The Red Kite (26/03/2002)

Hatterall Hill, Pandy

Wow.

Had a great day's flying (paragliding) today on what we refer to as the Pandy Ridge but some of you may know as the high bit of Offa's Dyke Path between the A465 Abergavenny to Hereford road (Pandy Common / Hatterall Hill) and Hay Bluff.

I had one purely mindblowing experience which I just have to share with you lot. On my way back down the ridge in a S direction, at one of the places where it sticks out slightly, my bestest flying mate, Alex, and I happened upon two red kites (the birds, you fool!). While Alex thermalled with one, the other sidled over to join me, sideslipping through the lifting air until it was ten feet in front of me. As it came across, towards and before me, it started very gently flapping its wings; it had no need to do it as we were in lifting air with almost no wind; I could think of no reason other than it was its way of saying 'hello' (it certainly wasn't telling us to bugger off - they dive at the glider). It stopped and I answered by flapping the rear of my canopy with the brakes. It answered. I answered. It answered again and then swooped off. My emotions went into overload and I was in floods. I couldn't see where I was going for twenty seconds (don't worry - we were 500ft above the ridge and 2000 above the valley floor). It was the most amazing encounter, with a truly beautiful creature that knows far more about using the air than I ever will.

I've thermalled and flown with birds of prey before but this will stay with me my whole life long. If any of you have ever toyed with the idea of free flying, just do it. Just fucking do it, guys.