Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Friday, 15 October 2010


From the minute I put the glider bag on my back I’m tasting every one of its sensations. The coarseness of the shoulder straps, the weight pushing down on my back, the extra burn in my thighs on the steps up to launch. Under a heightened tone of quelled excitement everything slows enough to be savoured. I unfold the upside down wing onto the ground, reaching in to grab a wing-tip, feeling the crispy fabric in my fingers and the promise of flight my mind associates with its texture. Stepping backwards, the white underside reveals itself to me and the sky as it unconcertinas out, bold and proud, unashamed of the space it needs. I spread out the other side and wings full scale spikes my anticipation.

My hand slips around the end of the lines, where they are connected to the stitched woven risers that will clip into my harness. Their reassuring strength is rough against my bare fingers. One at a time I clear the lines, untangling them with gentle pulls, or quick jerks, a tinge of pleasure coming from my familiarity with the deft task of judging how to deal with each knot in turn.

To prepare the wing for launch I have to stretch it out fully above the ground, like a kite, and check the lines while it flies. I reach through the collection of coloured lines, grabbing the appropriate ones in each hand, sitting familiarly in between my fingers.

During the launch my right hand will pull the glider up into the air, and I’ll fight to hold my ground against its pull. This is the hand that joins the glider and wind’s conspiracy against me. They will tug me when the wind is strong and I will have to yank them when it’s weak. My left hand is the rein with which I tame the dragon spirit of the wing’s unruly behaviour. It steers, and slows the glider’s eagerness, and when I am caught out or off balance it will save me by killing the wing back to the ground.

The air on the back of my neck guides me to wait for the right cycle of the breeze, just a gust is all I need for now, a few seconds worth. As it comes I start the puppeteering and the openings at the front of the wing catch the breeze, rising, unevenly pulling open adjacent cells, accelerating skywards like leaping salmon vying with each other. The wing stretches out its folds as air snakes sideways in-between the double skin inflating it to form its aerofoil shape. As soon as it’s lifted just clear of the earth and fully unfolded I’m resisting its strong pull, already putting pressure into the reins to hold it and leaning back from it. I scan the fabric, brightness filling my retina, but I’m looking for the lines, each one even and spaced, ordered and un-knotted. The wing’s ready and wants to fly. I’m awed by the thought of this, and have to fight the excitement as much as the wind. I pull in with my rein fully to bring it back down to earth, conceding a step towards it’s pull as it nestles into a neat arc on the ground with the cells all evenly open ready to catch the wind when launching.

I push my hips forwards bringing the caribiner of my harness closer to the lines and clip in with a satisfying click. “You are now the pilot in command of this aircraft”, the distant echo of a voice from my first flight still sends shivers of pride through me as I do this. I loop my hands through the brake handles that I will use after the launch when I’m in flight, and those words feel even more genuine now after a year of flying. I attach the speed bar connections checking they are free, double check my buckles and look at the wing, still in its arc wrapped around me, the leading edge raised into the breeze, the open cells quivering with readiness.

I’m fighting the urge to go now. I’m seconds away from being in the air. The launch will take less than 5 seconds if timed and executed right, but I have to tame the eagerness and pick the right moment or it won’t lift cleanly and I’ll have to abort or risk a dangerous launch.
I nestle myself in the centre of the open wing, breathe, smelling the humidity in the air, and wait for the wind’s cycle to start. The breeze comes and goes and as I feel it rising again I seize the moment and pull to lift the wing, slowly at first, but quickly responding to my touch. With the reins I hold back the speed, stepping into the pull, reducing the pressure, balancing position, velocity, force. My eyes scour for clues of how the wing might chose to misbehave, but any visible signs are pre-empted by my harness’s grip on my shoulder straps telling me to sidestep under the shifting centre.

The glow of knowing its going according to expectation flashes behind my concentration.

The wing is open, off the ground, perfectly curved and rising. I add some pressure to the reins, fighting its urge over shoot. Only in the air can the wing adopt its natural state, smooth, un-creased, a curved shape that is only true to itself in the freedom of the sky. As its pull on my body becomes more vertical than horizontal I release both hands, and pull gently on the handles looped around my wrists, my thumb and fingers open so they can’t slip out. This is the moment when flying takes over from standing; even though I’m still on the ground my weight is now shifting from the ground to the air. I’m entering the sky.

The wing is overhead now. My eyes are looking up, but my concentration is listening the sensations of my body, arms and legs. I spin to face the cliff edge ducking the lines as I turn, stepping towards the ground’s end at the same time, playing with the force of the lines, my speed towards the edge, and the distance before the abyss. I’m sending my weight forwards, towards the drop, committed, pushing towards it, accelerating, sure that speed is now more important to me than the ground under my boots. In two steps my heaving paces have become a smooth fast run oblivious to the discomfort of the leg straps pulling me up into the harness. Against my legs’ push the final release from the ground take the last ounces of my weight from my the soles of my feet and I swing back weightlessly into the harness as the earth’s edge glides past below me and I’m in the air, flying.

1 comment:

  1. Your writing has definitely got something going for it,you should write a book.


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