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.