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Paragliding in tandem is the best

Outdoor, Serbia

Paragliding in Niš, Serbia

Running off a steep cliff as fast as possible is not a thing I would normally recommend to anyone.  On the other hand, I am all for paragliding. Unfortunately, these two things go hand in hand. To be able to fly, one has to run towards a certain death, at least that is how it feels like. So there I am, standing on an 800 meters high mountain in southern Serbia, buckled up waiting for the right wind, weighing my options. The first and overwhelming thought is:  unbuckle and run to my loved ones as quickly as I can.  After all, I have a lovely family that I want to see again. The other option at this point seems to involve if not death, at least a crippling accident. Why would I want to risk my future happiness for a short thrill?

Tandem paragliding

On the other hand, I am sure this is quite safe, otherwise, the Niš tourist office would not suggest we take the flight, right? To be able to fly a paraglider one has to be a qualified pilot. As this is a first for me I will take a duo-flight in a tandem. Apparently, you don’t require any experience to fly.  I just have to sit back and enjoy the ride! Still, I am not sure. Whilst I consider the alternatives time runs out and the wind picks up. And off we go. The run is blissfully short, within a hundred metres we take off. Initially, I feel like hyperventilating. But once I settle, flying at a speed of 40 kilometres an hour feels surprisingly tranquil. The landscape below slowly changes form.

Soaring like a bird

Yes, this is the thrilling sensation of soaring like a bird. However, at the same time as I start to relax, I learn from the pilot that the wind can make unexpected moves.  Turbulence, the dreaded T-word is not just a thing for flying aeroplanes but a very real concern whilst paragliding too. For a change, I feel lucky being overweight as the additional kilos keep me from being affected too much by the wind. Thank you: red wine, chocolate (one can never eat enough chocolate), ice-cream and lasagne for keeping me safe. Miroljub, the pilot oozes calm and keeps reassuring me I am doing great.  “Wave to your husband, he is watching. There look.” My greatness amounts to hanging… which admittedly I have ample experience.  Still his reassurance works, my heart rate goes down from what surely must have been at least 200 beats per minute to a more acceptable level.

A soft landing

After what is less than a 15 minute spell – but feels like an hour – our flight has to come to a complete stop. When we land the pilot warns me that it will feel like a jump from 30 cm height and I have to run again.  In fact it is a soft landing and I know for sure that this is an experience that I want to have over and over again.

Practical advice

  • The flights usually take place near Niška Banja, a 15 minutes drive from Niš.
  • The website of Paragliding Grunf is in Serbian only. However, the instructor speaks fluent English. You can contact them by e-mail: info@grunf.org.
  • Wear sturdy shoes with laces (no flip-flops or sandals) to ensure you can run.
  • Long trousers and sleeves are also a good idea, as it will be a lot colder in the air, flying at relatively high speed even when it feels quite warm at ground level.
  • Keep in mind that booked flights may be cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.
  • The surroundings of Niš are ideal not just for paragliding but for many outdoor activities, like rafting, climbing and hiking.

 

So you know, I travelled to Serbia as a guest of the Niš Tourist Office.

I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar
I see me running through that open door
I believe I can fly

R Kelly Lyrics – I Believe I Can Fly – 

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