Paragliding in Elgeyo Marakwet County
20 February 2012, 14:27
Marakwet County is only well-known for producing internationally celebrated
record-breaking athletes. The
County is now being introduced to a new sport which is in advance popularity by the day along the Kerio Valley escarpment at the outer edge of the Great Rift
The Keiyo athletes’ legerdemain has often been attributed to rigorous training
in Iten town thanks to the high altitude and undulating hills which adorn the
county has continued to attract athletes from far and wide.
Some of the global-trotting record-shattering athletes from this county who
have become a household name at home and internationally include: Ezekiel
Kemboi, Viviane Cheruiyot, Wilson Kipsang, Edna
Kiplagat, Sylvia Kibet, Nancy Jebet Lagat, Dutch-based Kenyan born
Lorna Kiplagat to name just but a few.
The new sport is airborne unlike athletics that is ground-based. And this new
sport is called paragliding. As the name
suggests, paragliding is a sport where participants run for a few metres down
the scenic cliffs of the Kerio valley escarpment with parachute-like apparatus
strapped on their backs.
The gliders’ apparatus are wind-propelled and they open as they run down the
precipitous cliffs and once the parachutes open up, the gliders start their
fabulous aerial expedition in the vast windy Kerio valley.
The exhilarating sport has for the past few years attracted many paragliders
mainly from European countries like Germany, Italy, Spain, France and
Switzerland. Paragliding is a common event in these Alpine countries.
The Kerio valley escarpment is similar to the scenic rolling mountains of these
European countries. That is why the paragliders have chosen this region for the
Paragliding is a recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders: lightweight, free-flying,
foot-lauched glider aircraft. The pilot sits in harness suspended below a
hollow fabric wing whose shape is that of a parachute. The paragliders flight can last many hours and cover many hundreds of kilometres though flights of one to two hours
and covering some tens of kilometres are more the norm.
Hundreds of Keiyo residents thronged the escarpment to get a glimpse of the
daring paragliders. So far no any African paraglider though. Virtually all of
them were white foreigners who have lately ‘invaded’ Iten town for their summer
gliders, will be there for a month which coincides with the current dry spell that is suitable for paragliding. One of the world renowned
paragliders at the gliding site was 39 year old professional pilot Markus
Schapler from Germany.
Last year Schapler was also here for the sport
and he set a record of 208.34 kilometres which he covered while carrying a
passenger (this is called Tandem flying) strapped together to the parachute-like
apparatus. In his record- breaker, Schapler flew from Fluorspar mines at the bed of the
Kerio valley to Tot in Marakwet district and back with his passenger aboard the
glider. According to those who witnessed this event, it was such a spectacular
works at Skywalk Company in Germany and the record holder said he started
paragliding 25 years ago when he was just fourteen! He now teaches paragliding
in his country and he confided that he loves this job and will do it as long as
his health and strength permit him.
“ I spend every summer holidays in the Kerio Valley because I like the magnificent
scenery and enjoy paragliding, These flying expeditions offer me an ideal place
for me to teach students how to launch the gliding apparatus,” he said through
a translator as he has not mastered the English language.
The paraglider displays his skilled aerial maneuvres with un-marched dexterity
soaring thousands of feet high up in the blue skies above the Kerio escarpment. “It is only in the Kerio valley where a paraglider can practice spiral dive
(i.e. getting down in a spiral manner) at very fast speed of five metres per
second for starters,” Schapler said adding that professional spiral divers like
him could do up to 20 metres per
second of more.
Schapler has gained popularity among the local residents who often cheer him on
as he performs meticulous gliding episodes in the air. On Thursday, chants of
“Markus, Markus“rent the air from titillated spectators when he hovered around
the launching bay. These cheers encouraged him to glide more in swift speed and
making some splendid
moves mid air.
Schapler praises Kenyans for their hospitality and good nature. He said:
“Kenyans are a welcoming and hospitable people. In other countries, people are
aloof and unfriendly. This hospitality has always encouraged me to keep coming
to the country, “he said with a
wide smile and enthusiasm written all over his face.
Another paraglider we met was Mr. Coetz Witschle another German who says this was his
first visit to Kenya to paraglide at the Kerio valley. He said he will never
miss coming around this time of year every year. In fact he contemplates
starting an IT business in Kenya.
He is an IT specialist.
“Paragliding is a sport like any other sport. Kenyans should diversify their
sporting talents and delve into such new sports,” Witschle said. He said
Kenyans majority of whom were good athletes were most suitable for the new
sport and encouraged the youth to try a hand in it.
The Elgeyo Marakwet County is set to benefit enormously from the emerging
sporting activities. The topography of this county is suitable for a variety of
sporting activities apart from the athletics which has been the obsession of
most youths in this region.
county should encourage paragliding events as this is a sure way of enhancing
revenue in the area as it is a tourist attraction. If Kenyans can venture into and adopt this new sporting activity, we will soon
be gliding our way to fame and prosperity.
Disclaimer: News24Kenya encourages freedom of speech and the expression of
diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are
therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Get the latest news by following us on Twitter
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.