By Anita Panda
“Travelling – first it turns you speechless. Then it turns you into a storyteller.” Moroccan traveller-scholar Ibn Batutta’s quote comes to my mind when I recall my first experience of paragliding in Interlaken. It was an experience that reaffirmed to me that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather it’s your ability to act in spite of fear.
I woke up to a beautiful, sunny, clear day in the charming, traditional little resort town of Interlaken, nestled in the mountains of the Bernese Oberland region, Central Switzerland. It is home to the lofty Alps, ski resorts, hiking trails, numerous lakes, villages and a spectacular setting for mushy, romantic Yash Chopra movies unfolding in those pristine, snow-clad Swiss peaks.
I stood gazing up in awe at the numerous paragliders – a riot of colours like blobs in the crystal blue sky – from my iconic hotel Victoria Jungfrau’s balustrade. “Could I do this too? Take that leap of faith?” piped the voice in my excited head. “If you don’t take risks, you will have a wasted soul,” lines from a quote mocked me in return. I treasured the skies but feared the abyss.
But it was either now or never!
My blood froze and my throat dried up as I drove up to a tall hillock. My wildly thudding heart did a few crazy, high-decibel flip-flops short of a cardiac arrest. I took deep, deep breaths of the pure Alpine air, chanted Hindu shlokas, visualised the pantheon of Hindu deities and braced myself. But nothing could quell that looming fear in the pit of my stomach. I was trembling like a leaf in a storm.
Finally, I mustered up the pluck to jump off the high cliff, towering atop the breath-taking Alps, eyes squeezed into narrowest slits in sheer fright. With my handsome instructor-pilot Dan from New Zealand seated behind me, I closed my eyes, pictured my favourite monkey god Hanuman, chanted his mantra sotto voce, ran a few steps ahead and leaped off for my brief affair de coeur with wild adventure!
It was an adrenaline-rushing, crazy moment as we took off. Whoa! I had goose-bumps all over as I gazed at the magnificent vista below. It was a life-transforming moment. I was reborn!
Soaring thousands of feet above in the heavens, I felt like a free bird, monarch of the vast skies, surveying the gorgeous earth below its powerful wings, as we passed over Lake Thun and the snow-capped peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. The pure, clean, heady air whizzed past me, ruffling my hair and teasing my senses.
I watched the miniature lakes, gushing dams, rivulets and streams, tiny homes, lush, dense forests, cars and people down below. Time stopped. It was a surreal, divine moment for me to merge into the vast cosmos.
My faith, safety harness and my instructor’s calmness kept me focused as I posed and smiled like Cleopatra mid-air for pictures to capture this for eternity. As we glided over Beatenberg, which offers some of the best paragliding conditions in Switzerland, every cell, neuron, nerve and fibre in my body pulsated with life. Like the dance of Shiva, I felt awakened and enlightened to my innermost core.
It was a rare moment of spiritual epiphany for me.
I became a detached spectator of life “with my eyes turned skywards.” Life is much like paragliding: Some do not even try taking the leap of faith. Others dare and go on with their heads up.
But once you have tasted that thrill and freedom, you break your mental barriers, and conquer your fears. You grow wings, and who knows how far they will take you?
For those keen on savouring a thrilling para-gliding experience in scenic Interlaken, some of the top-rated services are: