Paragliding Hong Kong
In my last blog I visited an abandoned fishing village on one of Hong Kong's islands. After returning to the city early that evening for some plans with friends I made it back to my hostel. After a night of beer, cocktails and Chinese rice wine I stumbled back and precariously climbed the little ladder to my bed on the 4th tier. The 3 people below me stirred, rolled over and groaned as I made way too much noise. Lying in bed unable to sleep I got out my phone and looked for something fun to do tomorrow. That's when on Tripadvisor I saw a place called Hike n Fly and without any doubt in my mind reached out to go paragliding. It was time to take to the skies!
I managed to reach out to the man who ran it and quickly arranged to set off for a flight in the afternoon. I packed my bag with lot's of non-essentials. Mainly because I had no idea what you needed to go paragliding and the brief just said bring a jacket as it can get windy up there! Most of the weight I had was camera gear, sensing some video gold dust was coming my way. I brought my go pro along with every attachment and back up battery I had. Jumping on a train out of the city my journey took me far away towards the outskirts of a national park. From here I met my guide. He had many stories to tell of his paragliding, taking people on flights all over the world through Europe, Africa, Australia and finally settling in China.
He was a fellow cameraman too with his own Youtube Channel and I sensed he was just excited about making a video as I was. Together we vlogged as the day unfolded, walking back and forth the camera to get the best shots!
In the end I never did release that video mainly because I had hours and hours of footage I couldn't get my head round but I have a few clips on here to show you. Together chatting away we grabbed an old yellow and green Hong Kong taxi into the heart of the national park.
We were heading for Ma Oh Shan mountain to a take off point offering the highest take off point in Hong Kong:
Ma On Shan (Saikung)
Named after the towering twin peaks dominating this beautiful country park, Ma On Shan paragliding site is the highest and largest in Hongkong. Perched 396 metres above sea level, high up on a grassy ridge immediately to the south of Pyramid Hill, it is unique in Hongkong in that it offers "top landings" -- paragliders lift off the ridge, soar up on the winds pushing against the mountain, climb up, experience 360 degree views of Hongkong (on clear days, Shenzhen as well), and then come back to a gentle landing on top of the same ridge they have taken off from. 'Surfing the wind' is by far the best way to "climb" up Pyramid Hill and Ma On Shan mountain, all without wearing out your sneakers! - Hike n Fly Website - Flying Sites | Hongkong Hike 'N' Fly
Walking towards the ridge to take off I followed my guide through the winding paths of the national park. Steep climbs over rocks and routes took us through the trees all the while filming our progress. Not long before meeting my guide I had felt impressed by the heavy load of camera gear I had managed to bring all this way but looking over I noticed my guide's backpack. It had all the gear we needed and was about the size of a washing machine tied to his back.
Once we reached the ridge and climbed to the top of the lookout point I stood in awe. The ocean stretched out for miles ahead with hundreds of green islands pock marked across the surface of the water. Around me I noticed other paragliders while crowds gathered to watch them setting up and taking off. None of it felt real to me in that moment, my mood unchanged focused on the views in front of me. After a young guy with flying a black sail above him caught the winds, walked forward and was lifted into the air I began to get a little nervous.
Thinking back to the things that scare me to the core, one of which is airplanes. I had formed an association with all types of flying with my nerves starting to take hold knowing I would find it terrifying. I was re-assured by my new Youtube buddy and he explained everything I needed to know before getting ready to take off. We battled with the sail trying to get it in the air with most attempts landing the sail back on the ground like a deflated balloon. After a few attempts there was a big gust of wind and up the sail flew, the strings attached to our harnesses being jerked back behind us.
Together we started to walk and finally run forward towards the drop in front of us. I ran with all the power I could muster from my legs. Step by step in front of the other then suddenly I had no more ground to stand on my legs churning in the empty air. I sat back as we began to fly!
I had never been more wrong about fear in my life. This felt nothing like the flying I was used to, this felt awesome! It felt like finally joining the ranks of the birds, free without limitations. Experiencing real flight for the first time was magical.
We paraglided back and forth in front of the mountain, pockets of hot air gradually raising us up higher and higher. After a long while looking at my legs dangling over the beautiful scenery below I looked to my right to see we had climbed higher than the peak of the mountain and here was where the fun began. We flew around at great speed with a vast space below of thick green trees stretching down to the ocean. A friend of my guides had taken off after us and had now caught up. Paragliding solo he was lying down in what looked like a sleeping back floating in the sky. We weaved around each other like the courtship of birds.
The flight lasted almost 2 hours giving us the chance to explore, test out a few terrifying stunts and I even got the chance to take control! Having not killed us we glided back to the ridge and landed again just where we had taken off. I was smiling for the rest of the day, flying was a new feeling that I would always be able to remember. We packed everything up, walked down the long way towards the ocean and here I said goodbye. I couldn't help but think what a life that would be, to take to the skies each day for a living.
I headed back to my hostel picking up some food on the way, ready for my final day in Hong Kong tomorrow.
In my next blog I have a mad idea for how to spend my last day in Hong Kong. A day that took me all over the city. Experiencing more beautiful locations, some rather strange ones and one that took me straight into danger...