BUSAN, South Korea – Picture a random Wednesday holiday where the sun is finally shining, and what better way to spend it than to fly through the air with 38 other Busanites? With the aid of a paraglide of course.
Through the organization Leisure World Paragliding Club in Busan, a few of us dared to, quite literally, take the plunge; strapping on some wings and bravely (foolishly?) attempting our first experience at tandem paragliding.
Paragliding is a leisure sport that is not yet that popular in these parts, and can be quite expensive in North America to pursue. In Korea however, you can test your courage for 100,000 won and jump off of the side of a mountain with someone who will control your flight and make sure you land softly rather than with a deafening thud. You get the security along with the freedom of feeling like a bird, and seeing Korea in all its glory from the skies above.
That said, if you have a fear of heights you might want to pass. But even having this fear my ownself, I was able to enjoy this experience simply because once you take off, you just sit back and relax while the pilot does all the work.
The launch site was at the top of a mountain, just outside of Daegu. We were in the countryside, amidst cow pastures and rice fields. On the drive up to the launching area our hearts were pounding. The pilots quickly strapped us in the harness and I was told to run down the mountain (this was the scary part). Before I could fully comprehend what I was getting myself into, I was up in the air!
Once you're up there floating above the mountains, it’s a whole other world. You feel absolutely light and surreal, with a bird’s eye view of the countryside below you. After about 20 minutes of gliding through the sky where you progressively fly lower and lower, it’s time to land. You hear mixed things about having to land on your feet, but because you are strapped onto a harness that is completely protecting your bottom it’s much easier to just fall right on it. That coupled with the fact that the location on which you are to land is a bit unclear; the pilot just chooses a spot that is closest to the road is absent any concrete. In my case, it was dirt field and the landing was quite soft and easy. The parachute landed right on top of us, so it took some time to dig through it and get out.
Truth said: I was gleaming the whole time I was up there; conquering my fear of heights AND being able to soar through the skies while, most importantly, making it out alive! It was a fantastic experience and a day I won't soon forget.
Unfortunately, on the day we went, the skies were hazy and the winds were whipping a bit too strongly. Not all of us got to fly that day, but that’s the flaw with any weather-dependent sport. After waiting a few hours for the wind to calm down, we had to head back to Busan, with the rest of the group forced to wait for another day.
For more info on taking a flight, you can visit the groups website here.