“… you just run down the slope and jump off!” exclaims my pilot, Luis, with an endearing grin. Standing stationery on a gritty bit of volcanic slope is one thing, but throwing myself off the edge is something else entirely. We are at about 2,200 metres above sea level and waiting for the right wind direction to lift our chutes skyward and takes us flying over the valley far below. Yes, I am tandem para-gliding for the first time in my life and wondering what on earth I have gotten myself into.
I am not afraid of heights and seldom back down when it comes to adrenalin fuelled activities but, even for me, this is a nerve-wracking.
Six of us are para-gliding with an adventure company called Enminube (loosely translated ‘In my cloud’). We depart from La Laguna on the north side of Tenerife and soon are travelling up to Teide National Park. Ultimately, we will be‘flying’ over an area named Valle de La Orotava and will land about a ½ hour later in Puerto de la Cruz.
When you are perched in the stratosphere on Tenerife, the omnipresent Mount Teide appears to hover in the distance. The views are breath-taking in their beauty with equal amounts of mountainous terrain, clear sky, forested valley floor and sea making the vista incomparable.
As we assemble on the gravely incline, there is a bit of waiting before the wind – for that all important uplift – is just right. The thermal drafts will get inside the parachute so that the pilots and passengers can float up and over the valley floor.
Hooked up to the harness, I can feel the weight of the pilot and the parachute behind me. As I am the first one (?), I am quite terrified of running down the slope. What if I slip and fall? More than anything, I am afraid of doing it wrong and hurting us both.
Suddenly someone named Enrique is shrieking in my ear, “You were born to fly!”… it is time to take the plunge and I start to run. Within three steps, I am airborne. And it is utterly magnificent. I feel, quite literally, as if I am flying. Soaring over the rugged peaks below is sheer joy.
Within about 5 minutes we are already beyond the rocky ridge and over the forest. The unique pine trees below me are completely fire resistance. When Teide erupts, the flowing lava will burn and scar the trunk of these pines but they simply start sprouting green shoots a few months later.
I look behind and see my compatriots lined up and flying behind me. I have to admit, it is exciting to take the lead.
Finally, below us is Puerto de la Cruz. Luis points out the Hotel Botánico where I am staying and the Botanical Gardens nearby. This is the lush, gorgeous part of Tenerife.
As we near the ocean, there is an enormous turquoise coloured swimming pool that comes into view. Not far from the pool is a parking lot where we will be landing.
An unforgettable experience.
Tenerife was host for the British Guild of Travel Writer’s annual general meeting and this was just one of the many sponsored activities organised by the Tenerife Tourist Board.
Images © roamingscribe unless noted.
Other participants were: Kiki Deere, Sue Watts, Petra Shepherd, Lauren Jade Hill and Lindsey Sutton.