Today was the second day of my paragliding course in Gourdon, in the south of France. I started first thing on Monday morning, along with five other French guys.
Gourdon is another spectacular French village perched high on a clifftop with an incredible view overlooking Nice and the Mediterranean far below. This morning I arrived with time to spare, and walked up into the village itself. Because it was still early there wasn’t another tourist around, and I wandered alone through a village that seemed to be from another century.
Yesterday morning we spent several hours running down a hill, hauling a parachute behind us, and then trudging back up in the heat. After lunch we did this again, but with a little more finesse, and throughout the day our skills improved. By mid-afternoon, as the winds increased, we were making small hops and glides, like baby birds stretching their wings.
This morning we did more practice of the same, which is really to perfect the take-off technique, and then at lunchtime the instructor asked us if we were ready to make our first flights. There were quite a few nervous questions, but we were all keen to have a go. I think we were all just fed up of tromping back up the practice hill in the French summer sun!
So after lunch we headed up the hill to the top, and were all a bit disturbed by both the height, and the strength of the wind. But after watching a couple of others taking off, and as the wind died a bit, we were ready to go.
When it came to my turn I took off pretty much as we were taught, and was soon soaring over the ground far below. I received intructions through my radio, and followed the flight plan, landing triumphantly five minutes later away down the hill.
It was a great experience, although over pretty quickly, and because there were constant instructions and things to think about it was hard to take in the view and the experience fully, but I am going back for more tomorrow!
It is very different to parachuting, as the paragliders are much more responsive to small braking manoevres, and are designed to fly further and stay up longer. It was quite disturbing to be so close to the ground at times, but not to be within a second or two of landing.
Without the help of the instructors I imagine I would have overshot the landing area by a significant amount, as my approach would have been way too high!
Unfortunately there were no photos taken of the first flights, we all had too many other things to concentrate on, but I am going again tomorrow, so will hopefully get some pix and video then.