Gliding is something that has long fascinated me, but I didn’t know much about it, like how the f a plane with no engine can stay in the air and be controlled well enough for the passengers to survive the flight.
The first thing I always devour when checking into a hotel, lodge, inn, or resort is the activity list. What unusual experiences are offered and how soon can I do them?
Once I realized that gliding was available near our lodge in Taupo, New Zealand aka N Zed, I urgently signed up. Todd and I drove over to the “air field” and introduced ourselves to the gaggle of centenarians gathered on the porch of an old house situated on the edge of a large patch of grass. The Kiwi accents were thick; the teeth were not.
“Gidday, Oi’m Gordon, yer pilot,” said the ancientest one, as I shook his paw. “The weether ees brilliant! We’ll be een the aya een teen meenutes!”
He was really friendly and cute, the two most important attributes I look for in an engine-less airplane pilot. I suddenly felt the urge to pee, so I excused myself to the loo, which was “round thee beck, pest the dick on thee soid o’ thee ouse…” Found it! Past the deck on the side of the house. Also past the trash on the side of the house:
Ummm… They must really like to celebrate at the end of the day after all flying thingys have safely glided back to the grass patch with passengers alive and intact.
Todd tries, but is unsuccessful in talking me out of this. I’m f-ing gliding.
Gordon, Todd and I walk out to the craft. It’s sorta small. Like a glider for hamsters small. Gordon pops the plastic top off and squeezes into the back seat. I guess that means I’m up front… with all the instruments.
We get the top snapped back on with paper clippy things and Gordon tells me to mind my phone – if I drop it into the stick area, we will not be able to control the glider. We’re good – my hands aren’t slippery with sweat or anything. My Nikes are strapped into pedals. Now we’re skidding across the grass field, being towed by a string attached to an old plane with Gordo’s mate in the cockpit. We have lift off and we begin our climb to 5,000 feet.
TWANG! The string pulls away and disappears with the little plane. Now it’s just me and Gordo drifting in the silent hamster craft. I have a look around while he explains thermal lift, the altimeter, and something about a flux capacitor, in between near fatal coughing attacks. It’s quite phlegmboyant. The hacking distracted me from my lesson on where the various needles should be pointing. Holy crud! Is a lung coming up? Come on, Gordo, please just survive another 20-30 minutes. Until we touch down. Please.
OK, Joselyn, now you take the controls! Uh what? But I don’t even… Oh, this is cool! I’m flying a glider, yo! I’m dipping the right wing waaaaay down there and we’re circling wild deer in the forest. I’m dipping the left wing and we’re floating over waterfalls. My ailing pilot with a drinking problem and I are experiencing magic in the skies. A half-mile high club like no other.
The landing is a bit rough – must be due to all the hamster holes in the field – but our little glider eventually comes to a stop right where we began our divine flight 45 minutes earlier.