Being a complete novice to elevation paragliding, I didn’t really know what to expect from the whole venture but knew it was something I should definitely do whilst in Queenstown. I thought elevation paragliding was merely a one way trip straight down the mountain. How wrong I was.
This is a flying based sport, in contrast to sky diving and other such activities, that involves trying to stay up in the air, rather than plummeting to the earth as quickly as possible. Georges of France was my pilot/ photographer /instructor /taxi driver /camera man, talk about multi-tasking!
As we made our way up the mountain towards Queenstown’s Coronet peak, Georges casually let slip the hefty wealth of experience in elevation paragliding he had gained over the years, surely a well rehearsed technique to steady the nerves of his soon to be tandem paragliding passenger. Moments before take off my nerves started to rattle a little as the elevation paragliding take off procedure was explained. I must confess the whole explanation was streaming out the opposite ear that it had come in from at such velocity that nothing had a hope of settling.
"..sitting comfortably in the harness, with a ridiculous grin fixed from ear to ear..."
As soon as the canopy was inflated my nerves and fears were quashed in an instant. We took a few running strides towards the edge, and before I knew it the ground had disappeared beneath my feet and I was sitting comfortably in the harness, with a ridiculous grin fixed from ear to ear. After a couple of minutes of elevation paragliding the wind in a few gut clenching arcs, I was shocked to see our take off spot, and Queenstown, hundreds of feet below us, surely we were going the wrong way?
The whole experience had a lot more style and grace than I would ever have expected. These pilots really must have a lot of experience and skill to manage the ever changing alpine weather conditions and wind directions. The whole flight took well over 20 minutes, and as we were coming close to landing, Georges asks me calmly “do you want a smooth ride home, or would you prefer something a little more acrobatic?”, naturally I opted for the acrobatic approach.
The only instructions needed “just lean the same way I do”. Before long we were racking up the G’s rotating 180 degrees one way then 180 the other, the angles getting steeper and steeper, till at one point the canopy was between us and the ground! When the roller ride eventually had to end, we came in for the smoothest landing imaginable, the only thought going through my mind. Lets get up there and do it again!
What a truly memorable experience and to top it all off they even chuck the video footage in for free. Elevation Paragliding is seriously a must do whilst visiting Queenstown.