A Birds-eye view
Hanging suspended over the mountains of Pyeong-Chang
Well, with us having been working and travelling around South Korea for 4 months now, and my birthday looming in the upcomming week, we decided to do something a bit more extreme. This meant setting our alarms for 5am (Yes, 5AM!) on a Monday morning and catching a train into Seoul in time to meet a bunch of friends and pile into a van by 8am.
With stomachs slowly waking up to the taste of Kimbap (Korean sushi roll) and coffee, our non-English speaking driver started the 4 hour trip out to the little town of Pyeong-Chang in the middle of the mountainous Gangwon-do province. Upon arrival we were greeted by perfectly trimmed parks and banners proclaiming Yes Pyeong-Chang! . A sad legacy of the recent loss of the town's winter olympic bid to the Russian city of Sochi by a hair-pulling 2 votes, only 4 days ago. You can only imagine how different the atmosphere in the sleepy town would have been had the voting gone the other way.
The van rolled up to a small dorway where we climbed up a narrow staircase to sign indemnity forms, promising not to sue our hosts in the event of
Our gear for the day
Loaded and ready to go
a messy death. Hmmm. With that out of our way, we each took turns to make sure our bladders were well emptied, and then drove out to a clearing by the river just outside of town. Pointing up, our guides showed us a grassy area which dropped off sleeply near the top of the mountain, 450m above us and told us that would be our take-off site. That's right folks, today we're going paraglilding. Running off the highest peak around, strapped to a giant parachute, so suit up!
We could hardly stand still with the thought of what was to come, but we were going to have to, because the wind was blowing the wrong way at the moment. To help ease the tenion of the wait, we were served a delicious Korean lunch of bibimbap and pork with cold cucumber soup.
After lunch, our guides took us up to the take-off site to check the wind. The direction was still wrong, but they decided insted to take us a little higher up to a take-off facing the opposite valley. The bakkie we were driving in wasn't able to get all the gear up the steep slope, so
So many people with so little sense of self-preservation
we had to scramble the last 100m carrying the heavy gear. Finally at the top, we unrolled the massive cannopies and one by one got kitted up. Since we were going to be riding tandem with experienced pilots, and none of the pilots could speak English, the briefing was pretty much limited to: Sit in the seat, strap in tight, keep running at the edge of the cliff, and remember to keep running when you land.
Since we were only using 3 rigs, it took us the rest of the afternoon for the 9 of us to each get a jump. Each rig had to packed, driven, and carried up to the top between jumps. Since Cath and I had planned to camp in the region that night, we went last. If the weather was to go bad, we could try again tomorrow. As it turned out, the wind had picked up as it got towards evening. That meant we had an easier take-off and were able to climb higher and go even faster. It did also mean that we got a bit of turbulence near to the landing site, just to make things fun.
The ride itself
She goes no further
The road becomes too much for the truck. The rest will be man-(and woman!) power
was incredible. Dangling in a seat high above the peaks, we had a perfectly unobstructed view in every direction. Because you are flying rather than falling, it is really quiet and peaceful. It must be the closest thing to flying that man can get. We were both surprised that there was never really a feeling of fear, just exhileration and amazement.
I was lucky to have a nice soft landing on the river bank. Cath got something similar, but then a gust pulled her pilot and herself backwards off their feet, setting them down in a pile with the canopy in the river. Haha! True to character, I felt it was far to short and Cath was glad to be back on the ground before spilling her lunch. She loved the ride, and would do it again, but Cath can get motion sickness in a rocking chair.
With our heads still in the clouds and the sun setting behind us, we settled down to try to chat about the day with our incredibly friendly pilots. We were treated to another amazing meal. A traditional Korean barbecue, with plenty Makali (fermented rice beer which tastes just like ginger beer).
At the top
Sitting at the launch site, after driving and hiking up the side of the mountain with all the gear.
After we were all well fed and starting to feel drowsy, the others piled back into the van to be driven back to Seoul. Still keen to spend more time in this beautiful area, we walked a few metres to a nice grassy patch, pitched our tent and crawled into our sleeping bags to replay the feeling of being a bird over and over again in our dreams.
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