Weightless: Learning to Fly in New Zealand

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give, to roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live!” – Hans Christian Andersen

One of the most adventure-filled places on earth lies in the South Island of New Zealand, in a magical place called Queenstown. I had always dreamed of going to New Zealand and in the fall of 2002 my husband and I went on an epic two-week vacation of the North and South Islands of New Zealand. We were still newly married and kid-free thus craving adventure and excitement. Despite being the bungy-jumping capital of the world, I had no interest whatsoever in trying this form of thrill-seeking. Instead, my husband and I decided on trying tandem hang-gliding. It would be our chance to fly like a bird, soaring off the tops of the Remarkables and experiencing the sensation of weightlessness, exhilaration and joy.

I should have been concerned when we were about to book our day of pure kiwi-style adventure in Queenstown and the tour agent informed us that the day before there was “a wee bit of drama“.  But I was young, childless and full of that intense wild and crazy adventure that lead me to brush aside the fact that a woman and her “pilot” were in the hospital, barely alive, after crashing and free-falling thirty feet just after take-off on their tandem hang-gliding adventure.  Apparently the bolts weren’t correctly tightened.

After careful consideration of all of Queenstown’s fabulous, adrenaline-pumping activities, we settled on hang-gliding and I had my heart set on it, even though the story about the accident was still promptly displayed in the papers.  No it couldn’t happen to me?  What would be the odds?  We felt slightly reassured by our choice of a different company that according to our overtly friendly hotel concierge had a “no failure” safety record.  I didn’t want to chicken out at this point but the thought of being that first failure was still lodged inside the back of my mind, eating away a bit at my nerves.

It was with this mindset and apprehension that Paul and I set out one early afternoon to Coronet Peak a world-class ski resort in the winter and the launching off point for our hang-gliding adventure in the spring and summer.  Our van picked us up and drove us out of lovely, peaceful Queenstown and wove slowly up the mountainous terrain until we reached our destination:  Our launching point at 3,800 feet elevation!

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