BETWEEN EARTH & SKY
This is an article from the Sept. 13, 2004 issue
Marmot Productions, $20
Some people feed the homeless, volunteer at a shelter or read to the blind. Then there are the charitable sorts who go to Khumbu, Nepal, to teach Sherpas how to fly.
If you are searching for inspiration, look no further than Between Earth & Sky, a 45-minute paragliding documentary that goes to great heights to introduce Western technology to the primitive lifestyle of Sherpas. By soaring between the Himalayan peaks and Khumbu's potato fields last November, four American paragliders, whom the Sherpas call "white monkeys," become the first to paraglide in Sagarmatha National Park.
One of the Sherpas to make a tandem flight is Pema Dorje, who has successfully summitted Everest three times. Before Dorje takes off with expedition leader Dick Jackson, he admits that he is "75 percent nervous" and that the rest of him "wants to disappear from here and run down to my home." He screams as he spirals downward.
His wife, Mingma, has a slightly worse experience. Clipped to the tandem with paraglider Dale Covington, she refuses to budge. When Covington makes several attempts at a running start, Mingma drags along the ground backward like a rag doll or drops to her knees to pray. Exasperated, Covington tells her to stand and finally gets her airborne. Mingma prays the whole way down. Upon landing safely, a clearly relieved Mingma shakes her head and says, "I was blind. I was so scared."
What Between Earth & Sky lacks in suspense, the film makes up for with a sweeping bird's-eye view of the surrounding peaks and Khumbu's bright-colored rooftops from 19,000 feet. The trip down from the bright Himalayan skies is a magical one.