Each Thursday I share a travel experience from the past. With 4 years of non-stop travel and 3 years of part time travel I have a lot to get through!
The Adventure Series – Issue 1
By way of an introduction, I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie, which you will come to know. I think it all began when I was a child and my mum (and her friend with her son that was the same age) took me to Alton Towers (a UK theme park) every year and I developed a bit of a liking for the big, fast roller-coaster rides. The bigger the better. Even if my mum did come off one looking decisively green in the face – which at the time I thought was hilarious (and to be honest still do! Sorry mum!) and from then I have always loved a good adrenalin buzz. This lead me to many adventures but this week we’ll start with:
Paragliding off a Mountain in Courcheval, France!
Whilst working my third winter season in Courcheval, one third of the famous Thee Valley’s (Trois Vallee) Ski Resort in France, myself and a few members of staff used part of our season’s tips to pay to ski off a mountain. Sounds crazy I know, but oh my word, was it fun! You can see from my picture that I was pretty excited about the whole thing!
We headed up the mountain to about 2000m above sea level and waited patiently at the “Parapent Station” for the professionals to show up. When they did they spent some time laying out the parachute sail across the snow, ready to be dragged by our body weight as we skied off the mountain, with the intention being that it would catch in the air, inflate and carry us out on our flying adventure. We all had our fingers crossed for that one. The alternative being, well, lets not mention the alternative.
We were then each strapped into ‘the chair’ which hooked to the sail and in turn was attached to the professional – did I mention this was a tandem para-glide? I would love to be able to say I had the skills to do this myself, but no, I had a very helpful Frenchman to guide me on my way.
The we lined up, ski’s pointed down the mountain, took a deep breath – if I was breathing at all – which I don’t remember! and down the hill we went.
For those few seconds of skiing down a slope not designed for skiing – think rocks and grass etc – I felt a slight fear that this was all about to go horribly wrong. That I was going to ski off the snow, hit a ledge and fall down the side of a mountain strapped to a Frenchman I had only just met! But a few seconds later I was lifted from the ground as the sail filled with air and I was flying.
What a feeling. Amazing. Exhilarating. Joyful. I just could not stop smiling. Words can barely due justice to the range of emotions you feel as you soar above the world below, suspended by wires. I flew high above the mountains for over 30 minutes, catching thermals to rise back up before floating back down. Pull left to turn left and right to turn right – I was even allowed to steer for a bit – but then I got distracted with the wonder of it all and my helpful Frenchman had to take over again!
Our final descent also included ‘doing spirals’ to get down quicker which were both fun and dizzying at the same time. As we sank further towards an empty field at the bottom of the mountain I knew that landing would be interesting. I had been told to hug my knees to my chest and be prepared to land on my bum. And never a truer word was spoken. The ground raced towards us and the next thing I knew, my butt hit the floor and we slid a few meters, my helpful Frenchman unhooked, packed up his chute and shaking my hand disappeared across the field. His work for the day was done. And what a job. I can only imagine how great it would be to make a living out of skiing off a cliff with new willing victims every day.
The picture above is my favorite from the day and evokes that feeling of flying every time I see it. Have I inspired you to ski off a cliff? I hope so! Happy Travels :-)