Our time in Annecy flowed along like water down the majestic Thiou River. Hamster and I flew our paragliders over the Alps all day and drank all night with Marque, Gaz and the other legends, soaking in their knowledge of the sport and the surrounds. Our skills and confidence improved as we pushed our limits and tackled tough conditions with our new friends. But things could never remain calm with Hamster around. One night, while a silvery moon lit up the world, our sleep was shattered when Pierre, the owner of the hippie farm we were staying at, burst into our tipi.
“You fucked my scarecrow, you piece of shit,” he screamed, and when Hamster and I crawled out of our sleeping bags we could see that Pierre had tears rolling down his crimson cheeks. “You fucked my scarecrow so hard you broke him in two! Benoit will never be the same again!”
“You’ve only got yourself to blame,” replied Hamster, plucking straw from his underpants and dropping it at Pierre’s feet. “You’re the one who built it to look like the girl who works at the fish and chip shop down the road from my house. The one who smells like mackerel even on her days off and has the man hands. How was I supposed to resist?”
Pierre whistled and a posse of smelly hippies, their lentil-encrusted beards and fishermen pants flapping in the breeze, encircled us. Although emaciated from eating nothing but vegetables and legumes, they had a meanness in their Gallic eyes that told me they’d killed before (people, of course, not animals) and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. One of the tree-huggers was carrying a large, intricately decorated gourd that he was ready to swing at our heads, so we threw a plate of sausages at them and escaped into the night as they recoiled in horror.
“Can’t we have one holiday where you don’t root a scarecrow?” I asked Hamster.
“I would’ve stayed home if I knew that was a rule,” he replied, picking bits of straw from his teeth. “Right, I guess we’re going to have to stay with Gaz, then.”
Gaz, or Gabrielle as his mother knows him, is a pioneer of paragliding and one of the most knowledgeable pilots on the planet. What this bloke doesn’t know about flying ain’t worth knowing, and he’d taken us under his wing. Each night, in a dark corner of L’Auberge Du Boucanier, Gaz would discuss the intricacies of paragliding with us, providing a flying masterclass as the pints of Kronenbourg slid down our throats. Each day when we soared into the skies, he’d watch us with eagle eyes to make sure we’d been listening. We thanked him by knocking on his door at 4am.
Gaz’s life partner Bernard answered, wearing little more than a smile, and ushered us inside. That night, as Gaz sipped Cognac from an ornate skull-shaped glass whilst his balls dangled between the spread legs of his nightie, we were told of the true history of paragliding. Only a handful of people will ever learn of the mystical beginnings of this magical sport, and it was an honour to be entrusted with this knowledge. I promised Gaz that I wouldn’t reveal anything that happened inside his house that morning, and I’ll go to my grave with the secrets he told me, but it’s safe to say Hamster and I now understand paragliding in a way few ever will.
The next afternoon, with our hangovers fading away with our excitement, we flew further than we’d ever flown before. With a more meaningful understanding of paragliding we soared deeper into the bosom of Annecy, skirting around the edges of the pristine lake with our new friends with us every thermal of the way.
A full lap around Annecy is around 50km, and it’s hard work because there aren’t a lot of safe landing options and the terrain can be difficult to handle. I’d like to say Hammy and I made it all the way around, but bad weather approaching meant that we didn’t quite go the whole way, but we were both proud of our efforts. It was great to undertake the journey with such a top bunch of people. By the time we touched down in Doussard and got on the cans, Da Hamsta and I were more than pleased with the time we spent in the blue, blue skies of France.
Doussard is a cracker of a town, and about as traditionally French as a croissant wearing a beret. There are winding cobblestone alleys, baguette vendors on every corner, astonishing views of the Alps and pretty girls on every corner. It’s not only a top place to go paragliding, or a great place to get really drunk, but it’s an astonishing place for anybody to spend a few lazy days.
Unfortunately, later that night Hamster was severely beaten up by a throng of French people who were sick and tired of his antics, and was left brain damaged and in a vegetative state. Fortunately, his wife and children didn’t notice any difference when he got home, so happy days!