I only got out of the van thirty seconds ago, and I’m already strapped up and hurtling towards the abyss.
Barely fifteen minutes earlier, I’d felt a little faint after asking how high the mountain was as we hurtled up the side of it in a large white van.
‘Two thousand metres,’ was the concise reply from my Turkish companion, a fairly short man with leathery skin. He looked far calmer than I did. It took a moment for me to register what he’d said: two thousand metres, as in two kilometres. Straight up. It didn’t look that high from the boat! I started to sweat a little.
The road up to the summit took a steep incline, with regular hairpin turns. There was no safety barrier, and from my spot on the left hand side of the van I was unable to see any road out the window. Nothing but a sheer drop. I turned away.
It took about half an hour to reach the summit. We parked on an area tiled with paving stones like a typical driveway, except the driveway appeared not to end. It continued for about 20 metres before dropping down steeply and disappearing from view, as though the earth had swallowed it up.
Barely out of the van, I was about to apply sunscreen to my face when one of the guys from the bus started wrapping a harness around me and tightening straps. He laughed at me and gestured to the sunscreen. ‘What do you need this for? You’re not going to the beach!’ I sheepishly put the bottle back in my bag. Another person was folding out a glider in a large semi-circle around us.
I patiently awaited the safety demo from the instructor. In typical Turkish style, it was fairly concise: ‘I say walk, you walk. I say run, you run.’
Then, immediately: ‘Walk.’ Followed quickly by: ‘Run!’
I’m running towards the abyss, but the harness makes it awkward. Somehow, we start to pick up speed. I glance behind us and can see the wing beginning to lift. Just before we reach the drop, I realise my feet aren’t hitting the ground: we’re airborne.
I’m amazed to realise that instead of falling, we’re gaining height. It’s exactly how I’ve always imagined it would feel to fly. The further we get from the driveway, the higher we climb.
At this point, I start to relax into it. I shuffle backwards in the harness. It feels like sitting on a swing. I become acutely aware of the lack of noise. Two thousand metres below me, the water of Ölüdeniz is glimmering turquoise.
My head can’t quite grasp the whole experience and it feels like I’m dreaming. I try to soak in everything from the mountains behind me to the faint smell of salt from the sea below. I consciously put my camera aside for a good five minutes, to ensure I experience the glide fully. My companion points out some of the bays in the distance, including St Nicholas Island where we’ll be spending the night.
Just before I reach sensory overload, we turn the glider around and I’m rendered speechless again by the sight of Ölüdeniz from the other angle, with the mountain I’ve just jumped off dominating the horizon behind it.
Now, without warning, it’s time for some aerial tricks. I lose my stomach as the glider spirals down like a kamikaze rollercoaster. But my companion is in full control, and we resume our calm descent once we’re low enough to make out individual beach umbrellas on the shore below.
My heart skips a beat when we swing out over rooftops and I’m sure we’re too low. Then it skips another when we approach the grassy landing strip and I’m sure we’re too high.
But, just as I brace myself for the impact that’s sure to break both my legs, we hit a (clearly deliberate) updraft and my feet land lightly on the ground.
I spent over half an hour in the air over Ölüdeniz, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Have you been paragliding somewhere spectacular like Turkey’s Turquoise Coast? Comment below and let us know!
Andrew travelled to Ölüdeniz on Busabout’s Sail Turkey trip as a guest of Flight Centre UK and Busabout. The paragliding experience is available as an optional extra on the second day of the trip.
The Turquoise Coast is best reached by Dalaman – click here for cheap Dalaman flights, or call our consultants on 2008 045 4186 to ask about Busabout’s Sail Turkey Trips.