2004-11-13 Para-gliding in Cruicita, Ecuador
I always though that the essence of flying is being able to move freely in 3 dimensions, like a bird. That's the feeling that I was expecting to have when paragliding, but turns out that flying is at best a two dimensional activity. The wind decides where you are going to be and you can either take it or leave it (meaning, stay aloft or plummet down). Of course, there is powered flight with airplanes, but in my mind, that's less about flying and more about being "moved", like being in an escalator. Never the less, being tossed around in the turbulence and having a true bird's eye view, is an extraordinary experience.
As you may have guessed by now, I am taking a paragliding course. Although I wanted to try it for years, it happened kind of by accident - I saw a flier and decided to go for it. The first day consisted of me plowing the beach by being dragged around by the partially inflated and violently aggressive para-glider. It was all good fun, not counting a few bruises and extra ventilation holes in my T-shirt.
By the next day I figured out how to tame the beast and continued practicing the puppet show dance of "staying in the middle" - by pulling on various strings attached to me, the para-glider displayed me to the curious onlookers, while I tried alligning myself directly underneath and in the middle of it.
On the third day, when the para-glider was not ready yet, I surprised it by sneaking underneath it and ran towards the edge of the hill. The oncoming wind rapidly lifted us 20 meters off the ground and in a few more seconds we were cruising over the beach, both happy by the newly formed friendship.