The Dare

Situation: Five travel writers
Assignment: Geneva, Switzerland
Opportunity: Hanggliding tandem avec Christophe
Place: Mt. Saleve overlooking Geneva

The Dare: Do it

Helmeted, strapped, velcroed to each other, we wait, wait, wait for the right gust, the right moment, the right everything, and then the gust comes up under the glider's sail and lifts us so quickly...

... that there's no time for fear, just a rush of floating joy, amazement, awe...

...and effortlessly we drift away from the mountain, the moon in the daylight sky behind us. As we swoop into a 360 degree, Christophe begins a floating travelogue, letting go of the glider's bar with one hand to point this way and that ("There's France, there's Italy..."). We are gliding oh so gentlygentlygently that I remark of it. He grins....and with a nudge of the bar left, we are rushing toward the earth, heart-stopping, wind-sucking—literal seconds from smashing into the mountain—and then with his slight nudge of the bar to the right, we are once again gliding oh so gently, and he, French devil, is still grinning.

And then I know that if I do not concentrate, I will remember nothing, sensory overload setting in. So I focus as below us a tiny chamois lopes down the hill. And beside us soars a bird close enough to touch...and the minutes go by like seconds as we ride the current slowly, slowly, slowly, gliding in a long, softly-expiring spiral, round and round and round and round to...

We make a rolling scruffy landing, knees scraping the ground. As I gain my land-legs again, dust holding me in place, I feel the awe thunder through me at the mountain behind me...and the sky above me...way above me.

And I hang on to the dawning awareness that I have not invaded the air as always before—in jumbo jets, sea planes and helicopters, or even parasails or hot air balloons. This time I had become part of the air and the air a part of me, enveloping me, rushing over me, through me.

"What was it like?" my dusty colleagues scuttle up close to ask.

Far above us, the bird that just moments ago I could have almost touched, is still gliding. I point and I say: "Like that."