“Pakistan is the most spectacular place I’ve ever flown”
When did you decide you preferred looking at the world from above?
I have dreamed of flying since I was a child. I would dream Peter Pan was my friend, and always dressed up as Superman at school. When I was seven years old, my older cousins, Raúl and Félix Rodríguez, started flying. Today, both are legends in paragliding. I knew that, at some point, as soon as my mother would let me, I was going to do it too.
What do you remember about your first flight?
The first time I flew alone was in Chinchilla de Montearagón, near Albacete (Spain). I was 14 years old. It was a very short flight, at 60 m, and lasted a minute and a half. But, while it was the shortest flight in my life, I became utterly enamoured with the sensation of flying: climbing, being able to see things from above and being able to control the flight myself.
What does the world look like from up there?
Spectacular. I like going up high and seeing the place from a different perspective that no one else can see. Flying gives you the purest sensation of freedom.
You have just returned from Madagascar. What most surprised you about the African island?
Its size (1,500 km long, by 500 km wide), not to mention the wide variety of different climates, because it changes a lot from north to south. The east coast is very dry, the west coast is forest, and the central plateau has extremely high mountains and giant cliffs. The landscapes were different to anything I had seen before. We were flying over green cliffs, rock walls, 500 m high, completely covered in some type of moss.
It is also thanks to the sport that you have been able to see the Northern Lights up close. How was your “borealis flight” in Tromsø, Norway?
It was a real challenge. Firstly, because of the cold. We were at -20ºC on land, and the apparent temperature in flight, going 60 km/h into a headwind, drops significantly. The equipment was very important: I was wearing thermal gloves and a neoprene suit. I was flying with a paramotor because there were katabatic winds, which means descending winds, and I had to fight against them to move upwards. We also had to wait for the aurora boreal for several days. Sometimes it would appear at 9pm, others at one in the morning, and other times at 5am. It goes away so quickly that I had to be prepared, with the paramotor running. We slept little and worked a lot, but the photographs were worth the effort.
What has been your most special flight?
There are several. When I flew over the Mayan pyramids in Tikal, Guatemala, over the Gran Jaguar and the entire surrounding complex. Also, the flight I did across Africa, from north to south, from Egypt to South Africa, in four months. I flew over Victoria Falls, the second widest waterfall on the planet, over elephants on the Okavango Delta and over Ngorongoro National Park. There, I landed on the crater of the Ol Doinyo Lengai, the Mountain of the Gods, according to the Maasai. It had been four years since its last eruption, and it had the perfect shape of a volcano, with recent lava.
Where would you like to fly next?
In Antarctica. Our idea is to be the first to go there, because no one has ever crossed it on a paraglider. We want to open up a way through this frozen paradise. We are also planning an expedition to Mongolia, to cross it by flight and bivouac. This consists of following a route for several days, where you arrive, sleep, and then keep flying the following day. However, at the moment, what I most want to do is go back to Pakistan. I was there in 2011, and it is the most spectacular place I have flown up to now, with mountains of up to 7,000 and 8,000 m, and hidden valleys. There are no roads, no towns, nothing.
And when you are on land, what type of travel do you like?
I don’t have much time for holidays. I normally travel with my paragliding rucksack. When I don’t have it with me, I always feel as though I have forgotten something. I normally go to Majorca with my girlfriend. My father has a boat, and I love sailing. I am also a big fan of scuba diving. I would like to go to New York next year.
And fly next to the Empire State building?
Yes (he laughs). Jumping off the Empire State building would be a great adventure.