We rattled up a rough, narrow excuse of a road with impossible hairpin bends and steep drops either side. We all agreed we would do anything to avoid the return trip – even jump off a mountain.
My nerves impacted my bladder at a critical time. By the time I got out of the loo, the spunkier pilots had already teamed up with the other women, all younger than me. There was only one left, a stocky one – slower off the mark perhaps. His eyes fell when he realised he was stuck with me – almost literally, it turned out.
I could hear the other pilots speaking to their passengers reassuringly, giving them instructions in fluent English as they strapped them into harnesses. My pilot was silent and stony-faced as he fiddled, obsessively it seemed, with the harness. "What do I do?" I asked in a querulous voice, to break the ice. No response.
One by one, the others jumped off the mountain with their pilots. I raised eyebrows at mine. He just frowned and went on fiddling with the harness. He called someone else over. The two of them pushed and shoved me, conversing in animated Turkish. Repeatedly I heard a word that sounded like 'problem'. Perhaps we could just …er…call the whole thing off?
Suddenly, my pilot stopped fiddling and barked, "run!" I ran as fast as my jelly-legs would go. I heard, "now!" and stepped into the void. I think he had just exhausted the sum-total of his English vocabulary.
The thermals lifted us so high I thought my ears would burst. We spiraled and hovered and spiraled again over the unbelievable blue of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas far below. Is this what it feels like to be a bird?
By the time we landed, I was grinning broadly.
Later I asked our guide, "There's a Turkish word that sounds like 'problem'?"
"Same word", she said, "'problem'." I’m so glad they fixed it!