Sam and Stu's Kiwi Travels
Today we thought we'd do something different... how's about Paragliding for a change! After having a lie-in we headed into town for about 1 and went to Info&Track to book it. Whilst we were heading up to there we thought we might as well get a couple of runs in on the Luge as well. To the Gondola.. after having our photo taken we headed up to the top of Bob's Peak! (we've found out that this is what this hill is called) First things first.. a race! We headed to the Luge track, scenic track first, Sam beat me down this one and took a photo of me at the bottom... then back to the top for our second run. This time the advanced track was open so we grabbed our Karts and were off. This track is a lot quicker that the scenic track with a lot of dips and turns, a little more tricky to manouver... I used this to my advantage (although Sam may beg to differ as it was my turn to take a photo) and wuped Sam to the bottom.. and yes I got a nice picture of her coming down too. By this time it was 2:10 and time to head up for our flight! We met up with Peter and Adam, they're going to be our 'Pilots' today, they also gave us a stamp that gives us a free gondola ride back up when we get to the bottom. Because of the wind conditions we needed to climb up the hill a little further through the forest before arriving at a platau, the take-off zone! Stu's Flight... Sam went off with Peter and I set up with Adam. Whilst we were setting up we saw two other people taking off, and with this was my lesson on how to take off, strong walking, followed by a little run off a cliff.. nice one! Adam got the paraglider ready behind me and did up the harnesses, he then strapped himself in and it was time to go... Whilst this was going on Sam was doing the same next to me and I watched as she pulled the glider into the air and ran off the cliff.. piece of cake! Now it was my turn, a few steps and I could feel the tug of the glider behind me, then Adam shouted "Run", I started running forward, but then had to quickly alter course as the paraglider didn't want to go forward, but slightly to the left... suddenly we were in the air!! The view was amazing, and the feeling of being suspended by a kite was pretty cool... I was really comfortable as the backpack that Adam had harnessed to me acted as a seat as well, very nice. We flew past the gondola station on our first pass and then headed out over Queenstown. After a few turns Adam brought out the camera and we took some photos and a little bit of video as we soared high over Queenstown... It was really quite strange seeing Queenstown from this angle?! We couldn't have picked a better day to do this, not a cloud in the sky!! After a few more minutes of flying we were looking for the landing zone... "Right, now we're going to try something fun..." Adam said to me... with that he launched into a spiral turn and my Stomach went, then another ... at a point we were horizontal to the ground.. it was cool!!! After this it was time to land... to the right of me I saw Sam set down in the playing field, a nice soft landing... lets hope ours is the same.... it was. Sam's Flight... Well, we headed up the little Paragliding hut about 2:15, plenty of time as we had booked our flight for 2:30. It wasn't at all busy so we filled in some paperwork and were on our way straight away (which I was quite happy with as I was feeling a bit nervous and I didn't want to dilly dally around!). We had a ten minute walk up to the take-off zone. The path sloped very steeply up hill and I was shattered by the time we got to the top. It was such a gorgeous day, I really wished I hadn't worn my big ski jacket....ah well, I'm sure I'll be glad of it in the air!!! We got up to the take off zone and saw two people setting up. I stood watching Peter unpack the glider and Stu was led off by Adam to set up their glider. Peter got me into my harness and we watched as the other two gliders prepared to take off. Peter told me that I'd have to take two or three strong steps forward, then he'd yell run and I'd have to run off the edge of the cliff, he would be strapped behind me and would control the glider....great...I have to run off a cliff!!! (by the way the whole slope was covered in ice and I didn't exactly have hiking boots on so the thought of slipping wasn't really helping my nerves!!). We watched as the other two gliders took off. The first took off without any problems, but there was a bit of drama with the second one. The passenger guy did his strong steps forwards but when it came to running off the cliff he took one step and then sat down!! Peter told me this was the perfect example of what not to do as you could get yourself and your pilot in real trouble. As it was the pilot managed to stop right on the edge and they had to climb back up and go again - this time off they went without any problems. Right, my turn! I looked over at Stu and saw that him and Adam were slightly behind me and Peter so it looked like we were going first....oh dear!!!! Peter had the glider out and sorted by this time. He strapped himself behind me and asked if I was ready to go and was clear with what I was doing....yep, now or never!!! Right strong steps forward Peter said. I pulled forward....the thing weighed a bloomin tonne and I could feel it pulling me back, "Pull harder" Peter said....alright!!!! So I leaned forward and pulled as hard as I could....I could feel the glider lifting into the air!! "Run" Peter yelled and I ran towards the edge off the cliff. About a footstep before the edge I felt the Paraglider lift us off the ground and I stopped running....we were in the air!!! Phew... I was so relieved, running off the cliff was what I was most worried about and it had gone ok so now I could just enjoy it!!! The view was absolutely amazing. We had picked a perfectly clear day and there wasn't a cloud in the sky - we could see for miles. Peter got the camera out and took a couple of pictures, we tried to take some film but the camera stopped working so we gave up about half way down and just took in the view! It was so surreal, just hanging in the air - such an amazing feeling. It was windier than I thought as we glided down and a couple of times as we turned we caught the wind and it took my breath away. The harness doubles as a seat so we were literally just sitting in the air above Queenstown, I wanted to stay there as long as possible but I could see the ground getting closer and all too soon it was time to land on the school playing field. Peter told me to move to the edge of my seat as we descended and to stand up as we hit the ground....easy does it and we were back on the ground. We watched as Stu and Adam landed behind us - another smooth landing - and then unclipped our harnesses. Peter folded down the kite and then burned a CD of the photos he'd taken - we'd only got 5 because of the silly camera but that was better than nothing. I thanked Peter for the flight and then headed over to see Stu. He'd loved it as much as I had - hmmm....$100 for a second flight, half the price of the first....I wonder!!! We said thank you and goodbye to Adam and headed straight to the internet cafe to view our photos. Stu's are so much better than mine!!!!! His camera was working so he got a load of pictures with the view and some video footage as they circled whereas we'd only managed to get a couple after we first took off!!! Ah, well....now I'll definately have to go back up!!! We were both pleased with the pictures we had though and were still buzzing from our flight. We couldn't believe how quickly it had gone and were desperate to head straight back up and have another go!!! Oh for a money tree!!! Maybe if we're careful we'll be able to save enough for another flight before we leave! We decided to head back up the Gondola for lunch (with our free ticket). We stopped at the entrance to have a look at the picture we'd had taken as we'd headed up this morning and it was quite nice so we decided to get it for the memories! Back up the Gondola we went. We sat in the cafe and had a late lunch before heading out to the viewing deck to admire the view and to watch as other people paraglided down from behind us. We took a few more pictures, had a wander round the gift shop and then caught the Gondola back down to Queenstown. Off to Altitude Bar for a few games of pool before it was time to head home to cook some dinner.