paragliding south africa
Paragliding in the Mother City

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

credit photo : The Wright Route
When dreams come true, tears flow

When dreams come true, tears flow

A moment lived in Italy by Punita Malhotra, a traveller from India

Everyone has a dream destination, and mine has always been Venice. For as long as I can remember, the floating ethereal city has been the fairytale I wanted to live out. Naturally, my excitement was already sky-high when we boarded the train from Milan to Venice.

The sight of the water taxis outside Venice station fired my spirits higher and throughout the ferry ride, I kept standing at the helm, looking out at sea, eager for my first view. Despite all the fascinating pictures my mind recalled, I was totally unprepared! The city’s hazy silhouette from a distance kept sharpening as we got nearer…like a perfect painting hung up on a far wall in a museum. With every second, I noticed more colours under the intricate play of light and shade. Finally, we were here!

There was a flurry of activity when we anchored, luggage and passengers offloading from dozens of boats together. The riverside dock was teeming with crowds…tourists with cameras, hawkers with wares, shops with souvenirs and painters with easels. From the port, I caught a glimpse of the monumental St.Mark’s Square (or San Marco Piazza as they call it) and the buildings leading up to it. My unbridled excitement must have been writ on my face, because Vikas smiled indulgently, before giving me a gentle nudge. I had stopped short in my tracks and was blocking the way of the patient passengers behind.

We wheeled away our bags and I followed Vikas as he moved towards St.Mark’s Square, where the throngs were thickening. I was soaking in the sight of the grand Doge Palace and the government buildings with hundreds of symmetrical windows on all sides. It was the strangest feeling, a sort of communion with this huge mingling crowd queuing up to enter the cathedral and posing for pictures. Surreal.

“What’s the hotel address?” I heard Vikas ask. I handed over the email confirmation to him, still staring mesmerised at the cathedral. It was slightly off-centred, wasn’t it? He must have left me standing there, while he walked over to a restaurant asking for directions, but I didn’t notice. All my life I had dreamt of visiting Venice and we were here now. Then why did I suddenly feel a hardness in my throat and why were tears stinging my eyes?

“This doesn’t seem to be the complete hotel address” Vikas looked at me quizzingly. “Well, that’s all I have”, I dismissed the issue. We would easily find the hotel…and this was not the first time we’ve traveled to an unfamiliar city. The real deal: I was still reveling in the magic of my dream come true to take his concern seriously. “We’ll ask someone for directions”, I said, shrugging casually. “How difficult can it be to find a four-star luxury hotel in Venice? People would have heard of the hotel and the street is mentioned too. It says it is near St.Mark’s Square.”

The hotel was the farthest from my mind…I was lost in Venice and just wanted time to stop. “Just look at the scene, I coaxed him spiritedly. The scene was farthest from his mind….he was lost in Venice and he just wanted to locate the hotel. We couldn’t have been in more different worlds!

I sighed. Time to exit dreamland and locate reality. Half a dozen conversations and 30 minutes later, we realized that the hotel address was really incomplete. In Venice, everything is near either St.Mark’s square or Rialto! Very few locals could speak English. Vikas was exasperated now. Knitted browse and irritated voice. “How can you not have the complete hotel address? This is the height of irresponsibility”. I was to blame, but would I take the blame right now? I had been shaken out of my spell and was tired from wheeling around a huge piece of luggage, and maybe there was a teeny-meeny feeling of guilt too! “Well, you could have double checked too, why should I have to do everything?” I retorted.

The moment had passed. My tears had dried up. My delighted smile had turned into a scowl. We were huffing and puffing, dragging heavy luggage up and down the little cobbled alleys and canal bridges. Vikas was on an exorbitantly expensive ISD call with the hotel concierge, who was giving live directions using the Google Map. I was following him through charming little waterways, bridges and narrow streets. Finally, after 45 tedious minutes of circling everywhere, we finally checked into the hotel, said goodbyes to our egos, rebooted and smiled. We were in one of the most romantic cities in the world…no place to fight for long!

When we walked back to St.Mark’s Piazza later that afternoon, I still felt the magic, but the intensity was mellower. But I didn’t mind that. I had had my moment…that first look would remain etched in my memory forever. And the faux pas was so much more fun now that it was over. Having added a hugely interesting dimension to the ‘plain-old-tears-of-joy’ landing at Venice…it had given us a story of a different kind, to be retold over and over again…lathered in true-blue good humor, of course!

This traveller has a blog : 100 cobbled roads

credit photo :
cycling Germany
Self-taught adventure – cycling central Germany

Self-taught adventure – cycling central Germany

A moment lived in Germany by Birdwinks, a traveller from Germany

Instead of this fancy beach holiday, for this term’s vacation I literally simply stepped out of my door – and my adventure began just there. One week solo cycling and wild camping with my 7 gear city bike, almost 500 km through central Germany.

First of all: I had no previous experience in free camping or long term cycling or how to ensure food and water supplies on the way while being on a budget. I mean, I consider myself quite fit and I follow many different travel blogs with related stories and I backpacked alone before… but actually doing this shit all by myself just out of a sudden idea was something completely different. And I’d do it again in a split second.

I was well prepared, which was the clue to it all (well, in any case you gotta be extremely flexible and modest on the way, but that’s obvious). I knew the route and had sufficient navigation material, I knew my equipment and how to pack it well and set it up, I had repair stuff and knew how to use it (not so obvious, apparently), and – most importantly – I brought a huge amount of optimism. When my bike broke the first day, that was what kept my mind positive.

I got up in the mornings between 5 and 7 (depending on weather, daily distance, campsite and its potential agricultural use), I cycled between 50 and 85 km a day, I was freezing and sweating, starving and heavenly full of awesome food, I met great people and great loneliness. I reached personal limits and crossed them, I overcame fears and flinched from others. I was creative in repairing things and where I couldn’t, I was tremendously grateful for receiving help. I camped on wide meadows and in forests, in a barn between hay bales and in a castle ruin from XIIth century. I experienced ups and downs, great joy and deep sorrow, and most of all I got to listen to my thoughts like it’s never the case in everyday life – although I just covered a couple of kilometers of physical distance to that, it felt like another universe mentally. The official route is 400 km, but due to the extra way to get to the start from my home, as well as all the detours and looking for a freaking repair shop extra ways I can easily add another 100.

However, my bike started making problems the very first day, with an annoying squeaking pedal. I was able to fix it for roughly 60 km by applying some oil, but on Sunday, the second day, it became so bad I was unable to keep going – and all the repair shops closed, of course. I was quite desperate, sitting on the side of the road… when a couple came by, took me with them to their home, and helped me cleaning and oiling with more professional equipment, which enabled me to keep cycling for another 100 km or so. The next morning, I arrived in the next bigger city and was able to get it repaired straight away (they said it would take the whole day, but were done after 1,5 hours!).

Towards the end of the week, I really dealt quite intensely with some of my issues and, as it’s not always rainbows and unicorns, also had some deep, rather melancholic, thoughtful times full of doubt, not knowing whether my current life path is right for me, or which decisions are the best. I know this way is where I’m supposed to be, and believe in its importance, however, this is not easy when you’re alone in the middle of nowhere and don’t have anybody to share your thoughts with, to get a perspective on the matters.

After all, I figured some things out for myself. I realize I’m able to take care of my problems and do a trip like this by myself if I need to, that I’m fully capable of it. I know I mostly prefer company and dear friends around be, but I also value the alone time to actually listen to my own thoughts and go through things. I learned once again how positivity, mindfulness, and trust can lead the way, successfully. And, last but not least, you don’t have to go far to experience adventure – it awaits just outside your doorstep!

This traveller has a blog : Birdwinks

credit photo : Birdwinks
Ultimate Bliss in Maldives

Ultimate Bliss in Maldives

A moment lived in Maldives by Anju Prakash, a traveller from USA

Visited Maldives, so many things about the trip that I remember with crystal clarity – Like the richness of the blue water stretching for miles. Like the feel of the granules when I slid my feet into the white sand beach. Like my first-time deep sea diving, and the astounding silence that surrounded as I swam deeper and deeper. Like the multitudes of sea life that bustled around me, in every color of the spectrum perceivable to the human eye. Like the thrill across my spine when I noticed the silhouette of a shark slinking across the dark inky waters of the open sea.

These memories I can recall in technicolor, and are always there to remind me to make time to explore more, travel more, makes more memories.

We stayed at the Adaaran Club Rannalhi, a tropical resort on top of a reef located at charming South Male Atoll in Maldives. This island is about 22 miles from the Male International airport and is, of course, accessible only by ferry. It’s smaller than some of its sister islands, but is as charming and quaint with its bright corals, exotic sea life and a breathtaking lagoon with the bluest waters.

This island resort pretty much has everything you can expect from an island retreat – adventurous water sports and activities, plenty of sand and beach to laze around, amazing food and drinks, beautiful water and beach bungalows, live music.

The first day, we reached around mid afternoon and pretty much spent the rest of the day lazing at the beach, soaking up some vitamin D. I simply cannot gush enough about the beauty of this place. With views looking straight out onto the ocean in every direction, balconies, sun loungers and the sea within seconds, this place has all the ingredients for an unforgettable tropical holiday.

For day 2, we rented some snorkeling gear after breakfast; It’s safe to say I spent the entire day in the water, until my fingers were all wrinkly and prune like. The island has daytime activities where they take you on a boat to the middle of the ocean, and then it’s go time! Snap on the goggles and get ready for a visual treat with some super exotic marine life. Absolutely magical!

Day 3 rolled along (way too fast, in my opinion :D), and I had been anticipating this activity ever since we planned this trip – DEEP SEA DIVING. Most islands in the Maldives have open deep sea diving – you basically slip into the wetsuit, strap on some insanely heavy gear and jump feet first into the water. There are even “orientation” dives for folks who want to give it a try in shallow waters before heading to the deep sea.

It’s not mandatory to know how to swim in order to do this here, although knowing you can swim definitely reduces the paranoia and helps to enjoy the experience better.

This was my first-time deep sea diving, and it was a divine experience. South Male Atoll is an awesome place to dive, the ocean floors are covered with soft corals and schools of red bass fishes swim across. Sightings of grey sharks, white-tip sharks, and eagle rays are frequent as well.

Flew back to reality the next day with tanned skin, sand in hair, and sparkles in my eyes.

This traveller has a blog : Dusty shoes and beautiful views

credit photo : Anju Prakash