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  • Turkish Radio Hour
    x0x A LATTER DAY ICARUS By AKGUN AKOVA* As I ran, I felt a shiver of anticipation inside. This was going to be my first flight by paraglider, and over one of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2003
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      As I ran, I felt a shiver of anticipation inside. This was going to be
      my first flight by paraglider, and over one of Turkey's most famous
      sights, the white travertine cliff at Pamukkale. I was excited rather
      than alarmed at the thought that in a few moments I would be
      experiencing the sensation of flying like a bird. As a child I had
      longed for wings, and read over and over again the stories of Hezarfen
      Ahmet Celebi who glided over the Bosphorus in the 17th century, and
      the Wright brothers.

      As my thoughts wandered to Icarus, who flew towards the sun on wings
      attached with beeswax, my tandem pilot called out, 'Faster! Faster.'
      As we gained speed air swelled the parachute, which began to pull us
      back, but although my foot twisted on the stones and the void was just
      a few steps away, I managed to maintain momentum. Running is the first
      priority for paragliding. If you do not run, you cannot fly!

      When the runway fell away beneath my feet, my pilot instructed me to
      sit in the saddle. As the parachute filled in the breeze, my
      excitement bubbled up. Beneath me were the ruins of the ancient city
      of Hierapolis, the towns of our modern time, and beyond them the giant
      white staircase of Pamukkale, formed by the precipitation of lime from
      the hot spring water. I struggled to take my camera from my bag,
      surveying the landscape below like a young eagle eager to take in
      every detail. A solitary cypress tree, the main road like a small
      snake, people like ants. I endeavoured to engrave the scene unrolling
      beneath me on my memory, for soon I would be back on the ground,
      looking up at the clouds and sky from my usual vantage
      point.Paragliding is the sport for those longing to exchange whispers
      with the wind, make the acquaintance of the clouds, and greet the
      birds. Although many people find the prospect of leaping off a cliff
      intimidating, if you follow the rules exactly it is just as safe as
      flying in an airplane. Paragliding began in the French and Swiss Alps
      in the early 1980s,
      when a group of sky-divers experimented with parachuting off cliffs
      instead of airplanes, and French mountaineers first turned these
      experimentats into a new sport. With its mountainous terrain, Turkey
      is ideal for paragliding, which first began here in 1988. In those
      early years the equipment was imported and expensive, and courses were
      only given by the Turkish Air Association. Today, however, there are
      many university paragliding clubs, and numerous other organisations
      offering courses. The equipment is widely available, and you can hire
      what you need instead of buying it. Approximately 25,000 paraglider
      flights take place in Turkey every year.

      It is essential to start with a training course, covering basic
      concepts, the structure and parts of the canopy and harness, flying
      techniques, air traffic rules, meteorology, and how to deal with
      emergency situations. On the first training flights, instructors keep
      in constant radio contact with the trainees

      After approximately ten flights paragliders are on their own, but they
      should never forget the importance of experience, and always keep in
      mind essential safety factors. Equipment should always have been
      tested, and should not be used once the specified flight life period
      has expired; pilots should always wear a helmet and spare parachute;
      checks should be kept on when the pilots take off and land; and
      weather conditions should be constantly monitored.

      Launch points in Turkey for beginners include Peak C at Inonu in
      Eskisehir (230 m), Kabasakal in Adana (280 m), and Gelincik in Mersin
      (260 m). For experienced paragliders only are Alidag in Kayseri (600
      m), Oren Heights at Pamukkale in Denizli, Sakar in Marmaris (930 m),
      Akcali (380 m), Uludag in Bursa (2000 m), Oren in Mugla (600 m) and
      Bozdag in Odemis (1200 m). The Cokelez and Honaz mountains in Denizli
      offer superb air currents and breezes for experienced pilots.

      Other enjoyable spots are Eymir and Golbasi in Ankara, Egirdir in
      Isparta, Catalca in Istanbul, Guzelbahce in Izmir, Abant in Bolu,
      Kesis and Munzur in Erzincan, and Kas in Antalya. But the paragliders'
      heaven is undeniably Oludeniz Lagoon in Fethiye. Between May and
      November paragliders who launch themselves from Mount Babadag hover
      over the azure sea, singing and shouting out in delight. Here it is
      possible to rise to 3500 metres, as you fly over one of the most
      magical landscapes anywhere in the world. It takes 45 minutes to climb
      Babadag by jeep, and often you find yourself above the clouds at the
      highest jump off point, which is 1900 metres. Those who launch
      themselves into the air here usually land at Belcekiz Beach half an
      hour later, but if you catch an upward current and are resolved to go
      as far as it takes you, it is possible to linger for as long as five
      hours in the sky, memorising the map of the lagoon.

      Others head for Butterfly Valley, and after packing up their canopies,
      remain to enjoy this beautiful spot.

      Wherever you land, however, your feet feel the urge to take off again
      as soon as they touch the ground. As I took to the air from Babadag
      and drank in the sight of the Mediterranean far below, I murmured to
      the parachute to whose strings I clung, 'Dear paraglider, my Pegasus,
      my winged horse! Let us leave no mountain unflown!'

      * Akgun Akova is the author of several books of poetry and essays
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