After a week of driving and flying over giant canyons and plateaus, we had reached the end of the Ethiopian highlands. Now, 2000m above that last 4000m ridge, we were riding the better side of a giant step in the atmosphere. To the east, the terrain was dropping towards the lowlands of east Ethiopia and the sub-sea-level volcanoes in the Danakil depression, then the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. So we were flying at the meeting point of two great air masses – the dry one of the highlands and the moist one of the Indian Ocean – and our cloud base was 2000m higher than the sea of cumulus in our feet; we were at 6000m! Continue reading
The axis of desire rotated to 90 degrees, this XC flight was not about distance, but height. From the takeoff at 2800m, up to the 6000m cloud base, down to the 3600m village where we stopped to say hi to the locals, and finally off again at sunset to the 2000m valley floor, which even with the sun gone was sending 3m/s thermals in the near-darkness – we sliced through that day like knives through layered cake. Continue reading
A crowd is a force of nature. And in Ethiopia, it’s a mighty one!
So (assuming you’re white like me) try dropping down from the sky under a colorful piece of fabric in any rural Ethiopian area, where the locals have rarely, or never, seen a white person, never mind a paraglider(!), and watch what happens! Continue reading
Talk about a glass ceiling. There’s an inversion at the level of the high plateau (3500m) and we keep bobbing in the turbulence below it, hitting our heads at the lid while trying different escape routes up, and it takes some time but finally three of us pierce through and suddenly we are at four thousand meters, then five, and then some more, while the air magically turns to butter and the sky opens to our wishes. Continue reading
Longonot volcano. Photo: Niki Yotov
Fun fact about the African male buffalo (told to me by a local ranger): when they are a part of a pack, they have female mates, so for understandable reasons their testosterone levels are regulated and therefore they behave as calmly and safely to humans as cows; however, when a stronger male kicks another male out of the pack, this latter outcast can no longer copulate, so his testosterone (and therefore aggression) reaches such critical levels that he would attack and try to gore any human in sight for no reason other than his sexual frustration. Continue reading
You can hear it in the salsa of Colombia, in the reggae of Jamaica, in the afrobeat of Lagos, in the goqm of Durban, in the samba of Brazil and the blues of Mississippi, even in the techno of Detroit, in Chicago house, in London jazz and hip hop, and on, and on – black music rules the world, and you don’t have to physically go to Africa to feel its heart beat, which is groove, which is the beat. That’s how I got to know this continent before I even set my foot on it. Or at least some essential part of it, which is its music, the way it moves, the way it grooves, the way black people swagger even when they walk, never mind when they’re actually dancing… I know you’re expecting me to write about some paragliding business, but I must first excuse myself and start with this essential info which is not in our photos, nor in our videos – it’s not, because to photograph it would mean to lose it. Continue reading
A good day spent exploring with Omer Cohen, Antoine Girard, and Sophie Tabakova.
XC guiding in Ethiopia, we had to cross the Nile by car or paraglider. My new green baby had the glide for the classy way over.
My friend Niki Yotov has been exploring, flying, and guiding in Kenya and Ethiopia for the last 8 winters. A true pioneer of the region, he’s discovered most of the known takeoffs and mapped the local convergence lines and XC routes. This year I’m joining him, and you are welcome, too. In Kenya or Ethiopia, let’s go back to Niki’s finest selection of flying sites, and keep exploring for more.