Leap of Faith
“You just have to walk fast when I tell you. Then everything will be fine. You are not too heavy. Soon we’ll be flying!” He's laughing as he tells me this. “You are lucky today. Fiesch is the best place in the world for flying!”
And with that my new best friend takes a big step forward with me strapped to his front. We walk awkwardly together like clumsy Siamese twins. The chute catches the wind and my steps get decidedly longer. “Keep walking!” yells Petr. “I am!” I yell back, finally finding my voice, only to stare down at my feet frantically pedalling air as the lush green mountainside drops away.
It is suddenly quiet but for the wind hissing past my ears. My initial fear is replaced by awe as I stare, mouth agape, at the jagged white teeth of the Swiss Alps around us. To my left I can make out the white highway of the incredible Aletsch Glacier, winding its way from the peaks of Jungfrau and the Eiger down towards the Rhône valley. In the distance to my right the Matterhorn towers through the clouds.
The Valais region of Switzerland is a mecca for paragliders, with the valleys creating a perfect storm of thermals and winds. Petr tells me the record for the longest flight was recently set at more than 11 hours. The pilot flew wind-assisted from Fiesch to Zurich and back.
I ask Petr what happens if you lose a thermal and have to land far from home. He laughs and tells me they simply jump on the nearest train. “Swiss Rail is the best in the world. Always on time. We can fly anywhere and get home easy!”
I’m in no hurry to get home though, and as we rise over the undulating valleys below, I ask Petr if he can fly me to Zurich airport tomorrow. He laughs again and says: “Catch the train. You are too heavy!”