'Fly free dude! - An ode to Garai Makaya

Makaya after a jump at the Makgadikgadi Epic PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Makaya after a jump at the Makgadikgadi Epic PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

Dude! Where do I start? Wait, I need a soundtrack for this. Cue in, Sail by Awolnation. Let me start from the aircraft. On board the Atlas Angel at five kilometres above the ground during the Makgadikgadi Epic.

It was my last tandem skydive and I was attached to Corne Vorster, that dude who flew the extra large Botswana flag during BOT50 celebrations at the National Stadium and we were in the same load with you – my very last flight with you.

I remember how you casually checked out your altimeter and upon realising that the plane had reached the right altitude, you just prepared for the exit like it was all normal. In fact you actually caught a nap as the flight was going up while we were a bunch of scared souls praying that everything should be all right.

I recall that ritualistic greeting with your mates where you extended your fist as if you are doing a fist-bump and just before the fists bump onto each other you both opened out your hands as if it is an explosion – I never really told you that that greeting or whatever you guys call it, actually got me nervously sick.

When the plane door was opened and the gush of cold high altitude air together with droning noise from the aircraft engine hit us, you just remained cool as ever, like you were about to step off from a stationary vehicle.

As my adrenaline pumped up anticipating the 220km/h free fall speed, you were just waiting, unconcerned, by the aircraft door, to film one of the tandems during their jump. I still wonder what really goes through a pro-skydiver’s mind while clinging by that aircraft door waiting to fly.

You once told me that your rather unusual passion for skydiving is not about the love for the adrenaline rush but it is about the love for flying. And since riding an aircraft cannot be defined as flying just as riding a boat is not swimming, you believed that to experience the flight, you have jump out of the vehicle.

Dude your passion for skydiving was incredible. All you really wanted to do was fly, catch a good movie, eat a big burger, quench with a craft beer and repeat.

Not many people find the things they really love in life. You were one of the few mortals that actually discovered their passions and never looked back.

You always reminded me of Charles Bukowski’s life advice: “Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain from you your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness. Let it kill you, and let it devour your remains. For all things will kill you, both slowly and fast, but it's much better to be killed by a lover.”

I have never really met anyone in my lifetime who actually followed those words so religiously.  This week I heard Simba Mudereri chatting with your old Harare mates saying when you started “this skydiving thing” they thought it was just a temporary fad that would soon fade away like many ephemeral passions that humans failed to nurture.

Your mates too thought you would betray your passion and box your life into some societal expectations, but you chose to rebel and fly free until the end of your time. Few people are brave enough to live such a fulfilling and passionate life like you dude.

You are testament to the words, “live your life your way”. Let me change the soundtrack from Sail by Awolnation to My Way by The Sex Pistols. You know the Frank Sinatra’s version is not suitable for this dude.

When I met you, in 2007, you were a nerd, a web-developer and shrewd web-solutions consultant for Mmegi website. You actually used to have a daily job. You led the technical side of our web team that comprised of our managing director Titus Mbuya, Lone Koosenye, Mmasechaba Mokone and yours truly. This is the team that trailblazed the new media concepts in Botswana. We explored the monetising of the news websites before Facebook and Tweeter entered the market and disrupted our business.

We actually had the mind power and brilliant ideas to counter the “online destruction” of the newspaper. Developing web concepts with you was exciting. We were working in a fast changing environment where ideas had to be produced quickly or they would never see the light of the day. Since I insisted on making the Mmegi website a “living organism” with a continual upgrade and redesigning I had to keep you closer.

In everything we conceptualised you wanted it to be “cool”. You were not just a brilliant programmer but also an amazing sales person, although sometimes you over-sold the products during those rather too detailed presentations. I enjoyed working with you and since I was the client I never got to hear the colourful expletives that you bombarded your “retard” web developers when “coding” became intricate.

I remember when you started disappearing from Thursdays and came back visibly exhausted on Mondays. I knew then that if your phone was not going through on Thursday you would be out for a weekend skydive boogie in South Africa to feed your real passion. As follower of passion myself I understood your situation.

All along you were figuring out how to make your passion a sport and business that you could do for a living. You were very instrumental in the Parachute Association of Botswana’s (PAB) affiliation to Botswana’s National Sport Council (BNSC). From the affiliation all you wanted to do was work for skydive projects.

There was no way you could focus on struggling newspaper web projects while you could fly for a living. We agreed to let you focus on your burning skydive passion but it was clear that Mmegi New Media was your home in case the passion got burnt out.

After PAB, you were instrumental in the adventure calendar events in Botswana like Makgadikgadi Epic. The Epic was your baby and after the successful inaugural event that was attended by President Ian Khama, cabinet ministers and international stunt skydivers, you never looked back. I remember listening to your vision for the event saying you want to make it a global skydive boogie that would be part of the international calendar of skydiving events.

But in the meantime you wanted to jump at almost every outdoor (even indoors) event in Botswana. I remember last year in December while we were having craft beer at the ChillStep Sunday event at the Stanbic Piazza and you told me that you were inspecting the Piazza for a possible dropzone. To you, life was about constantly looking for dropzones because all you wanted was to fly. We are therefore comforted, albeit little, in the news of your death because you departed doing what you really loved.

I am glad your family has agreed to your wishes for cremation and a fitting skydiver's tribute. Dude your mates, Essop and Cyril, are planning an awesome send off this weekend. They will take the last flight with you after the cremation this Saturday and let your ashes fly free and forever.

So if you were not a bird in your previous life, then you will be reborn, as an eagle and you will soar high above the plains of the Kgalagadi.

Fly free dude!

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