The air was cool atop the Bereh mountain near Sendafa. It is easier for the lungs, and despite an altitude of 3100m, it was not heavy. I was standing on the apex looking at the scenery. On my head was a helmet; I was also carrying a parachute and two hooks on my rear side. Behind me there was Yassen. He was maneuvering the gliding wings and checking the winds for optimum flight parameters. I looked around. It was like an Olympic sport. People were watching. He hooked me with him and we geared up for a sprint. Ahead of us was about a 100-meter drop and we were going to jump off it.
Before I met the people at the Great Hikers Ethiopia, I had no clue there was a paragliding movement forming in the country. The Hikers are a group of friends who started about 5 years ago just to spread their love for outdoor adventures, hikes, and other escapades. The GHE also wanted adventurous sports to be part of the culture as well. So, they introduced paragliding in the mix and they also plan to start other sports like Bungee jumping and zip lines.
This week was the paragliding week. Starting from Monday loads of people were swarming to take part in the event. This was an adventure of a lifetime to some people. First, the week and the exact day was scheduled. The day was Wednesday. The rest of the week was completely booked. Of course, one can book a flight in advance by depositing money in their bank account even though there are little agreements to sign. They said safety is the main priority. And indeed, it is.
AT 8:00 am sharp, we were met with the lively Moto and a car at bole TK building at the Sunbird Café. We were a total of five. The car took us to Sendafa, around 35 km from Addis. It is an elevated city slowly bustling in urbanism. There we met our professional pilots, three in total, one from Israel and the others from Bulgaria. We got acquainted and headed towards the mountain ahead of us. It was the Bereh mountain. There was a short path where we mastered the terrain with our excellent four by four wheels. But when we reached the rich vegetation upfront, we stopped and continued to climb on foot. It is the hike before the fall.
We reached a small patch of land where we could have a clear view. We have reached the drop point. The pilots instructed us with the dos and don’ts. We were in tandem and we were ready. I was hooked and ready to jump. We were waiting for the wind to guide us through and through. The whole cycle of preparation takes about one hour for each flight with pick up and return. At first, it was hard since the wind was not agreeable and we got flushed (a lingo meaning to lose lift and land just after takeoff). Safety is the essence of the flight. Our skilled instructors maneuvered and calculated. The third time is the charm.
“First you walk, then you run,” Yassen instructed me. I repeated that in my head several times. Walk then run. As the wind propelled the gliders up, we started walking. Soon we were engaged in a full-on sprint. Before you know it, we slowly ascended – our salient bodies carried by the wind. “We are flying!” I exclaimed.
My obtuse body was not ready for defying gravity and the birds which were flying next to me composed a rhythm of senselessness towards my aeronautics. The sense being, why is a human flying like a bird? And indeed, we were flying like them, Yassen explained. “Paragliding is flying like birds. They don’t flap their wings to conserve their energy. So, they are carried by the updraft winds higher and higher until they reach their desired height.” We were doing the same.
As I was climbing hundreds of meters above the terra, it was as if we were going to meet God. We were shaking hands with the clouds and unlike any other aero-sport, this was calmer and uplifting. It was fiercely emotional and alien. As I was breathing the new cold air and trying to comprehend the mirage of the view, I felt I was one with nature. We flew for 20 minutes. Then we slowly descended to land.
When I asked how he felt when he is flying, “Free as a bird. Happy when nature reveals its hidden beauty. Away from the noise, traffic and pollution. Just you and your wing in the sky. It is a mix of harmony, Zen and rock and roll. From time to time!”
You can contact them via:
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Or at 0912-618100
CBE account for deposit: 1000274402834
2500 birr per person for weekdays
3000 birr per person for a weekend