Friday, March 14, 2014

New Zealand Day 33: Paragliding in Richmond on the North Coast

The Nelson area is terrific, but we'd come back for one reason in particular: paragliding.

One of my dad's big wishes for this trip was to paraglide, and we had planned to do it in Queenstown, but as you will recall, we got rained out both times we came through the southern lakes. When looking around for options besides another trip back to Queenstown, which would be quite far, we came across Stew at Nelson Paragliding, and arranged our itinerary to put us here on what looked like a decent day.

We bounced emails and phone calls back and forth over the last couple of days to keep tabs on the weather, but this culminated in us arriving at the cricket grounds in Richmond to meet Stew just before noon today. He bundled us all (Mom and B included, though they wouldn't be flying) into his truck, along with a couple of other paragliders who would be launching solo, and we headed up the dirt track to Barnicoat Hill.

As we came up to the summit, we saw a hawk floating along next to the car, a promising omen for helpful thermals!

 Here's a view from the hill, with Richmond (sort of a suburb of Nelson) spread out in front of us and Abel Tasman National Park across the bay. This is on the north coast of the South Island.

Stew's plan, wind permitting, was to launch with me, fly me around for awhile, and stay high enough to re-land on the top of the hill, then take my dad and fly him around before landing down at our car parked in town.

After signing the waiver, I suited up.

B did some final checks and made sure I was ready to go.

Stew got me settled in the harness. As I have learned over the last few weeks, paragliding is when you sit up, and hang gliding is when you are stretched out prone. Stew explained how I'd wriggle back into the seat once we were up in the air.

He explained takeoff procedures: basically, stay on my feet and walk with him until the wind takes us.

A few final instructions, with B looking on:

Then he checked the glider was arranged properly...

And attached the two of us together, as well as to the glider.

 We walked, then jogged down to the edge of the hill...

And then up up and away!

It wasn't actually scary at all. I was nervous that at the beginning there would be some kind of falling sensation, but there wasn't. And I felt very secure in the seat.

Stew was able to find some thermals and we circled quite high, getting a beautiful view of Abel Tasman as well as the mountains of Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes national parks. Stunning!

He took some photos and movies in flight, too:

Eventually we came in for a landing—actually a skid—atop the hill again.


Then it was Dad's turn.

He had a great time as well!

Before taking off with Dad, Stew had explained that he was going to try to land in one of two places in town, depending on the wind, and pointed them out to Mom. The plan was for her to drive the truck down and meet them. Once we saw that they were coming in for a landing at the cricket ground next to our car, we packed up and I actually ended up driving us back down. Just part of the adventure!

Stew recommended McCahsin's Brewery for lunch—a big hit! They had a corner full of toys for B to play with, a couple of yummy vegetarian options to eat, and of course, delicious things to drink.

All three of the adults ended up ordering flights of cider to taste:

There were five kinds: lemon honey, traditional apple, three berry, ginger lime, and juicy pear. They were all terrific, I can't decide which one was my favorite, and we polished them all off.

We got B something nice to drink, too:

The rest of the afternoon and evening were pretty quiet, with some naps for the paragliders (it's such hard work to sit there and gawk at the views, and then drink a liter of cider, you see) and other quiet activities.

We ate in our cabin and have been watching some rugby on the telly this evening. A delightful vacation-y day! The only thing that's got me worried is a pain in my shoulder (not caused by paragliding, I could feel it twinge this morning before we went) that's actually gotten worse through the day. Am hoping I just slept on it wrong last night and naproxen/stretching/heat/ice will have it back in business in no time. B was very concerned and has been very helpful with massaging it with a tennis ball.

Tomorrow we're heading back to Blenheim for the rest of the weekend. There's some dreadful weather coming in, so I think there's a lot of Marlborough wine tasting in our immediate future. Life is rough!

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