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Like a song, paragliding means pleasure and ease.
Priceless in the rich legacy of my childhood memories is the wish my mother whispered in my ear every night before I went to sleep: “I hope you will fly like a bird in your dreams!” Perhaps it was for this reason that whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I always said, “A pilot.” As one of my first steps towards realizing that dream I did research on the subject of paragliding over the years and learned that, apart from Eskişehir, Bolu and Adapazarı, this sport was best practiced at Fethiye’s Ölüdeniz. I will never forget how my heart skipped a beat when I found out that a colleague of mine in an organization in which I was a volunteer was a former paragliding pilot there. His recommendations regarding the best place and person for getting started made my job considerably easier.
Three years have passed since that day. Travel plans were laid every spring and fall for learning paragliding, but each time fulfillment was postponed to another spring. As I was swept along in the river called life, my dreams of flying were constantly being put off.
Finally one day I rang up the paragliding trainer during a free moment I was able to snatch from the clutches of time and work. As always he replied, “What are you waiting for! Come as fast as you can. This is the time to fly!” Packing my dreams in my bag I jumped on my motorcycle and was at Ölüdeniz the next morning.
I can’t possibly describe how it took my breath away to see the paragliders passing over my head as I searched for the paragliding school in the streets of this very regularly laid out town. I arrived at the school thinking how I, like them, would soon be gliding through the air. The minute I met the trainer for the first time and, within the short space of ten minutes, got the entire training program from him and learned that under the supervision of a good instructor a person could learn to fly on his own within three days and that I would be strapping the glider on my back for the first time the next morning, it was as if those moments were part of a dream I wanted never to end.
The runs I made on the shore the next day in the Ölüdeniz heat with an old-fashioned harness and an ideal, difficult-to-control training glider on my back reminded me of the flying instructions my mother used to give baby birds. For the first thing a person who wants to fly has to do is to run time and time again on the sands at the shore with the glider on his back. After three very pleasurable but equally exhausting days at the shore, we listened to the weather forecast for Thursday, when we were to make our first flight. All I could do was hope that everything would go as well as possible. The weather conditions were crucial, because paragliding is an almost one hundred percent safe sport as long as one follows the rules and heeds the weather. The instructions were clear and unambiguous. There would be no flying if it rained or if the wind was not conducive. Anyway, everything was going well.
On Thursday morning my classmate Remko and I got in the car. After what seemed like an interminable twenty minutes, we arrived at the 100-meter high Karaçulha piste which is used for training. We spread our wings on the ground as we had learned in training and strapped on our harnesses. Our flight equipment and wireless sets were carefully checked by our instructor. I then took my position, felt the wind and...
Not knowing whether to weep or scream, I heard my instructor’s voice over the wireless. “The baby bird has flown!” I was airborne. As the ground receded beneath my feet, my instructor’s commands seemed to be coming to my ear as if from beyond the ages. Brake right, brake left, go straight... The only thing going through my mind as information like the position of the controls, the brake ropes and position of the ears, my distance from the ground and from the hill, my angle of approach to the landing field all the main rules I had to pay attention to while flying - was being processed by my brain was when my next flight would be. The minute my feet touched the ground I regretted all the years I had spent not flying and immediately folded up my paraglider as my instructor had taught me in preparation for my next flight.
LANDING IN A TEA GARDEN
Following three days filled with training flights made from a 100-meter high hill that passed like a dream, on the last day I went up to the 300-meter high piste in the Ölüdeniz ridges for my final flight. I wish that every person in the world could have a chance to see the Mediterranean’s turquoise waters and the Ölüdeniz’s golden sands...
I spread my paraglider on the ground and strapped on my harness. I received the route commands correctly from my trainer. But my irrepressible urge to fly impelled me to stay in the air a little too long. I got off course and couldn’t help laughing when my landing in a tea garden some 100 meters inland from the shore became inevitable. After overturning a few beach umbrellas and landing on a pouffe, I was so relieved that I immediately asked the waiter, who was gaping in amazement at this unexpected guest out of the sky, to bring me two glasses of tea. If you could only have seen the astonished expression on his face when he asked me who the second glass was for: “My instructor,” I replied. “He’s up there. The lesson is over now and he’s going to come and have tea with me.”