"To find one launch, we actually followed zebra tracks up a hill," says paraglider Veso Ovcharov of his latest adventure. "It was deep in the interior of Namibia and there was great flying to be done, we just had to find a spot to take off!"
Such is the way of things when paragliding is your objective and Africa is your playground. The Bulgarian pilot and his friend Petar Loncar from Serbia – both excellent acrobatic paragliding pilots – were deep in the dark continent, on the hunt for something special: airtime.
Check out the video of epic paragliding in Namibia
Their soaring safari started in dunes of Namibia's Skeleton Coast, where strong winds offer incredible ridge-soaring conditions – letting the pilots twist, turn, and tumble 20km up and down the coast, just a few meters from the sea. "There's nowhere else in the world where you have such special terrain," says Ovcharov. "Even so, we really had to search for the right conditions. It was unusually windy – sometimes up to 100kph – and we drove over 5,000km in search of the right spot."
The 'right spot' was somewhere that the wind was blowing a steady 20–25kph, almost directly on-shore, creating the perfect playground for Ovcharov and Loncar's aerial trickery – swooping down next to the sand, close enough to touch their toes in it, often in perfect synchronisation.
Once they left the beach, the warm interior offered amazing cross-country flying conditions and more time for acro, but when we say warm, we mean blazingly hot. Ovcharov's brother Naso actually suffered from heat stroke on a 50c day, hours away from a hospital. "It was scary, for him, and for us," Ovcharov said. "Fortunately, we got him taken care of!"
Of course, heat was almost the least of their worries; the Namibian outback is full of nasty (and poisonous) critters. "Petar even had scorpions jumping onto him at one point," says Ovcharov. "He's lucky not to have gotten stung." Our advice? Spend as much time as possible in the air – it seems like it's a little safer up there.