I never thought my Bucket List would be my Death Wish. But, early Saturday morning in Fethiye, I nearly died.
I should have known better.
I had been talking about paragliding in Turkey since I started my trip. It seemed safe — you just run off a cliff and then float over the bluegreen gorgeous water and land on the soft sand.
I was wrong.
I had signed up the night before, after the Fez bus arrived to Fethiye from Koygeicz.
“I would like to go paragliding,” I announced to Scotty, who called and arranged for me, Corrine, Jeni and another girl from our trip, to take the jump early the next morning.
I went to sleep early that night, adrenaline and anxiety pumping through my blood.
Sleep was not fulfilling. In my dreams, I did not jump. It was rainy, which meant there would be no sailing down to earth from the sky.
Which was fine with me.
I almost had myself convinced I would not be jumping because of rain when my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m.
I got out of bed, tied my sneakers and headed down to meet the others.
The ride up to the sky center was scary enough. Piled into the back of a truck on benches, the four girls paired with four men who would jump in tandem with us, bounced and held on as we maneuvered dirt roads, clung perilously close to cliffs and finally reached the top.
“One of us could die,” Jeni exclaimed, bright smile on her face, totally joking at the sentiment.”
I looked out at the peak above us. Dirt, rocks, more rocks, jagged edges, a road below, then a straight drop down the mountain.
Oh. My. God.
Strapped to instructors, people were walking, then running off a cliff 19,000 meters up … taking flight over the mountains and down into the vast sea below.
What was I doing?
Panic mixed with fear mixed with excitement coarsed through my blood, sending a multitude of different thoughts through my head.
“Here,” said the man who would jump with me. “This is your jumpsuit.”
My hands fumbled with the zippers, so he began to zip me up, then placed the helmet on my head, leading me to the ledge where other jumpers had gathered.
For a moment, I watched them. Walk walk walk walk, run run run run, fly fly fly fly.
You can do this, D.
He began to tell me what to do.
“When do I sit?” I asked him.
“Don’t think about sitting,” he ordered. “Listen to me and do what I tell you to do.”
And then, it was our turn.
“Stand here,” he moved me to a rocky spot a little bit down the steep hill. He began strapping himself to me.
My heart raced.
“Wait …” I said, second thoughts charging through my mind, along with the hefty price tag for the jump.
“The wind is good right now …” he began.
“OK,” I said, closing my eyes. “Fine. Let’s just do this.”
And we were off.
A guy pulled me by a front strap down the mountain, walking at first and then breaking out into a run.
I felt wind catch the parachute.
And then all hell broke lose.
Suddenly, I was facing rock. Falling down … down … down.
There was one moment before we plummeted 20 feet that I thought we would actually take off. Then, I was looking at brown rock.
Oh my god. We didn’t take off. We are falling. I am going to die.
And then, we bounced from sharp boulder to sharp boulder to sharp boulder.
I’m still alive … I’m not hurt …
And then more falling and bouncing …
We have to stop.
I put my feet out, tried to grasp something, anything to keep us from catapulting at the speed we were going down the cliff of rocks.
I am still alive … I’m not hurt …
Then, we went over the edge.
I died paragliding.
We fell about 10 feet and landed on our asses, my pilot still strapped to me. The road below had stopped us from going over the edge of the mountain.
My body began shaking uncontrollably, my first though being my pilot.
Was he alive? Did I kill him?
“Are you OK?” We asked each other simultaneously.
I broke out into tears.
“Yes,” we both said.
I was still breathing. I was alive. I was hurt. My body was in serious pain.
Check for bleeding.
I thought for a moment about the places that hurt the most — my legs — and lifted up my jump suit and my pant legs. Blood. Cuts. Skin peeled back. But, nothing that required stitches.
“Get this off of me,” I cried, trying to unhook the multiple harnesses strapping the pilot and I together.
I sat there for another moment, taking in the extent of my injuries, the enormity of what had just happened.
I looked above. There were about 20 men who had dropped what they were doing to help us.
The parachute was caught on rocks, some which had landed on top of the fabric after our fall.
“Go and sit over there,” the pilot instructed.
“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” I repeated through a tear-soaked face.
As a group of people worked to free the chute, I sat on another rock, far from the scene and cried. Big, fat tears. Of pain. Of disappointment. Of anger.
I knew, deep down, I had panicked. I had done something that had toppled both the pilot and I down a cliff. I had put myself in danger. I had put him in danger.
And now, I was beating myself up for it every which what way possible.
As others, those not affected by the terror they had just seen as we disappeared off the mountain, jumped and sailed away, I sat in silence, the only noise ever coming out of me were sobs.
After our accident scene had been contained, the pilot and I walked back up the hill.
I was mortified. I didn’t want to face any of these people who had just witnessed my body failing itself.
“You sat too soon,” said one pilot. “Two more steps … that was all you needed …”
Two steps. D. Two freaking steps. And, I couldn’t take those two steps off of the cliff.
I sat, causing the wind in the chute to pull down, causing us to fall down, down, down.
“Next time, don’t sit,” he said.
“Are you ready to try again?”
Did he not just see me plummet 30 feet down a mountain and live to tell about it?
“Oh, no no no … I am not doing it again.”
“Are you sure?”
I nodded my head.
I got back into the truck and headed back down the mountain, every now and then breaking into tears.
When we got back to the office, Corinne and Jeni were there, waiting for me.
“You nearly died!” Corinne said. “Oh my god. We were so worried about you. All we knew was that you fell … ”
I burst into tears yet again.
On the way back to the hostel in Fethiye, Jeni relayed what she had seen of the accident.
“I saw you start, then I saw you sit, then the two of you fell over each other, fell down some rocks, and then … I saw you go over the edge, him go over the edge and then the chute disappear.”
“You nearly died,” Corinne repeated.
I got back to the hostel and saw Scotty.
“I’m so sorry for making the bus late,” I said to Scotty, once again sobbing.
“I’m just glad you are OK. All I knew was that you stopped, dropped and rolled!”
“I just need a hug,” I said, and he pulled me in and hugged me, making me feel safe for the first time that day.
“We are getting you drunk tonight,” he informed me before we boarded the bus.
The bus ride to Olympos was miserable. I sat in terrible pain, discovering new bruises nearly every moment. When we stopped in Kas to hit the beach, I opted for the bus.
I did a quick tally of my injuries: two cuts on my leg, bruises on both shins, a massive bruise on my thigh (my dad swore he saw Jesus in it) and a sore, sore back. For days, I could barely move without being in pain.
You are lucky to be alive, D.
In Olympos, everyone wanted to know the story. I was the exception to the rule — the girl who bit it when paragliding.
After my accident, I received detailed instructions from the USA: stay on the ground. Keep your feet on the ground. No jumping. No riding on motorbikes, ATVS, scooters, no nothing …
When we arrived to Kadir’s Tree Houses in Olympos, I upgraded myself to a private room with air-con so I could recover.
After ample drinks that evening, I felt better. Not recovered, but not in pain.
The next few days would be all about relaxing and being thankful Corinne could only say “You nearly died …”