Getaway (South Africa)
ENJOY YOUR FRIGHT
I’M A NERVOUS FLYER. I WOULDN’T SAY IT’S A PHOBIA BUT I BOARD FLYING MACHINES WITH TREPIDATION. NOT IDEAL FOR A TRAVEL JOURNALIST
Iam happier in light aircraft than I am in commercial jetliners and I put that down to claustrophobia, which is a phobia of mine. Being crammed inside the slender tube of a jet with hundreds of others and barely a toilet-size window to peep out of gives me the shivers. I find small planes or choppers much nicer because I can see all around me. Itʼs more like “proper” flying, like what birds do, until vertigo kicks in and then I want to yowl like a hadeda thatʼs just leapt off a roof.
But there is some security in being close to a pilot, seeing how they operate the machine and realising that if theyʼre not nervous steering around a thunderhead or riding summer afternoon thermals in 45°C heat, then itʼs going to be okay and you can give yourself over to the thrill.
Some thrills have got the better of me. Iʼve done the walk of shame at Maun airport carrying a heavy airsick bag past a line of tourists waiting to embark on their own joyride. My demise, however, was self induced, bouncing back and forth from port to starboard photographing the wonders of the Okavango below. I had a white knuckle descent into Mana Pools once gazing wide eyed at the pilot as he fought the heat rising up the Zambezi Escarpment. But after experiencing the wonders of the valley, the trip out of there was delightful as we popped up like a champagne cork and bounced all the way to Harare. I once walked alongside an old chopper pilot so emphysemic that he had to stop every few metres to catch his breath on the way to his aircraft. But up in the air, untethered from Earth, he was a king.
We pay homage to a great bush pilot in this issue and the destinations such legends connect us to, like the Okavango Delta, which is wonderful to gaze down upon and just as remarkable to explore in a slender canoe, poling through calm waters that mirror the sky. We even fly underwater with the “merdogs” of the ocean, and let loose on horseback over the arid plains of Namibia, a sensation as close to flight as any human can achieve. We gaze at the Blyde River Canyon from a vantage point more spectacular than Godsʼ Window, and flit off over the seas for a visual extravaganza in Cuba.
Wherever your adventures take you, hereʼs wishing you happy landings, and a year full of thrills.