Paragliding in Pamukkale
Paragliding is probably one of the most touristic attractions in Turkey besides Istanbul and Cappadocia. The Mediterranean town called Oludeniz (which translates to "Dead Sea") is the most iconic destination for that. However, my one and only paragliding experience took place in another famous holiday destination called Pamukkale.
I was always a little skeptical about getting myself involved in extreme sports, but my thoughts about paragliding were somehow neutral. I presumed that having a guide with me would make me feel much safer compared to the being solo. Boy, I was so wrong!
When I went to Pamukkale, my intention was towards a much more relaxed holiday. The presence of travertines that look like cotton (which translates to Pamuk in Turkish) and the natural pools and hot springs in the area were tempting enough. It was one day while I was walking back to the hotel that I smelled some Turkish Pancake (gozleme) from one of the restaurants in the area. I was instantly attracted. It turned out that the owner of the restaurant was running a tour company as a side job and organizing various sightseeing tours here and there. When I saw paragliding among the options, I didn't really need much convincing. I was sold immediately.
The next day, I was picked up from my hotel. Apparently, the owner of the hotel knew the guy. Pamukkale is a very small district, so people were acquaintances of one another.
As we started ascending on the outskirts of the hill through meandering roads, I started to feel a slight vertigo and a realization of what I signed up for. Was I ready for this? Maybe not.
The hillside was very crowded, apparently it was a pleasant day with minimum breeze. We were told by the instructors that they don't usually operate if there is wind prediction for that day. They also check the weather regularly. It makes sense because there have been so many accidents where strong winds swayed the parachutes. Oh, why did I start to think about the worst possibilities? Stop!
My instructor came to inform me that it was my turn. We walked towards a slope that declined into a cliff. I was trying to listen to him all ears while he was giving me the instructions. The hardest part of the paragliding was the beginning, because we had to run along the slope really fast and don't stop running under any circumstance. I thought, "Okay, how hard could it be!".
After being tied to the parachute and placing the belts around our waists and thighs, the two of us started running. My heart was pounding so fast that it started aching. Halfway along the slope, we were already swept off the ground. At that point, my instructor warned me very loudly to KEEP RUNNING. We were literally trying to walk on air as if we landed on another planet.
Then, the instructor pulled me backwards so that the belt around me became a seat that wrapped my bum perfectly. I felt a strong electric wave running through my legs, they must have been shocked from the sudden loss of contact with the earth. It felt unsettling to be so far above the ground. After all, we were not evolved to be flying, that's why my lower body deprecated this sudden change.
The travertine and the ruins of the ancient city looked like miniatures.
Can you actually spot the ruins?
One of my kneepads slipped away from my knee down to my ankle and it felt extremely ticklish. To distract myself, I started to tell my life story to the instructor who absolutely tried so hard to hide the fact that he gave zero fudge.
The second most difficult part was when he handed me the go-pro stick for me to take selfies. I must have taken at least 50 shots in 3 minutes. There is also a video of the jump. As embarrasing as it is, I trust that you won't judge my screams.
Some instructors were doing some tricks that made them tilt sideways and rotate like a propeller. Lucky for me, the civilization brought a concept into life called "consent", so I was able to decline my instructor's offer to entertain me.
In about 10 minutes, we started going down. I found it to be much shorter than expected, but wasn't altogether sad that it ended. Especially after hearing that the one in Oludeniz takes about half an hour.
The finale was a bit rough as I landed on my bum.
For the overall experience including the go-pro photos, I ended up paying 900 Rands. What are the paragliding prices in Cape Town like?
Even though it wasn't as scenic as Oludeniz, it was rather constructive since it helped me realize what I feared and how much of it I could handle.
Do you like paragliding? Drop me a comment below.