“I got into an argument with a girlfriend inside of a tent. That’s a bad place for an argument, ‘cause then I tried to walk out and slam the flap. How are you supposed to express your anger in this situation? Zipper it up really quick?” These are Mitch Hedberg’s words, but at the moment I could relate to them.
Niki’s not exactly my girlfriend, but, being the only other paragliding pilot in this vast country of 109 million, he may as well be, as we huddle in our rasta-coloured tent called Ethiopia*.
Why I wanted to slam the flap at him? Well, just a few moments earlier we were flying in a gorgeous canyon, inhaling the views from 4000m, taking photos of each other and shouting with joy, and then, surprise(!) – without a word of warning, he dives off low into the flatlands – like a dog that sees a squirrel, he’s off, leaving me alone – again!
In competition, I get a major high from flying alone (a high which turns, both psychologically and physically, quite often into a low, but the rush is always there), but in cross country it’s completely different. Without a comrade to share the flight with, my motivation drops in half. I need someone to dance with. A friend. A partner. Someone to share with.
But Niki feels it differently. He spent 8 winters flying and exploring in this country, most of that time totally alone, and he was more than fine with it. If he happens to have someone to go along with, he would take the chance, but he doesn’t need it (me). He’s just obsessed with the terrain and the conditions – so when they’re talking to him, I fade away. When he sees an option that he likes, he doesn’t even discuss it on the radio – he just goes.
And that’s what drives me crazy.
Niki, you know I love you, man. I just wish there were someone else to keep sharing the flight with when you run off chasing squirrels. This country’s flying’s way too big and way too awesome for just the two of us.
Although, to be fair, I doubt that “someone else” would take such sweet photos of me.
*Rastafari use Ethiopia’s flag colours of red, yellow, and green.