The best way to see a place is by jumping off a mountain and flying down!
We decided to try paragliding in order to see the beautiful coastline of Ölüdeniz (dead sea, in Turkish). The cove, surrounded by mountains and small islands, is absolutely stunning. The town, unfortunately, has been overridden by British holidaymakers, making it near impossible to find good Turkish food that hasn’t somehow incorporated toasties or baked beans. Hence, it’s best to just fly right over the commercial stuff and really absorb the scenery.
Since we arrived early for our flight, Mom and I headed to a bar on the beach to enjoy a beer and watch other gliders land. The air currents provide an exciting path down – you can fly right over the main street of the town and then land in a small grassy park area just before the beach.
I had read reviews of the scary road you take up BabaDağ (father mountain, in Turkish), the mountain we were going to jump from, and expected the worse. Although our van mostly hung on to the very edge for the forty-five minute ride, it was nicely paved and certainly nothing so difficult that would break your transmission or anything.
At the top, we paired with our pilots and started loading the gear. There are several steep patches of dirt at the peak surrounded by windsocks. After a couple of people from our group took off, the wind died, and we stood there with all our gear and waited. And waited. The waiting on a steep incline, along with climbing back up it when we finally decided to change our jump-off location, were the most difficult parts of the entire experience.
We had good wind at the new location, and before I knew it, I was running right off the edge of the mountain. Within seconds, we were airborne. We stood for a few seconds in order for the pilot to gain control, and then on my pilot’s instruction, I sat back and enjoyed the ride. The harness was so comfortable that I felt like I was sitting in an armchair in the sky for the ride.
Our first vistas were the mountains, which of course are even more impressive from the air!
Next we approached the coast, and flew east to see all of the islands and coves at the beach. My mom and I flew together, sometimes so close that my mom could touch my kite!
It was late afternoon, and a beam of sunlight washed the islands of Ölüdeniz with gold.
Before landing, we got to do some acrobatics, which was definitely my favorite part of the flight! It happened so fast, but I think we did some flips and then a spiral down towards the water. I think it feels more impressive than it looks, because afterward, my friend said you can really only do a few tricks in paragliding.
Landing was awesome! We flew right over the main street, and I felt like we were so close to the pedestrians that I had to raise my feet to prevent kicking them out! It reminded me of riding the Big Bad Wolf at Busch Gardens, where it always seems like your feet might hit the rooftops. Some of the bars have messages painted on their roofs for the paragliders – I liked getting the special view. For the actual landing, my pilot just told me to stand up. I did, and we stopped, right in the middle of the strip. It was probably the most amazing forty-five minutes of my life!
We’ve spotted paragliders everywhere we’ve been this summer, from Turkey to Spain, and seeing them brings back the thrill of jumping off a mountain. If everything works out, I’m heading back to Ölüdeniz in October to get certified!