Wednesday, July 21, 2010

RIdge soaring '10

It's the fourth day of the clinic. I'm driving to the site with the windshield wipers going to fend off the mist. A big jet materialises out of the gloom overhead, flaps downs, contrails spinning off the edges. It's setting up a landing approach, east to west. That's not a good sign as I'm looking for west winds, soaring, west winds.

This is the trip of anomalies. There's never been a trip before that has had three days of no soaring. Now there is. Then again I've never had a trip where most of the people's names start with "J". (Jeff, Joan, John, Jon, Johannes, Janel.) Or where twenty percent of the pilots are women. Or where so many people lose their phones.

I've gotten a bit despondent. The beach is where you go to escape flakey weather. Hot land, cold water, these are big powerful weather influencers. Even as I drove that morning I could see the branches of the trees bent from the trunks to the east. This is the sculpting of the westerly sea breeze day after day. It's what happens most of the time, west wind, why can't it happen now?

It's not that we're not flying at all. There are short flights off the dunes. People are working on spot landings and kiting skills. The group has been hiking at point Lobos and up into the redwoods. But as the organizer of this I'm starting to twitch. All these people have taken off time for work, bought plane tickets and paid me to take them ridge soaring but the weather won't let me do my job.

Janel was the victim of the weather's rude humors. She just getting back into flying after a serious accident. She could only get time off for half the trip. And it was, to the minute, the bad half of the trip. After days of short flights and hikes back up the dunes, Janel's last day had come. She hung out till she had to pack up and leave. The winds were still light. Twenty minutes later the winds finally starts to pick up. It's a bit cross and it's already late in the day so we decide to scramble down to the far end of the dunes where the curve of the bay would hopefully make the winds straighter. Wind chasing in usually a goose chase but this time it works. The more experienced pilots are launched immediately upon their arrival. I start getting the newer pilots flying. And then the phone rings. It's Janel, she's driving down the highway seeing us all in the air. If only the wind would have held off five more minutes at least she wouldn't had to see everyone else getting the flights the weather wouldn't give her.

The winds are medium strong so everyone is getting plenty of height and there's lots of room as the lift band is fat. I'm playing air traffic control. The new guys need a some time to fly without traffic and get use to soaring the dunes. I give each new pilot a piece of dune to fly alone, then one of the other pilots flies the rules of the right of way with them. I then send them further down the dunes to fly with the rest of the group before launching the next pilot. Soon everyone is up. The group is now spread out over the entire five miles of dunes. I keep the newer folks closer to my end of the dunes to keep an eye on things. I find a good place to sit in the sand and feel an incredible sense of relief. If nothing else, everyone will go home with a great flight. I give some occasional input over the radio as the flights turn from minutes to hours.

With the sun getting lower in the sky the winds lighten a bit. With five miles of dunes to explore some of the pilots have landed out on the beach. The dunes are not a consistent wall, there are gaps that have to be crossed to get to the next section. With the lighter winds some of the crossings are getting harder to make. After a bit all the newer folks are on the beach. This my chance to get in the air. I launch and head south along the dunes. I soon find the whole group, either airborne, packing up or hiking back. Bob is down on the beach. I see his back pack was left behind on launch. Hmmm.. Could I....? I swoop onto launch, pause for an instant to grab the bag between my feet, kangaroo launch back into the air, fly down to Bob and drop the pack.

Now the day is giving up and everyone is landing. There will be a bit of the "who can stay up the longest" game but our day is not over. There is a picnic to be had in the redwoods. I land and call my sister Martha and tell her we are on the ground and packing up. They have the grill lit. We now have to collect everyone, pack gear, get in the cars, drive to the store for supplies and get to the picnic. This group had a tendency to come unraveled, but we finally get everyone in the cars with food bought and head down the Big Sur coast.

Right before the the Bixby bridge is the turn off, one dirt road to the locked gate, then down the narrow track carved into the hillside. The flowers have stayed in bloom late in the year. It's evening but still light, colors surrounded by shadow make up the hills, the bridge is a black silhouette with the ocean brilliant in the low evening sun. Our wagon train of cars poke slowly around the bends in the steep road. Then we enter the redwoods and it might as well be another world, tall trees, ferns, the stream.
The cars are parked, stuff unloaded. The dogs barks as we approach. I can smell the grill going.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


The sea of Nevada

Why in the world do we have so much Nevada? To be fair Nevada is no larger than any other of the states that I will pass through on this trip. But, where as Colorado does have the mind numbingly boring eastern plains, they are soon enough relieved by the stunning sceanery of the mountains. After that the high desert takes over into Utah. Then, cresting over Soilder pass, one drops into the Wasatch valley all lush with streams and fields before the buzzing activity of Salt Lake City consumes everything. Then there are the salt flats. And then Nevada. 
At first the grey teeth of rock thrusting up through gums of sage bush and biting the sky are yet another environment to absorb. But like a multi course dinner where every dish is mash potatoes, one soon aches for a change.
When I saw the sign pointing out that Reno was 511 miles away, I started working on a plan.
It occurred to me that there is a hell of a lot of coast south of Panama City that nobody is making much use of. What if couple of fifty miles long strips were brought up to surround a small inland sea. Then Nevada would become an attraction instead of a chore.  
I stopped by city hall in Elko to see if I could talk anyone into my idea. No one could find any fault in my plan. If Utah has a Great Salt Lake why couldn't Nevada have an inland sea. There was some concerns that Panama would miss it's coast line till I explained the sea would merely move inward to form a new coast. After a few days of the waves washing against the land no one would be able to tell the difference. Sure someone might think that the walk to the beach was way too short but that could be explained away as the product of poor memory.
As there is endless money available right now for these type of "shovel ready" projects, the city officials of Elko told me that they should have the new sea in place later that afternoon. I jumped back on my car egar to see my idea realized.
I soon entered the jungles of Humbolt county. The roads were poor as of yet as the soil needed time to settle before a real road was laid. I drove slowly on the dirt road listening to sound of holler moneys bellowing at the more adgile and teasing spider monkeys.  Here at the beginning of the jungle I saw Jack rabbits with swollen bellies napping in the shade. After spending their whole lives eating sage bush the rabbits had gorged themselves senseless. And speaking of pigging out, wild pigs were grunting about is a state of agitation. Perhaps the moving of the coast line beneithe there feet had been unsettling.
I drove with my head out the window looking up and all about. That is until a snake dropped off a tree on me. My flailing around only sucseeded in sending the snake flying into the car. At this point it was looped around the rearview mirror eyeing me with intent. That was the intent of where, exactly, to bite me. As I was paying  very little attention my driving, I bounced off a log by the side of the road. The car heaved to one side and the snake gave me one last glaring looking as it flew passed my face and out the window.

After that excitement I was thinking of taking a break when I saw a small bambo shelter with a palm frond roof. There were hand written signs, in Spanish, hanging from it that I could make no sense of. I pulled over.
I am always surprised at how much communication can go on between two people who speak different languages. I found out that Javier would like to sell me  a drink. I sat at his table drinking what I think was a banana mango smoothy. It was a buck. Obviously Javier was in need of some corporate branding like a nice logo and a uniform as then he could have easily charged four dollars for my drink. Toucans flew around looking for any fruit to job off. One actually got it's beak in my drink before I could pull it away.
Javier was surprised at how many Americanas He had seen today. While I was thinking, "Well, what else would you see in the middle of Nevada." it ocurred to me that maybe Javier had been scooped up when the sections of coast line had been removed from Panama. He may have no idea of where he was or what had happened. I decided that I would not be the one to explain his situation to him, especially when our form of communication depended on way too much arm waving.
I had finished my drink and grinned and waved my goodbyes.

Bumping along the road I came at last to the sea of Nevada. There was a fine sand beach with palm trees reaching out over it for the sun. At the water's edge there was hundreds of orange vested highway repair workers. As is well known, it is essential to the balance of the universe that these people are employed at all times. That is why they are seen all summer long dragging around orange cones placing them, seemingly at random, on the roads. Now, a hundred miles of interstate had been disturbed by the new sea. Sticking orange cones in the jungle would be pointless as would be floating them on the sea. Their new job was to ferry the cars across the sea on a large bambo raft. I drove my car up on to the raft. It sloshed back and forth violently.
A legion of orange vested people pushed the raft into the sea. Another legion picked up long bambo poles and started poling me across the water. I sat on the roof of the car. I was surprised to see seagulls had already found this new sea. They whirled overhead squawking. I sat there reflecting that my idea had been a great sucsess. This was way grander than endless miles of Nevada. I soon found out that not everyone had agreed with me. I was chatting one of the gals poling the raft. She informed me that all of Lovelock Nevada had been submerged. Houses flooded, lands lost. They were pissed. She went on about how some knuckle heads had come up with the plan in Elko and had forced it through without consulting anyone. I kept very quite as she told me about a how football rivalery was most likely behind it as Lovelock had always crushed Elko.
At the far side I waved goodbye to my orange vested friends. I crossed the beach and back into the jungle. In a few miles I saw a building going up. The sign on it said The Curved Banana Saloon. Well it was Nevada after all. The jungle ended aburuptly in a pile of mud and dirt. I drove down directly onto  the highway. It had been a long time since I had been over fifteen miles per hour. The speed felt exicting. In a few minutes I saw a sign, Reno 24 miles.


Day one

I headed up the Grizzly creek trail from the rest stop in Glenwood canyon. I had a large book of Jane Austen novels clutched in one hand. The path swung around like a slow motion roller coaster. There was the sound of the creek to my left, thousands of feet of orange red rock cliff over head. Purple flowers, like fuzzy antenna hovered over the tall grass over there. And over there yellow flowers huddled under the bushes. A tumbled stack of rock sloped upward to my right. But over there, some other rocks had muscled their way in amongst the soil and tree roots. Everwhere were trees and the green, angled light that was filtered through the leaves. Wasn't long before I had found a suitible place to lay down by the creek started to delve into Lizzy and Mr Darcy misrepresentation of their fellings to each other.

I have see a bunch of movies of Austen books but had yet to read any of them. Reading books of movies you've seen can have a mixed out come. On the up side the book can provide a wealth of depth of charactors you already like. On the other hand if you liked the movie but the movie butchered to book, then you wonder what the two ever had to do with each other and whether there is any point on continueing. So far I'm enjoying the book. Didn't expect the language to be as odd as it is though.

Some unknowable time later I awoke with the book laying on me. Getting up with the slouth that day time sleeping brings, I headed further up the trail. It occurred to me that, even though I had resently chain sawed my foot, that I was relatively uninjured and had no time pressures on this trip. Now was the opportunity to hike further up the trail then I had been before. Of course in Colorado, going as far as you can go and going as far as the trail goes, can be two very different things. For all I knew this trail could go on for days.

At some point it was time to turn around and start driving again. It's that time of year when we head out to Monterey to fly our paragliders. I've got nothing but hot weather and lots of desert to see the next few days.
I've got a newer car thanks to the CU police that crashed into my last one. The new one, alas does not have AC. So I built a fine evaporative cooler out of a fan, plastic storage bin and a humidifer wick. Ok, if doesn't blow freezing air at me but for $40 it's the difference between being baked alive and being reasonably comfortable. Plus the weird thing bungyed to my dash board pleases me to no end.

Got 41mpg on my first tank, full moon guitar playing in the desert, camp set, sleep comes.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Packing paranoia

9:07 Saturday MOrning.

I'm leaving by 11:00 for the ridge soaring paragliding trip I teach each year.

Right now I'm twirling around trying to finish packing even though... I'm done. But it doesn't feel like I'm done yet. There is still that lingering feeling that I'm missing something. Flying in the face of that idea is that the car is packed to the ceiling. I have also made lists, and written down everything as I put it in the car. I've already checked the list for things I think I might have forgotten.

The final bit will be the, "did I lock the door" challenge.

Anyway, from here on out I will blogging from the, I Smear. Typos will increase.

More Fun Soon.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The last of trip.

Going home, Yelapa

The plane is rattling around in the sky. Three hours and I'll be home. I awoke to the sound of the surf on the beach. I'll go to sleep to the sound of the wood stove crackeling. Sand for snow.

I had breakfest on the pier as the high tide surf tried to slop it's way over the wall onto my table. Pelicans were swarming the fishing boats. The group of us finished up and got on the boat. A hundred feet off the pier we saw Carl waving from shore. Hold on! Back to pick up Carl. The surf was really big. As we went from beach to beach picking people up, the boat would dart in and then back off. We would be lifted high as the surf sucked back under us. I'd look down at bare sand just before us, sure  that we would be thrown upon the beach. But the boat pilot had it all timed just right.
Out of the bay onto the ocean, the heavly laden boat wallowed. There was too much weight for the boat to get up on plane. The boat just pushed through the water like a plow in deep snow. A few times it seemed like we might turn over.
Darren's friend Mike got us set up in the first bar he could find in PV. The long wait, till the plane left, began. For those that drank, a plan was quickly in place.
Slowly the wind shifted around into the south west. That meant the launch above Bob's house might be working. I could tell that Darren really wanted to go. Now we only had two hours till we had to get to the airport. I sort of remember how to get there but clearly remember that it is a scramble on a shitty trail and that the launch is tiny knoll that has been extented by a raised wire mesh. (really)  Light wind launches are completely hairball. And I've got the sniffles. I'm trying to sinc up to Darren's ethusiasim. I'm failing but think, "What the he'll". There is concern that we will all miss the plane because of Darren and I's boondogle. But in the true spirit of paragliding priorities we go to find a taxi that has some idea of where to go. The third guy we talk to does.
After winding up the streets, I'm not sure where the trail starts. I know where the hard way is. But remember there was a better way. Time is ticking. We head up the nasty path. It's steep and lose. Soon, as I remember, it turns into some sort of water course and gets even steeper. I must use my hands to pull myself up. Then it's through the rocks and bush. I see the scaffolding that supports the launch extention. Launch extention? What the hell am I talking about? Well, there simply isn't enough room there. So a scaffold with thick wire mesh was put up to make just enough room.  Indoor outdoor carparting is thrown over the back. While the front has been left open mesh to let the air through. (once again, no really) However, someone had done some work up there and there was some more room. Just enough for a  forward launch. Darren is about to put this to the test. The winds are light. I stand in front so I might have some chance of waving him off if the launch is no good. It's good! I go and get my gear ready. It's hard to be patient with your glider when there is so little room. But "right" is better than "quick". And I am off. I've got houses below and below that the beach. A sea bird is turning in lift below me but it is bird lift. My flight is soon over. We pack up on the beach, catch a cab and are back ten minutes late, just as the rest of the gang are ready to leave us behind.

The rest of the story is about linking one form of transportation to another till I'm standing at my front door. It's snowing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Darren goes flying (we watch)

Yelapa day five

Darren just landed after two and a half hours. This  is best day, of all days and trips we have done. Darren, without his vario, launched first and landed last, therefore out flying everyone. (The whole gang got great flights.) Darren flew out to the front ridge. At first I thought he was going to miss out. The guys that launched later got right into thermals and were flying over launch. While Darren was stuck far below. But then he got a nice thermal and flew all the way back over launch. After that, as everyone sunk out one by one, Darren just kept flying around.
I was starting to wonder if Yelapa was really the place to go. I've never been skunked here, but I've been waiting for that one great day. Now we've had one.

I missed it though. I woke up with a head full of crap. My right ear wouldn't repressurize on the drive up the mountain. Felt woozy everytime I stood up. I'm on the evening launch now. Watching white caps coming in out on the ocean.

Later, after short but reasonable flight, I'm watching Darren fly some more. There has been a lot of that today. Darren got just a little more lift than I and got into the next layer of air. From that position he could just keep boating around. It's him and the turkey vultures. 

It's the last day at Yelapa. Tomorrow we get on the boat to go to the taxi to go to the... But we will try one more flying spot. Now it's off to Meme's to see the band play. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blog blog

Ok, just reread the last few blogs. The typo level is amazing! Please bare with me. I am typing on my new Ismear (ok, it's really an Ipod) and need to get used to the thumb key board. Last night I accidently pasted two copies of the previous blog smack dab in the middle of the new blog. It took me eighteen mintues on the backspace key to get rid of it. I didn't do much proof reading after that. I went into SIGB mode instead. (screw it I'm going to bed) I'll stick up another blog on this trip soon.

More of Yelapa

Rest of day three,

Strap on the pack, duck under the clothsline, open the bungy chord that closes the gate to the graveyard, through the graveyard, up the hill to the truck. The path is a red orange dirt. Everything else is green and not sort of green, very green, lush and varied. 
Today there are even more people than people that didn't really fit in the truck yesterday.
This resulted in the following reactions. Carl bagged it and headed back to the room. Four others decided to hike the launch. (their gliders where in the truck though. That's three miles and two thousand feet!) The truck was then quite roomy in comparision to the last ride. However, after a few minutes we caught up with the hikers that, for some reason, had changed their minds. Once again it was cram-o-rama in the truck. I was standing up in the back holding a rope tied to the front bumper, ducking branches.

At launch there was five mintues of perfect breeze to launch in. Darren wisely got out there right away and was rewarded with a nice flight. Soon after he got on the beach he radioing up, "are you guys coming?". The wind had turned to super fussy. Over the next few hours the wind reluctantly let a few pilots off every twenty minutes. However, as some were trying to no wind reverse launches, not every opportunity was taken. The fun really begain when one pilot did a low energy launch, bounced his butt off of the hill, sort of flew through bush and definitly did not fly through the tree. He disappeared out of sight to the sound of cracking branches. There is a moment where one askes themselves, "What will the next few minutes of MY life be like?".  There is a bunch of running around, yelling and genral commotion. He is not responding. That's not good. But then... Wait there is a faint voice. He fine.
Now, going into the jungle to fish someone's glider out of tree is not something to rush into. You can come out with quite Collection of parasites. Amazingly enough he got not only himself but his glider out with minimum fuss. Finally my chance came. I bailed on my first launch. I didn't like it, I stopped. I liked try two just fine. I flew out with the clouds just few hundred feet over my head.

Back on the beach I rejoin the group. They have heard that something was up on radio. A little story telling is needed then completed. At Darren's we have some coconut milk from some coconuts Darren knocked out of a tree. And then it's off to snorkel. This time the whole gang goes. We float around looking at fish.

Tonight is pizza.

Late in the night sitting on the balcony. There is the sound of the waves and rolling calls of the jungle insects. The group has split up to, walk, sleep, play poker, check out a dance. I'm sitting here writing. This balcony seems to stick out into the air, three sides of it look out over either forest or ocean. There's a little quite time now, a little time reflect. I could have gone a lot of places in life but the best of life is when you're glad you've ended up where you are.

Day four 

I'm sitting on the pier reviewing the pictures I've taken today. Two little boys press up on either side of me, peering into my camera. One is blowing up and then releasing the air out of a ballon, in my ear. He names everything he can recognize as I scroll through the pictures.
I woke up to rain again today. The sky over the ocean was black to the horizon. The road to launch is wet, the clouds were often below launch. Once again, not normal. Got on the radio and started working on a plan B. There is a waterfall up the valley. I had never been there and there has been some interest in going. This became the new plan. At Darren's place we sorted out who was going, who was going back to bed and how much money was lost at the poker game last night. (not much.)
Us hikers get  going. That would be Trang (name now spelled right) Darren Cindy and I. The hike is about two hours in and another two back out. The trail goes up the river. The further up we go the more we leave behind the part of Yelapa that is design to accomodate tourist and the more we enter the part that is of the locals and about the locals. The store fronts become quite funky, just the open side of a cinder block buildings. There are sad and bored looking horses tied to posts. All the chickens are free range in the fact that they are everywhere. The stone walk way becomes dirt. (The horses providing new proto-dirt.) We walk past the school. The kids, in uniform, outside playing. Further up the river the houses space out. The jungle becomes more of a presence. Trang, who is native to Vietnam, is pointing out the various fruit trees. There were a lot of mango trees. Alas, the mangos were green and the size of the end of my thumb. Now we  are a long way up the river. The path is a lot smaller. The houses get very rustic and not in a quaint way. As I peer further into the brush I can see the ruins of adondon homes. One has a satellite dish attached to a pole leaned up again the side of it. Finally, after becoming tired and sweaty, we arrive at wooden gate that has "waterfall" painted on it in bright green paint. It is locked, we climb under.
Now we really are in the jungle. There are big hanging vines strangling trees, macraws squaking overhead, the soil of the poor condition of having every nutrient sucked out of it. I can hear the roaring of the falls. The trail is very indistict. We're climbing over rocks hanging onto trees. But, here in the middle of nowhere, the last ten feet of path to the water is crisply set stone stairs. ?
Darren and I strip down to shorts and pile into the pool beneithe the falls. We both have waterproof cameras and are trying to take pictures while dog paddling. I climb into a side passage that has little steam coming out of it. The rocks are slippery. In a ways there rock walls on either side. Trees are drooped over the top like wet spegetti, while their roots braid themselves down the sides. It was one of throughs rare serendipitous moments. 
The hike is revesred. Thanks to clothes made out of oil I'm bone dry by the time I get back.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yelapa trip

Day one of the Yelapa trip.
After losing an epic batttle with the automatic parking machine (that left an unnecessary 10 bucks poorer) I'm on the bus, heading to the airport. This is the part of travel that is not the journey. Plane flights have become the travel equivilent of waterboarding. I am reminding myself that my opinions need not be shared with any TSA employees. I just need to keep my mouth shut and get on the plane.

The day will go like this; car to bus to airport to being frisked to plane to airport to taxi to boat to beach to hotel. Yea! Done! 
I'm now working on phase three, the airport. When there I'll find two of our party, Jeff and Cindy. We'll get processed before flying off to meet Darren and Carl. Darren is bringing his wife, Tran and his friend Mike and his wife Jill. Yelapa is one of those flying sites that you would want to bring a spouse to. With a beautiful beach, palm trees, warm ocean, not to mention warm weather, who wouldn't want to go there?

On the plane now. The snow is starting to fall. We are getting out of here just time. Soon we'll take off and fly up into the murk. 
I am Always surprised at the weather these big planes fly in. Before becoming a paraglider pilot this wouldn't have phased me. Ignorance was my shield and protector, However knowledge has corrupted that innocence. Flying in blinding snowstorms seems like a bad idea, but these planes fly this stuff all the time without running into problems. I realize that I am committing the crime experience creep. I am taking what I know about paragliding and trying to apply it to big jet flying. I often have  encountered this problem teaching students that flown other types of aircraft.  They try to use their understanding of that craft to help them learn to paraglide. The problem is that paragliding is too unique for that knowledge, beyond the fundamentals, to be of much use. I know this and yet still try to do it but the other way around. I, like everyone else, like to feel smart. My twenty years of paragliding give a level of expertise but I am the one who needs to remember that once I leave the field of paragliding, even into the relatively close neighborhood of jet planes, my knowledge fades. I think, for that reason, instructors need to keep trying to do new things. It's comfortable to hide behind ones skills, but, if you teach, you need refresh yourself with the feelings of being brand new at something. (this thumb typing is doing the trick for me right now.

Way beneith me the snow is gone. The tv screen shows me I'm soon to cross the Mexican border. The last time I was in Mexico was the final leg of the Central America TV Show I did with American Explorer. Sleepless nights of endless driving, being searched five times a day, made Mexico seem like an unending hell hole. Yelapa, however, will redeem Mexico for 
me. The TV schedule was a max rush and we were two weeks overtime at that point. I am sure that we pasted by many very  cool places in our mad dash Cross the country. Yelapa is Mexico experienced the right way. Slow down, get to a known cool place and stay put, soak it in. I just need to get everyone onto the ferry, (with their bags) and the relaxing part will begin.

And... We do get all of our bags! Jeff had a scare though. As the bags came around a bend in the carosel, they were falling off into a big pile. After waiting Round for one of Jeff's bags, he decided to dig through the ever mounting pile of bags being barfed off the carosel. And there it was!

Off we went in the taxi to Los Muertos Pier in Puerto Vallarta. We were treated to some Mexican taxi driver driving. My favorite was a, cross six lanes of traffic on a red light, U turn. As we got into town the road became cobbles. I took in views of jammed packed beaches with vibrating eyeballs. Kids were playing in the surf, beer was getting drunk (and so were the people.) some sort of volley ball without a net was being played. 

Arriving at the pier we found the rest of our group sitting in the closest bar. No really! One thing that makes Yelapa special is the boat ride. Yelapa is not a island, but the long winding dirt road you would have to take, makes the water taxi the most sensible way to get there. This boat ride adds this sense of disconnection to the trip. There is real feeling of leaving the world behind the minute you get in that boat.

The boats are open pongos with outboard motors. You go banging over the waves for a fortyfive minute ride. The coast slips by. Jungle glad mountains rise up a few thousand feet. Ridge lines follow deep valleys. Hidden villages are revealed and once again  obscured. I breathe thick warm air and start to relax. The trials of travel are almost complete. Around a point that reaches out into the ocean we go. We enter a deep bay. There lies Yelapa. Clouds twist around the mountain peaks, a cluster of houses are scattered on the hill sides. Smoke rise out from the trees, some cooking fire somewhere. Our boat weave through to moored boats to the beach. At the beach the boat leaps Around in the surf. Getting off dry is not an option, timing your departure is and decides if it's getting your feet getting wet or a full on soaking. Our bags are shouldered to shore, we have arrived! 

Day two
Rain. It hasn't rained here, in February, for eleven years. This is my fifth trip and I've never seen it rain. I had just got out of the ocean from snorkeling and felt the rain start to fall. 

Guess what? We didn't fly today. Plans for these trips must be made so far out that no weather report would have any relationship with what will actually happen. And the weather is changing, everywhere. A quick poll to my fellow Instructors confirms this. Everyone is seeing big changes in the weather. Whatever! If you can't wait on the wind don't become a paraglider pilot!

This year the group is housed all over town. Darren and company are right on the beach. Jeff and Cindy are are up the hill a bit. Carl and I are on the other side of town, way up the hill. We have great view of the bay once we climb aaalll the stone stairs. This morning I went out on the porch, turned on my radio and raised the troops. I can see the other lodgings way across the bay. For the morning flight there is a truck that drives up a beat up dirt road to the top of the mountain. We arrange to meet the truck at ten. For Carl and I this is a few minutes hike, for the others it's good slog across town and a good climb up the hill. See there are no cars in Yelapa. The road from inland stops just above town. Everyone walks in town or rides donkeys. However, after we land on beach, it will Carl and I that have big slog home. So it all evens out.

We wait for the truck. And wait. The locals make a few calls and find out that due to some late night partying, there will be no truck. We make a plan B to snorkel and head our seperate ways. At the preappointed meeting place there is no sign of Jeff and Darren. We wait. Finally we go all the way across town to check their rooms. Nope. I get a hold of a radio from another member if our party to find out Jeff and Darren had meet our truck driver on their way back and were now sitting on launch. I'm a bit bummed. I would like to fly and I'm not there to do my job. I am on the beach though so, if I can't be at launch to brief people on the launch, at least I can guide people into the landing zone.

The landing zone is a length of sandy beach dividing the ocean from a small lagoon. It's not a hard place to land but it does tend to focus the mind as a splash down is the reward of a sloppy approach. So I hang out on the beach. Not a rough assignment.

Soon Les, a local pilot, appears with a boat complete with a tow rig. Turns our Les, along with Brad ( who's last name I will not even attempt to spell, but he is an excellent acro pilot.) have been doing safety manuver clinics, Or towing up over the ocean and stalling and spinning their gliders. The idea is if you mess it up you go on the water. Les goes up and does a few spins. I used this opportunity to brief the members of the group on the beach about these maneuvers.

Soon I hear from Darren and Jeff, the conditions are no good, they are heading down. I can't talk anyone into going back to plan B, snorkeling. Beer and sitting on a chair on the beach have stronger pulling power. It's hard fo resist the gravity firmly pressing me into me seat.

But, if I can't float around in the sky, floating around in the ocean is a good alternative. There is great little beach at the bottom of the long stairway to my place. With my ancient contacts in my eyes and flippers and mask in hand, I wander down to the water.

I got a new camera before the trip. I'm up to about $1200 in four cameras over the last few years. All Sonys. All have died of lens drive failure. No more. I got a completely encased underwater deal. Now I knew it was waterproof but as I waded out into to the water. I had the hardest time actually sticking it in the water. I was holding it up over my head. Years of previous experience were shouting, "no! Keep the camera away from the water!". Finally in I plunged. The water was full of fish. Everywhere, every color, every size and shape.

Day three
Not only is the truck there, there is someone to drive it. Twelve pilots cram themselves and their gear in, on, and hanging off of the truck. A classic paragliding experience. Up the road we go, Bouncing around trying fruitlessly to find something better than friction and faith to keep us in the truck. We twist around bends, get thrashed by low hanging branches and vines while the truck whines along in four low. About a third of the way into the journey someone says "Are we there yet?" for the first time. Much later we are there.

The view is terrific. The curve of the bay way below, a few scattered islands on the horizon. Thick jungle drapped over ridges and mountain sides. Birds turn lazy circles or squak with every wing beat. And the wind is perfect. Gear is prepared, wings laid out, lines cleared, buckles buckled. One by one the group flys off into the sky, to turn slowly with the birds. I am almost always last. It's part of my job to see everyone off ok. I run my wing up overhead. "Man I am rusty!" The tactile response to my wing feels blind. But I launch well and am soon way out over the jungle, feet dangling. The clouds have come in so there is no sun or heat for me to use to climb higher. It's a long leisurely ride through the sky back to the beach thousands of feet below. I look at hidden houses or out over ocean or just watch the jungle pass. Then it's time to set up my landing and join the gang on the beach. We get some lunch before hiking up to the lower evening launch for a quick windless flight.

We sit around on the beach chatting till we make the way too complicated decision of where fo get dinner and then change our minds a few times. But we end up at a great place and our hostess finishes the evening with a fire dance.

Day three,
The people in the room next to mine had a very important discussion about pickles just before sunrise this morning. Beautiful morning.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Test this just test

Just got an Ipod touch. Trying to see if I can use this for updating the blog when I'M
on the road.
Look's like it's working!