There's is low fog bank over town tonight. A full moon above that layer illuminates sky in one pale glow. From the open front porch of our room, I can see across the bay to the far side of town. The lights blink and shutter at times as the power comes and goes. There is the sound of the ocean. It is not the far anyway, white noise ocean sound but the close up sound with the surges and ebbing of the surf as it crashes against the beach. The world seems very close. It's day five of the trip. Sleep is stalking me, I do not resist.
I got off the plane last Friday in PV. Darren, Trang, other Bill and I all flew together. The rest of the gang, Jeff, Sandy and Eck came in the next day. Us early birds, threw our bags in the hotel and scrambled off the fly the local site. After a hellish hike we arrived at the smallest most misbegotten launch ever. There is such a small area to take off that the launch has been extended by a metal mesh platform. The bitch is the platform doesn't follow the slope of the launch but flattens out. So just as you start to get your three steps running in, the glider unweights. The flights are ridge lift and light thermals capped hard by the inversion. The air is thick, warm, moist and full of frigate birds and turkey vultures.
That night we walked in town along the ocean. Venders were selling colorful junk for us tourist. There was a mime doing an act which we couldn't make sense of off. On the beach a man balanced huge rocks on each other. The disks in my lower back trembled in fear as I watched him lift hundreds of pounds and then slowly balance them.
The next morning I took the bus back to the airport to collect the rest of the group. After an eye ball rattling ride I stood in a thicket of arm waving taxi cab drivers looking for the new arrivals.
The next step was to get on the boat to Yelapa. These boats are maybe twenty five feet with outboard motors. They pull up on the beach, you roll up your pants, time the surf and make your best attempt to get in with the minimum of a soaking.
The boat ride is a little over a half an hour. The boat bangs over the water while the jungle drift by on shore. As you pass each bend of the coast line small beaches are revealed. Some with resorts, others small villages, others yet have the abandon wrecks of someone's dream house gone wrong. Rounding a steep point of land we drop into a deep bay. The mountains here a a few thousand feet tall. The town is sparsely scattered up high growing ever thicker as you descend to the ocean. There are roofs of palm fronds contrasting the ones of corrugated steel. No point of glass in the windows. The outside is not something you need to keep out here.
The boats bobs around in the surf as we, once again, time when to jump off. I wait till the wave recedes before leaping out to find my stuff on the beach that the boat driver has piled up. Our rooms are right on the beach. I'm two floors up.
After showers, unpacking, turning slowly in circles, talking... The group is ready to head out for dinner. A paraglider favorite is Pollo Bollo. So up the stairs, down the hill, into town we go. Once into town proper I'm hoping I remember the twist and turns through the maze of walk ways to the restaurant. There are no cars and if there were they wouldn't fit on the "roads" anyway.
A restaurant here is a roof with chairs and tables under it. There is a waist high wall on one end with a kitchen behind it. The garlic fish is a favorite. I like the breaded chicken. Dogs churn around the place being unobtrusive but just in case you have any spare food you wouldn't want you know it would have a home.
On the way back to our rooms I stop by Alan's place. Alan is a local pilot. Darren describes his place as Gilligans island with computers and flat screen tv. We say hi, catch up a bit and arrange for the truck to take us to launch the next day.
Morning here goes like this, breakfast at the Vortex over looking the lagoon. Pancakes are favorite. Seagulls spin around in the air crying, turkey vultures pick the unfortunate out of the debris on the shore.
The next part is hiking to the truck that will take us to launch. All through town we go. Over the bridge, past the bright blue post office and then follow the equally bright blue water pipe up the hill. (Watch out for donkey shit!)
The truck gets jammed full of paragliders and pilots and then is off up the hill. The road winds around sometime super steep at others merely steep. Bends and ruts, a few streams and rocks, dust flying, a dog chases us for a miles before the climb and dust snuffs out his ethusiasim.
Launch is over two thousand feet up. The beach is a far away strip of tan. Between the launch and the beach is a lot of jungle. Macaws go squawking past, one squawk per flap.
Launch is short. It's a big run and then you lift off and fly out over forest. You either find lift or not but either way it's beautiful flight. It's not been too lifty but people get to hang out for a bit. My flights were pretty lift free so I either tour over town and see the water fall or head out over the ocean and hang out.
After landing there's lunch to find before we hike up for the evening flight. The hike is a bit sweaty before you get to launch. We did find out that launching into a light right cross isn't a good idea. There was even a long time professional paraglider instructor who said it was a bad idea. After getting a couple of slow learners out of the trees (and gettin scratched and bitten and poked by thorns...) we had dinner.
It's been the coldest I've every seem it in Yelapa. For someone who had just left twenty eight below weather it wasn't very cold. Still one wrapped up a little in the evenings. In the morning you just needed to sit in the sun for a bit while eating breakfast and all was good. The first day of the SIV clinic started, as all such things do, with a briefing. All of us have towed before but a boat tow is a little different. The boat moves and so needs to be followed. There is trick to this. Next was going throughout the maneuvers that would be done on the first round of tows. These start simple and then advance till you decide to do the optional stuff or not. The basic idea is to put your glider into situations over water and then sort them out. The most important are the things that could happen to you as you become a more aggressive thermal pilot. So the first set of maneuvers were big collapses, pulling in half your wing and then flying it, keeping control. Then frontal collapses. For each set of maneuvers the pilot is towed to two thousand feet or higher. The collapses are pulled while you are way out over the ocean. If you do really goof something up you splash into the water. Some of the Mexican pilots threw their reserve parachutes for fun, but rising the salt water off your gear and getting it dry is not so much fun so no one in our group did this.
Brad G instructed this part of the trip. Brad is an excellent Arco and cross country pilot. He is a member of the U.S. National team for the worlds paragliding championships. Not only has he found time to be at the top of these two disciplines of the sport but also become an excellent instructor. Brad ran the group through the days maneuvers. A day is usually three tows with multiple maneuvers on the way down. Day two was more folding spindling and twisting of the gliders but this time with the speed bar on. The real cool thing was that you could fly back to the mountain after doing your maneuvers and soar till your next turn came up. That afternoon after we were done for the day certain members of the group were confronted with the margaritas of doom. Some simply stumbled around for a bit while others went missing till the next morning.
The third day the group split up a bit, some did stalls and asymmetrical spirals while others twisted up in their lines and tried to steer their gliders.
Bill Lhotta who has already sen through a number of SIV clinics worked on his helicopter. A maneuver where you get your wing to whirl around like a helicopter blade.
That night the margaritas of doom were avoided, seems everyone had had enough. It was jam night in town. The local musicians get together and put on a show. There was a whole lot of butt wiggling going on as the band ran through a quite reasonable rendition of Sympathy for the Devil.
We made a lot of new friends in the pilots from all over the world. There were people here to fly the sites, others who would be in the next clinic. We all hung out, told stories, danced or and drank as one pleased.
Our final flying day Darren and I headed up the hill in the truck to fly. Eck headed home on the boat. Jeff and Sandy tool another boat out to some islands. They have great pictures of whales breaching! Darren got an extra tow to work on his asymmetrical spiral. One of The guys in the next clinic really botched his maneuver and had to full stall out of in to recover. He was so frazzled after that he ended his flight with a spot landing on the lagoon.
I had one last flight off the lower launch. I was soaring around as the winds picked up but it got more and more cross so I landed.
There was one last dinner to be had. Brad joined us and so did Edith a gal pilot from Mexico city. Brad talked about about going the world championships, coming is year on Spain. We all talked about our flights, maneuvers and got one last chance to tease the consumers of the margaritas of doom. The night ended with salsa dancing in the moonlight at the yacht club.
The last morning we got breakfast and got on the boat. We headed out of the bay. On shore, far away on a balcony we saw Brad waving goodbye. We went around a bend and Yelapa disappeared behind us.