We landed late in Fethiye and just about managed to sleep when the alarm started blaring, reminding us that we had to wake up early for paragliding. Having had come in late in the night, we had tumbled into our hotel bed unaware of our surroundings and it was a welcoming surprise to see that the view from our balcony when we woke up all groggy, was a panoramic view of the Fethiye pier and the Mediterranean. Having only an hour to enjoy the view, I parked myself in the balcony, planning my day ahead and forcing myself to forget about the impending paragliding feat that we had decided to take on. We were paragliding in Oludeniz,a little beach town which was 15 km from Fethiye, mainly known for its sandy shoreline that is littered with beachside cafes and bars, and of course paragliding over the Turkish Riveria. Given that the Riveria had no dearth of beaches and clear turquoise blue waters, we had decided to get done with paragliding and move on to a more secluded beach on the Riveria somewhere along the Lycian trail.
Since we had picked the 8 am slot (something my husband will probably never forgive me for and I shall tell why later), the operator we were gliding with had offered us a free pick up from our hotel. The road from Fethiye to Oludeniz was windy, through hills and along the cliffs hanging over the Mediterranean. If the ride with such breathtaking views was supposed to ease my discomfort about paragliding, it definitely did not help that high in the mountains, we could already see people jumping off into thin air. Soon we reached the office of our tour operator and got acquainted with our fellow adventure seekers. Most of these folks were smoking like a chimney, which was a very common sight all across Turkey, but the fact that they were doing this to calm their nerves didn't really help instill confidence in my ability to jump off a cliff. Without further delay, we started our ride up to the mountain along with the tandem jumpers who were assigned to us. The journey up there was an unusually silent one, I guess each of us were lost in our own thoughts and some of us were just not used to being awake at that time of the day, either way, the pin-drop silence in the bus as we gained altitude was eerie and the butterflies in my stomach were increasing their fluttering rate. After having experienced scuba, I assumed that our tandem jumpers would give us a little more in the name of instructions before jumping off. But all my pilot told me was to run when he runs and smile for the camera. This somehow had a calming effect on me as it was clear that he did not have many expectations from me during the flight. And just like that he suited me up and made me stand at the edge of a cliff where all I could see was the abyss. My legs were shivering and I could not control its frequency especially around my calves. People were running off the cliff on either side of me and it looked fairly simple. The only thing that was still looming around my head was the fact that when I had done my research on paragliding in Turkey, I had come across an article about death due to a failed take-off and this thought made the otherwise instagrammable view a little less enjoyable.
Run and fly he said and so I did. I ran into the abyss and in a matter of seconds, the chute caught the wind and lifted us off the edge of the cliff. It was a confusing lift-off but albeit a smooth one. We went soaring into the sky and since it was a clear day, the horizon appeared as a perfectly drawn line far far away. My pilot showed me Rhodes island and a couple of towns on the Riviera but all I was fixated on was the turquoise blue waters of the sea. Interesting yet unrelated fact is turquoise essentially translates to "Turkey" + "stone" since it was discovered in the mountains of Turkey. During the first couple of minutes of the flight, we were rising up and gaining altitude, but once we had stabilized, my pilot removed my helmet so that I could feel the wind in my hair. While initially, I thought that this was his plot to kill me, soon I realized that letting the wind through my hair at 2000 meters was a pretty cool feeling. I wasn't scared anymore, rather I felt a child in a cradle that was suspended in the middle of the sky with the wind gently rocking me. The pilot then steered the chute into the mountains for a while before he steered it back into the sea and towards Oludeniz. Since it was a slow ride, there was sufficient time to look around, take in the sights, get motion sickness and click photos. It was around 15 mins into the ride that my pilot suggested acrobatics for which I immediately replied "No Thank You", but turns out this was the highlight of the whole experience for people like my husband. He also got to know that acrobatics is best done in the afternoon slot since by then the air heats and raises up and helps add on to the ruckus, making the acrobatics experience more adrenaline-pumping than it normally is. This was a fact I was already aware of since I had done my research and I had slyly picked the 8 am slot. The fact that my husband didn't do enough research on this matter and was denied the request to go paragliding again in the 12 pm slot ensured that he learned the importance of maintaining equality in travel planning activities.
Saying no to acrobatics didn't dishearten my pilot and he took me for a long ride along the coastline and ensured I got to see the view from all possible angles. As we slowly started our descent, I began worrying again about possible crash landing scenarios and thankfully my pilot handed me back the helmet. Just like takeoff, the landing was uneventful yet smooth. While approaching the landing strip I felt we were uncontrollably fast, but soon as my feet hit the ground, we managed to decelerate on time to avoid crashing into a beach cafe.
After procuring the photos from paragliding at the office, we decided to treat ourselves to a Turkish breakfast by the beach. With its variety of cheeses, olives, and eggs, I was getting increasingly getting used to the Turkish way of eating breakfast. Sipping my freshly squeezed orange juice in a beach cafe with the view of the Mediterranean I was feeling quite accomplished and happy with myself right about then.
6. No shortcuts to infinity