back up and done it all over again. Here's a little video of someone else landing.

Picture of Hubby's knees and the Blue Lagoon.m
What about my hubby? Did he go through with it? He certainly did. I'm so proud of him. It was easy for me as I really wanted to do it, but he wasn't so sure. He took off about ten minutes after me, so he had longer to think about what he was just about to do. Did he enjoy it? Yes. would he do it again? I don't think so. For most of the way down I wasn't holding on but was busy talking and waving my arms about. He kept a firm grip of the handles at all times. Bless him. I'm so proud of him.

My profile states that I'm on a mission to prove that life can still be an adventure and this definitely was up there as one of the most amazing ones to date. Maybe next I'll do the tandem parachute jump I've always talked about. Watch this space.

Here's a video clip if you're interested.

All photos and videos are Isabel's own.

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