Author: Kim Nicholson

The girls view of things… (non-flying girlfriends that is !)

There we were, roughing if for five days in the campsite of another "blink and you'll miss it" town - Paulpiet!

Our mission - to support and encourage (and with the right persuasion - drive recovery) for our men as they pursue their no.1 passion - no, not the woman of their dreams but rather their dream of flying. Now, no longer being the object of his affection is a bitter pill for any woman to swallow, however, love has it's way of making exceptions for realities such as these, and anyway, at least we were out the office for a few days, not having to cook, the chance to work on our tans and yes, being with him!

Thank the Lord for small mercies, the ablutions had enough hot water for everyone, loo paper for 2 out of 5 days and, the cherry on the top, a plug point for our hair dryers!

As it turned out, not everyday was flyable and from a girlfriends point of view, this is not ALL BAD. However, we have come to learn that men such as ours who haven't flown for some time -particularly when a comp is in progress - begin to show signs of P.F.S. (pre-flight-stress). This is NOT GOOD, and so we too pray for thermals.

Conditions improve and, with the prospect of a good days flying, excitement mounts in the camp. The guys squeeze themselves, their gliders, and girlfriends (in that order) into the nearest 4x4 - not forgetting Piggy (the dog), of course. They pull off in a cloud of dust and, in convoy, race up the rocky mountain road, vehicles filled with dust - talk about bad hair days!

Having reached the top they eagerly unload their gliders and claim their take-off spot. At this point the frenzy subsides somewhat and a mixture of nervousness, expectation and anticipation builds. A task is set, the pilots briefed and phrases like; "window opens", "turkey patch", "turnpoint" and "photo's in sector" are being thrown around. The guys keep a close eye on the wind sock which, when hanging limply, indicates conditions are not suitable - ironic? Anyway, it looks good but one doesn't want to make a boo-boo in front of 100 pilots and so one waits for the inevitable "wind dummy" or "wind technician" (depending on their skill level) to take off.

Wind dummy - the bloke who succumbs to the suspense and just HAS TO take off - NOW !
Wind technician - the more experienced oakie who is confident of a top landing and who can pretty much handle most stuff.

When it seems the guinea pig is doing well, a flurry of activity ensues on take off. Pilots lay out - often with little regard for fellow pilots or their equipment - in their rush to get ahead. Quite primal in fact. We hold our breaths as we witness some hairy inflations - pilots getting dragged, some blown backwards and some simply lacking ground handling technique!

Despite the hectic take off scene, once they're up and away it's a beautiful sight to behold. A clear blue sky dotted with brightly coloured canopies peacefully gliding and thermalling in unison. Although most of us (girlfriends) don't have a real desire to fly, it is an awesome feeling of freedom that one experiences just lying on the grass looking up at the sky with Walkman ear-phones on, watching the gliders move to music. It is during this time that we also chat to the local towns folk, explaining - from our vast knowledge of flying - about thermalling to gain height in order to go over the back, the dangers of rotor, pointing out the difference between a collapse and a spiral, and basically doing our bit to promote the sport!

At the end of the day, dinner time comes around and a ravenous bunch gather to fill their tummies and swop war stories. This ritual is, in itself, wonderfully amusing. Telling a story is just not as effective without familiar sound effects and much gesticulating !

As the sun sets, it's not important whether he did well or not. What is important is that he has flown. He feels a contented sense of exhaustion and is happy to walk the woman of his dreams back to their tent and cuddle up with her in his arms. For the girlfriend, it's the moment she's been waiting for all day.

Kim Nicholson