Monique shares her tandem hang gliding adventure in the Magaliesberg with us …
Take a drive down the R512 past Hartbeespoort Dam. Smile as you see the hot air balloon in the distance and drink in the wonder of the Magaliesberg mountain range. This is how a tandem hang gliding adventure starts. All you need is the sound of ‘Born to be Wild’ coming from the radio…
The tandem flights take place at Aviator’s Paradise, near Brits. It’s a small airfield but well maintained and well loved. Arriving at the airfield I found the tandem pilot, Mike, waiting for me with a cheerful smile. The team from Free Flying Adventures had already rigged the glider was and I was immediately popped into the harness for a quick test fitting. The harness is like a sleeping bag with a zip down the front and straps across the chest. It’s designed to fit snugly around your body. It’s an odd sensation – I felt a little like the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland.
The sleek simplicity of the hang glider design is worth admiring. It is shaped like a large paper plane and the pilot is suspended below the wing by a strap attached to his harness. In front of the pilot there is a triangular frame. The pilot manoeuvers the glider by shifting his weight either to the left or to the right and by moving the bar forward or backward. As the tandem passenger, all I had to do was hold on to the pilot so that my weight shifted with his. By far the easiest of all the adventures I’d been on.
To launch from the flat terrain at the airfield, the hang gliders are towed into the air by a special microlight referred to as a tug. It is slow and powerful and pulls the glider up by means of a tow line. I have had very few experiences as exciting as that first moment when the tow line pulls taut and the glider moves forward. That’s when the adventure truly begins.
It felt like barely a moment and then we were in the air and the world was sinking away beneath us. The glider is towed for a fair bit before the pilot releases. In those few minutes I had gotten used to the sound of the tow line singing, so it’s the first thing I missed when the line was released. From that moment, I was surrounded completely by the sound and sensation of the wind.
In that tranquil near-silence, I could see the marks left on the world by both man and nature. Looking down on the mountains, I could see how the rain and rivers had etched their way through the rock and I could almost imagine how the earth had to have moved and melted to create this wonder. In the distance, Hartbeespoort dam looked impossibly small.
The flight lasts about half an hour during which Mike gave me a guided tour of the area. Free Flying Adventures offer tandem flights but their primary business is training new pilots. The passion that Mike has for the sport spills over as he explains how the glider flies and I couldn’t help but feel inspired. At the same time, I felt incredibly humbled – I was experiencing the wonder of flight under the considerate, courteous care of one of the best hang gliding pilots South Africa has.
As the Mike turned to head back to the airfield, I felt the same way I do when I reach the end of a good book – the desperate protestation that it couldn’t end yet. Fortunately, there was one bit of excitement left and that was the landing. It wasn’t half as frightening as I imagined. The glider has wheels on the frame so that a pilot can land more easily with a passenger. There were a few gentle bumps and we rolled to a standstill.
Sitting here at my desk, I feel less enclosed by the noise and smell of the city with the happy memories of a most amazing experience to keep me company.
Contact Free Flying Adventures:
Contact Mike Spike on +27 (0)82 892-3664 to book your adventure!
Photographs from Monique’s Adventure: (Click to view enlargements)
With Thanks – Thanks to Monique for sharing her tandem hang gliding experience with us and a special thanks to Mike for the photographs!