Ever wanted to try paragliding? Fairytale Lake Bled in Slovenia, with its many adventure operators, is the place to do it. To find out how it feels, and just how easy it is to arrange, read my guide
“Who wants to jump first?”
“Not me,” I said quickly. It was my first time jumping into the abyss strapped to a paraglider – and I was nervous about it.
Steve, an Australian who likes to have his photograph taken doing handstands in front of the world’s wonders, was happy to go first. This was a tandem paraglider, meaning you are strapped to the front with the pilot to your rear. I watched others perform the take-off procedure – basically, stand on the edge of the mountain and wait for the pilot to say "Go". When he says it, run fast – very fast. Keep running no matter what; even when lift-off happens, keep running. Do not be tempted to jump off, just run. It was straightforward, but my entire body was telling me that running off a mountain was simply unwise.
Steve took off with no problem, soaring up and away, whooping with joy. I was still afraid and started to wonder if I could quickly come up with a convincing excuse to get out of this. Too late! I was called forward.
“Okay. I count to three and then we go,” Klemen, my pilot, said. He was grinning and desperate to get in the air. Nothing happened. The wind had died down and we had to wait for it to pick up again. It was agonising standing on the edge, overlooking the valley, with time to comprehend my fate.
Who would have thought something so scary would be so simple to arrange? Slovenia’s fairytale Lake Bled has several adventure operators located together on one street, Ljubljanska Cesta. I walked into 3glav adventures, handed over €85 and was asked to come back in an hour when the pilots would be roused from bed and ready to take me skywards. There followed a drive to the base of a suitably high mountain, and a short hike up with the gear – and here I was, reluctantly about to sprint off.
Oh boy, this was really happening!
I did as I was told, but suddenly I couldn’t run any further. The weight of the chute was holding me back. We had come to a dead stop mere inches from the edge! I tried to turn my head to look to Klemen for help, but he just shouted to keep running. I forced my legs into action and within seconds we unexpectedly became airborne.
It was gentle, relaxing and lovely. Instantly, the panic and exaggerated heart beat induced by the take-off had been replaced with a feeling of tranquillity.
“How do you feel?” Klemen asked.
“Great. I feel like a bird.”
Ahead was the majestic snow-covered Mount Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak. Below was the forest. I felt comfortable enough to take out my camera and grab a few shots. We soared up, dropped down and did lots of turns during the 20-minute flight. Klemen also treated me to some aerobatics with a descending turn. This increased our speed dramatically and it felt like we were going round and round in a tight circle. I could feel it in my stomach, but it was a buzz and I shouted my delight.
The landing instructions were elementary: start running as we approach – and keep running when we hit the ground. This actually worked and produced a graceful touchdown.
The experience produced a huge grin on my face, which lasted for the rest of the day.
Where to stay
Bledec Youth Hostel is the best budget option, with bed and breakfast for €20 per night. The dorms are en-suite with very comfortable beds.
You can book your flight with 3glav adventures (www.3glav-adventures.com) in advance, or just turn up at their office in Lake Bled.