Paragliding in the Mother City
A moment lived in South Africa by The Wright Route, a traveller from United Kingdom
I love travel and I love doing anything that involves adrenaline. Paragliding off Signal Hill in the South African capital ticks all my boxes. Soaring majestically over the suburbs of Cape Town with Table Mountain at my back, before landing gracefully on the beach to a celebration of gin and tonics at sunset. It’s just that, every now and again, things don’t go quite the way you have pictured them in your head.
The day we chose to paraglide was a beautifully clear blue sky day, but unfortunately for us, there was very little wind. For Cape Town in December we were very lucky, but for paragliding not so. The show would go on though and we (my wife, father, brother and myself) headed to Signal Hill where we would prepare for our first paragliding experience.
On arrival we were seated and given paperwork to fill out. A waiver was signed and before we knew it my wife and brother were kitted out, strapped to a paragliding instructor each and launched off the side of the hill. It all happened so fast. A brief flutter of wind had prompted the hurried take off. My father and I were to wait for the instructors to return. In the meantime we were kitted out in harnesses, helmets with GoPros and left to admire the views.
Our instructors returned, but unfortunately not with the wind. We waited for what seemed like hours, though must have only been about 40 minutes, and eventually there was a wisp of wind giving us hope for a take-off.
‘Don’t stop running, ok?’ said my tandem instructor.
I was ready. Here we go.
I ran as fast as I could run whilst being physically attached to someone else.
The chute was up, we were still running.
The matting had finished, we were still running.
We were over the edge – and still running!
We were running down the side of Signal Hill, through bushes, around rocks at full pace!
Eventually, the speed of our legs was too fast to keep up and we crumpled to the ground, sliding along the harsh surface before skidding to an abrupt halt. I had taken the brunt of the impact, with the instructor landing on top of me. We were completely out of sight of the take-off point and a good 100m or more down the side of the hill.
What awaited us was a long and embarrassing hike back up the hill to the take-off point. I wasn’t hurt. It was more the bruises to the ego and confidence I was dreading. Explaining this to the rest of the group would hurt.
We set back up and waited for the wind again. This time a strong gust picked up and we were in the air instantly. It was clear that we probably shouldn’t have attempted that first take-off and I felt better about the accident. The flight was incredible! Sweeping views across the city and coastline, and, though the flight did not last long due to the lack of wind, it was highly enjoyable and still one of my favourite experiences in Cape Town.
On landing, my wife and brother came running over. It had been over an hour since they had landed and they were, of course concerned. I will never forget the look of horror on their faces when they saw me. I didn’t quite realize how bad I looked. I had mud all down my front, my jeans and hoodie were ripped through and I had huge bloody scrapes down my forearms, where I had tried to protect myself from the impact. Moral of the story, if you are doing anything dangerous, always choose the most reputable company. No other paragliding company on the hill was trying to take-off with no wind!
This traveller has a blog : The Wright Route