Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Learning to Fly...

Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
The town lit up the world got still

I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

This Tom Petty number would truly describe what I had experience in the 30 minutes that it took from Balmer’s to the top of the hill and back again.

At Balmer’s, Interlaken we came to know that visiting JungFrau might not be possible that day, but we had enough time to see the city of Interlacken from the sky. 200 CHF was never too much for paragliding above the city.

We had to board a pick up truck that was to take us to the top of a hill from where we would start the alight. Our instructor, Pascal, was a lively lead and ensured that the mood was upbeat as we were gaining altitude via the road. When it was confirmed that we were in the right truck, [courtesy a couple of witty tests] we started out with the initial basics of flying. Yes, flying!!!

The temperature at the top of the hill was somewhere around minus 3 degrees, with more than a foot of snow. The place was covered with a white sheet of fresh snow. Our take off point was a steep slop all covered in white. We were expected to walk down the slop, which would bring the fabric wing up and eventually build enough pressure to pull us from the ground, to be airborne.

While we were fooling around and smiling for the camera our pilots strapped us with loads of strings and then start laying the wings and untangling the strings so that it comes up smoothly.

Unfortunately, you also need to be lucky. There was this Canadian girl with us, who was quite, well big. She and her pilot had to run almost till the end of the slop. At one time I felt as if they are going to crash into the woods.

Next was Libin. And well, the situation was even worse. Even his pilot was bulky. Libin was fighting hard to run, while his pilot was fighting hard to fly. Eventually Libin realized that he was supposed to fly and thanks to the fresh winds, they too were airborne.

Next were my pilot Pashi [Pascal] and me. Realizing the fact that I was ready to run even before the strings were tied to the wings, he calmed me down. We took a few photographs before the expected marathon downhill. Once the strings were all attached and after checking that we had nothing that we could drop [the camera was tied to another string] we started a stroll downhill. I was ready for the 100 meters dash, but Pashi told me before we stared, that we would not run and just walk taking huge steps. “What?? No run?? We would crash onto the woods”

I had hardly taken 8-10 steps and voila… I was flying!!! The initial few seconds were nirvana for me. I saw the tree tops below me fly past. I was hanging and the wings held on. No, never did I feel fearful of the fact that I had no parachute with me. Even the thought never occurred. I was clinging to the strings around me and trying to see as much as I can… right, left, straight and down as well. The best part was looking down and seeing things just pass under you…

We flew for sometime till he guided the wings close to one of the rocky sides of the hills and I could see them so clearly. Anytime when we wanted to gain altitude, he would pull up the strings and I could feel us rising in mid air. We saw a few landmarks of Interlacken from the air. The sight of the Interlacken Lake, just after the bend in the hill was cherish-able. It was vast and serene.

We were surrounded by the Alps and the temperature due to the winds had felt as minus10 degrees. It was all silent and I wished I could fly for longer hours. Pashi had a camera and he ensured that the memorable moment was being captured. At times, I could feel the wings being steered from side to side but I was too obsessed with the views that I just did not focus on the wings. I was flying!!!

While coming down, we lost altitude very quickly and since we were quite close to the tall buildings I realized for the first time as to how fast we were moving. We had speed!!! And we were going down fast!!!
At one moment I felt as if we were just dropping on one of the roofs of the houses. These are things that I cannot express via words… you need to do it to feel it.

Gradually we made our drop and made an elegant landing. The way we touched ground was as if I just alighted from the stairs. It was so simple, and finally it was over. But what an experience!!! A must do for all!!!

My pilot did an excellent job not only with the flying but with the photography as well. There were a lot of questions from friends when the saw the pictures. I guess they need to see the video that I have attached with this to understand how the photographs were clicked.

From time immaterial man has always wanted to fly. Subconsciously, but I also had wanted to fly once. Thanks to Interlaken, I lived my dream... and I would want to live my dream again. I want to fly again...

I would want to close with the lines from the same song

Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I started out, for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there....

I'm learning to fly around the clouds
What goes up, must come down...

Today also happens to be my last day in Zurich, Switzerland. I would be leaving for Bangalore in less than thwo hours from now. I'm flying Emirates and I have a window seat just behind the wings...

I learning to fly, around the clouds....

1 comment:

Bhav said...

Well described.. while reading, I felt as if I was flying.. Too good video captured. I would like to do this..