5 Travel Destinations That Will Get You High
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Flights can only be booked on arrival at Tafika Camp and cost around $130. Nights at the camp can be reserved at www.remoteafrica.com.
Birdseye View: Paragliding in Nepal
In the town of Pokhara, pilot Scott Mason has developed a unique way to get his passengers even closer to the local animals.
The falconer runs a rehabilitation center for injured raptors, and after adopting two Himalayan vultures, Kevin and Bob, who couldn't be trained to fend for themselves, the trio taught each other to fly together. At the controls of a paraglider (a parachute that works like a sailplane), Mason trained the birds to fly alongside him and lead him to the thermal updrafts of warm air that paraglider pilots and vultures rely on to stay aloft.
Now Mason offers tandem paraglider flights where passengers can feed raw buffalo meat to the birds in the air, either diving for tossed morsels or landing on the passenger's gloved hand and tearing with beak and talons at the flesh. Seeing the birds' voracious appetites satiated at arm's length is equaled by the sight of their 6-foot wingspan twitching to maneuver in the breeze. For an hour you are granted the freedom that bird flight inspires.
The lack of motor makes paragliders peacefully quiet in the sky, but launching requires both pilot and passenger to take a committed run off the edge of a hill. The leap of faith is repaid by Mason's vivid in-flight explanations of the birds' behaviors and of Himalayan meteorology. The descriptions and the flight will come to mind every time you look at raptors flying thereafter.
Parahawking flights and accommodation can be booked through www.parahawking.com. Proceeds support vulture and wildlife conservation efforts throughout Nepal.
Head in the Clouds: Ballooning in Turkey
The phallic pinnacles of "Love Valley" are guaranteed to bring a schoolboy smile to even the most pious visitor to Cappadocia, Turkey. Any one of the numerous hikes through the eroded basalt landscape leaves you hankering for a view from above. Fortunately, numerous companies vie to spirit you away in a dawn hot-air balloon flight.
The balloon inflates with an inexorable momentum and throughout the flight the pilot controls it with the demeanor of a mahout stoking a dozy elephant. Balloon flight is smooth and the changes in direction and altitude flow with the grace of a lava lamp. Early mornings provide the ideal air for ballooning, but are also conducive to mist outside of the summer months. Nonetheless, momentarily floating through cloud is the perfect complement to the melted Dali-esque landscape below. The wide-open views fade, instantly replaced by the cool immediacy of a claustrophobic white-out that has no tangible walls but encases you completely. This dreamy sensation is amplified by the sleepy pre-dawn start.
The soft ride ends with the landing, which, no matter how well-executed, has all the decorum of falling off a skateboard. It's a rude awakening to your earthly constraints.
Ask for recommendations from the government tourist office in Goreme to ensure you are using a reputable company with new equipment and experienced pilots. There have been cases of injuries and even fatalities in past years.
Flight Time: Light Aircraft in the USA
Viewing the scale of the earth from above can leave you feeling physically dwarfed by its grandeur. And flying over some landscapes can also leave you humbled by the visible scale of time.
The aptly named Scenic Airlines departs daily from Las Vegas for the 45-minute flight over the Grand Canyon to its southern and western rims. Through the oversized windows of their Twin Otter light aircraft, you can see the precipitous rock strata that lead sharply down to the base of the canyon. The view challenges your imagination to conceive the magnitude of geological time required to forge this scene, and by comparison the brevity of a human lifespan.