Paragliding in Madeira

As the island had been battered with high winds and its annual hurricane style storm descended in early April it seemed doubtful that a paragliding flight would happen in the week that my children visited. They were lucky to have landed on the island anyway, and were fortunate that their flight managed to slip in before others, which were redirected to the Canaries after shutting down the airport for a few days.

On their last visit and a promise of taking a passenger flight, they were unlucky again, in that in February the week they were here, it rained and the winds were too strong to fly. However, they did manage to take a couple of lessons from Tom high up on the plateaux of Paul de Serra, on a small strip of flat grass where he instructed them both on how to get the glider off the ground and into the air without leaving the ground themselves. That in itself was enough to keep the kids happy that visit, but made them more eager to try it for real when they arrived earlier this month!

For the first four days we were all confined to the house as the relenting winds and rain whipped and lashed its way across the island. The seas were high and rough and as a result floods and weather damage was inflicted on much of the island. Nearing the end of the week, on a nice and bright Saturday morning the weather had cleared and the worst was over, and with a quick call to Hartmut Peters from ‘Aerogene Madeira’ we hopped in the car and made our way to the take-off in Arco da Calheta.

The site where the local pilots take off, was buzzing with activity, all converging on the strip desperate to get into the air and get their regular adrenaline fix having been grounded for over a week. The sky was a blaze of colour with around eight pilots surfing the good thermals gaining heights of around 800 metres above sea level. It was too much for Tom to sit and wait with us whilst we waited for Hartmut to land with his passenger and so Tom was off, getting his adrenaline fix along with everyone else, whilst trepidation was knotting my stomach at the thought of my two babies being flown over the mountainous landscape at high altitude with only a strip of material keeping them up there!

First to take the plunge was my 16 year old son and as quickly as he had climbed into the harness and Hartmut had attached it to himself, the wind was right and off they ran, over toward the edge of the cliff with their feet leaving the ground a few feet from the rim. Elliot and Hartmut disappeared off into the distance and headed toward the area of Loretto. Natalie, my 14 year old daughter excitedly snapped away with her camera, looking forward to the thrill of it being her turn next.

Elliot’s landing was gentle and graceful; returning to the same spot that he was launched from and Natalie eagerly climbed into the harness and promptly took off with Hartmut for her flight. This time Hartmut took a different route as the conditions had changed and he could not maintain the heights that he managed with Elliot. Tom was chaperone in the sky and flew with them as they gently meandered their way down and across to a second landing site in Madelena do Mar along the beach.

As is customary after an afternoon of flying, all the pilots converge on Maria’s bar for a few beers to wind down and throw a few jokes. The gliders are packed away and the sun comes down for the evening. Everyone is exhausted but euphoric from an adrenaline pumped flight.

*My sincere thanks to Hartmut Peters for giving my children an experience of a lifetime and one they won’t forget.

This article was previously printed in a copy of The Madeira Times Newspaper. We do not accept responsibilty for information that may now be out of date.

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