Saturday, June 30, 2007
a trip to the "big city" today with meghan, travis, slater, truck, and julia. Arusha is sort of a big city, at least compared to moshi. in the year they've been here meghan and travis have caught the death-trap bus into arusha several times mostly to eat and paraglide. after work friday we catch the bus, luckily we don't have to stand, head to the "arusha backpackers hotel," and straight to dinner.
after a brisk 5:45am wakeup call (from Juls in the bunk above me), we are quickly headed out to meet our guide Per ("pear"). one look at the piercing blue eyes and shockingly white eyelashes of this incredibly strong Dane, and i could tell he was completely mad. with the scars crisscrossing his arms and legs, he could have walked straight from an action film. throwing naive foreigners off a mountain and hoping they land safe is not his primary job. mostly he runs a safari business dustbusters where he takes naive foreigners off on motorbikes across the world. he has ridden his bike from denmark all the way to south africa.
our morning session was the "learning" part. ha. ha ha. instructions: strap this huge thing on, check your straps, run till you're running on air. for our first session, Par, and his helpers Jengu and Gifti, attached long leads to our front strap and ran ahead of as as "mules" to help drag us up into the air.
there is some expertise involved. you have to run holding the lines in such a way that the air would catch the glider, but in just the right moment you let part of the line go so theat the glider doesn't over take you or crash behind. we mostly listened for the shouting "let go!! let go!! why aren't you letting go?!?!?!
i do have some experience with running down the side of a mountain. this was only mildly more successful. the bushes surrounding us we're quickly deemed "chrisburgers" (chrisburger- one of the pubs in moshi). in fact it took me 4 or 5 hours to get off the ground only twice. the rest of the time filled with slamming my knees, dragging through the underbrush on my side, or the inevitable face smashing bellyflops. to be fair to myself, everyone else (minus travis and meghan, the experts who merely walked around helping the newbees) were only slightly more successful.
after a quick sojourn of peanut butter on bread and some incredibly sour cheese that had to be bagged and hidden lest the look of it poison everyone, we set out to a bigger bit of mountain to really test our skills. to a certain extent, this was actually easier as there was little running before the wind could catch you. it was however, terrifying. well for me who still was completely unable to land in one piece. i never fully graduated to the run yourself off the mountain level, which the boys attempted valiantly, if not quite successfully. i was perfectly happy having crazy Per grab my harness straps and throw me while i ran. even that didn't promise success to any of us.
though i found relaxing just about impossible while soaring in the air, on one flight mount meru emerged from the clouds, leaving me breathless as well. flying with the birds, gliding around...
even "landing" upside down suspended from a small tree was alright that time.