How Scary Can Gliding Be?

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Stanley Island, South Africa
By Laura Hoar

Since Stanley Island is apparently up for sale I feel like one lucky person to have had the chance to stay here. Stanley Island is totally cut off from the world and total bliss. We spent most of our time kayaking on the river, sunbathing on the beaches, walking, and eating the delicious food…oh and gliding.

We got dropped off by the Baz Bus (our transport of choice) on a jetty, they drove off leaving us apparently stranded until in the distance we saw a boat crossing the river to fetch is. How great is that? When we arrived on the other side we dumped our bags in our room that was situated in a thatched roof, and went straight off for a ride down river and a braai (BBQ) on a small secluded beach with our other hostlers. As soon as it became dark the sky was littered with stars. I have never seen so many.

Barry, our host, is a master glider and only does it cause he just can’t help himself. I just couldn’t refuse the chance to give it a go. We set out in a powered machine across a very bumpy stretch of grass which made the wings lurch up and down alarmingly. Thankfully though we were soon in the air. Barry flew me right along the coast managing to fly approximately 1 meter (no kidding, we actually had to tip to one side to avoid the fishermen’s lines) from the sand, we saw loads of dolphins frolicking in the waves, flew over the cliffs, forests, the lot. Then, with little preamble Barry flicked a switch which I soon realised was the power. We were now gliding and it didn’t feel remotely natural!

Clearly the best thing to do with a nervous passenger, having cut the power, is hand over the controls (Barry hadn’t heard about my driving record). It was great to try and fly but Barry soon claimed that I was sending us into a death dive and seeing as I had us racing toward the earth (it felt like it anyway) and the old glider seemed a bit fragile I decided to hand back the controls. This prompted one of my more foolish questions “so can this thing do any stunts?” Barry looked at me and said “not much, your headset is loose” with that he fixed it so that, unbeknown to me, it would not come off if say, we were upside down. He then, without any prior warning,
pointed the gliders nose straight up and once gravity had decided enough was enough she snatched the now parallel to the ground glider from under my arse and yanked it back to earth at about 1’00’000’000’000……000’000 miles per second.

I must add here that upon realising what Barry was up to I carefully plotted a plan to get him back, yep a very smart plan, I screamed into the mouth piece that is connected directly to his ear piece, as loud as I possibly could. Ha, that showed him…or spurred him on.

After dropping to the earth for what felt like more time than we had, we looped over again wing first (and I must admit I failed to take notes so this may not be exact), then we did a load of other loops and turns. I do recall being upside down for long enough to look up (which was actually down) through the glass cover and admire the view taking time to note that we were now back over the island and ponder whether my boyfriend Roger was watching.

I did regain my composure eventually and did not scream through the whole thing, I absolutely loved it. Even to the point of asking if we could do it some more. Sadly we were too close to the earth and my time was up.

On the way back I told Barry he had to tell Roger what we had done or he would never believe me, Barry quite rightly pointed out that he would have heard the screams so there was little need!

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