I am Yuri

Published by: Bryan Tuffnell on 5th Sep 2017 | View all blogs by Bryan Tuffnell

I’d tried this game before, sneaking out while most people were snoozing to try a flight above cloud in the blackness of a moonless, mostly overcast night. I’d rolled onto Rangiora’s 25 near midnight, and sat there for a number of minutes before bottling out. Too much unknown, too many risks I couldn’t quantify.

The idea wouldn’t go away, and whenever I got the chance on land, I’d get above cloud on a pitch-black night to check how identifiable the horizon was. Eventually it seemed doable, but it was nearly a full year later before the combination of nearly complete low overcast and no moon presented itself.

Take Two. We rolled well after the witching hour, but with a decent bite of the night to savour before dawn. A few specks of starlight fell through an inky overcast - not much, but just enough to give us a horizon and something to aim for - so we bored up through a tiny break in the murk and broke into outer space above. Nothing below, just blackness. Only stars above. And it was wild.

Starlight spanned the night between the horizons, and any trace of the planet beneath was obliterated by the cloud beneath. We went inland, climbed up and up until I got the jitters, three miles into the night sky, feeling like the only living thing in the universe. It was a night from a Kubrick movie, a scene in a diminished key, a bizarre inversion of normality, somber, wonderful, a little spooky, surreal. This wasn’t flying a trike, it was riding a spaceship in orbit; the absence of stars providing the only refence for the horizon. For an hour I was Yuri Gagarin, alone in space, and I loved it, but oh the stress, the concentration…

The first blush of morning took away that uncomfortable and somewhat nerve-wracking edge and provided its own otherworldliness by illuminating the cloud from underneath but leaving me and Penrod in a battleship grey world. We found another hole in the Stygian gloom and descended through vaporous severed goats' heads and damp Mount Rushmores and into brightness and warmth. The low angle of the sunlight caught strange fibrous filaments and delicate cobwebs falling from the base of the clouds and lit them with oranges and reds. We did a little aerial boogey between them, I dragged my fingers through them. A few Zen cartwheels later we set down on my favourite beach. A siren song of surf was playing. I looked at Penrod's empty back seat which just looked wrong somehow - something was missing, so I put my clothes there and went for a bitterly cold swim. Home at 0900.

 

Not a recommended way of flying a trike, a bit of a stretch of safety… but sometimes you’ve just got to dance.

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