Sunday, May 17, 2009
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
In an hour I am back after John (a new HG pilot flying the North Knob Launch) gives me a ride, the thermals are looking promising, so I set up very very quickly and took off again. What a difference an hour makes! This time I was on the way to three grand in no time. Soon Othmar and Niels joined me on their paragliders as well. The slow burn off of the clouds overcasting the area produced strange lifty conditions with no turbulence to really speak of but no massive lift either. Soon you could see strange pairings of rigid wings and paragliders making their way along the crest of the hill. My brief excursion behind the hill yielded 2 m/s sink so I stayed firmly out in the front venturing into the valley.
Under these strange overcast skies I kept creeping cross wind toward, first, the airport then the prison, then... just kept going. All the while had a fun time listening in to the HG chatter trying to figure who is who in the sky. Eventually, hit sink on the way to a very promising cloud developing ahead and started looking for a landing place. Saw a nice wide green strip along 209 and went for it. Perfect landing and started packing up. A big dude in a department of corrections uniform comes up to me and goes - "Sir, did you know you landed on the State Prison grounds?" - according to him my expression at that moment was priceless... After him and now his supervisor checked with me if I have any weapons on me everyone just enjoyed the humor of the situation. But the best part was my radio coming alive and someone, I was not sure who, saying on the radio - "oh, Sander, by the way, some of those farms there are the prison farms, just watch out landing there..." Apparently I was about 200 ft short of the State Trooper land which would have been far less (or more) eventful. Oh, and for those in the air on Sunday, yes, indeed what we were hearing was the machine gun fire - "boys practicing in the pit" as the guards put it.
Well, after they escorted me to the road and told me never to come back (in the nicest way possible) my fiancee had a dream come true and she picked up her husband to be at the prison gates!
Another great day at Ellenville! See you all during fly-in!
Friday, July 13, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
3 days back we started by waking up at 9 am with Marko and Bobo - and heading right up to launch. 10 am and the wind was blowing right in on main launch - so without further ado we took off and enjoyed a surprising ride for a good 40 minutes - thermalling right over Krushevo and even taking a couple of pictures. Then, headed to the landing, packed up and went back to the city. But, that was just a part of the adventure - when we got to the city and started to unpack the car Marko discovered an unexpected hitchhiker - a snake was peacefully coiled on the back seat under one of the bags! Initial fright and excitement passed without any harm to the snake with bags and parts of the car taken out quickly to chase the visitor out. Marko got the reinforcements from the local computer cafe called "Hell" and soon was armed to the teeth with a broom, pair of flying gloves and a support crew of all of the attendees of the cafe. To snake's luck it managed to slip into the chassis - which gave everyone a chance to take a deep breath. A quick run to the computer upstairs revealed that our visitor is extremely unlikely to be a viper - one of the three poisonous snakes in the Balkan region - and when Marko went back down it just peacefully slipped away.
In the evening spent time at the foot of Vodno at Marko's mom's house - quite a change of pace from the days before.
Next day morning Bobo picked us up bright and early. We decided to go for just one more flight before heading home. To summarize, "we are already here" is NEVER a good reason to fly! After much turbulence and adventurous landings we were happy to head back home for the farewell party. And a good party it was! Fun was had by all.
In the morning, after a short nap we checked up on Eli and off to the airport! Ciao Macedonia till next year!
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Then, the lauded soaring in Krushevo. We stayed up for hours, flying in generous evening thermals and ridge soaring and I even got to show off a SAT and some asymmetric spirals high above the hills. Marko and myself even had time to take a breather, top land, take some pictures and head back out again for an extremely easy and relaxing flight. At some point we both felt as if we are in a scene of some James Bond flick, flying in and out the hills, taking pictures and generally feeling on top of the world… with sun and hills and winds and our friends patiently waiting below while mercilessly being consumed by some of the most vicious representatives of the mosquito family this side of the Atlantic. Then, with usual yelps of joy we returned back to Krushevo for a huge pile of grilled meat. Our adventure is once again coming to the close… but not before we fly again tomorrow. Over and out.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Yesterday started slow enough (note: the story will go to the correct day with the correct pictures but all are getting written at midnight on Saturday), strong winds in the wrong direction did not promise much but for the sake of trying we piled in to our Toyota Land Rover and headed out to the far end of the valley covering much of this part of Macedonia. When we arrived to Slivnik about an hour later the local pilots were already there to greet us. With the usual cheer they explained that it might be a little strong but not to worry – and in show of faith two of the locals took off first. Their flights looked peaceful enough and Smiley and myself were the first to set up and go. Two things were clear in short order. One – safety in numbers and the altitude is your friend. Let me explain. In hairy conditions it is always reassuring to see other pilots coping and having a good time. Well, other than Smiley, myself and a local pilot there was no one else having a good time. That is NOT good. The good, however, came with the first strong thermal that did not wait for itself to show it’s full colors for long. Within minutes my double gortex jacket that seemed like such a burden at 1300 m ASL was barely keeping me from shivering at over 2600 m ASL. Once I put that distance between myself and the ground the decision needed to be made as to what’s next. Flying down to the valley winds did not seem like the funnest option, especially watching the rest of the crew screaming down in extreme sled rides – Marko on his Omega7 hitting the record 4 m/s down – I decided to head out. With tail winds of up to 20 km/h I easily clocked as fast as 55 km/h downwind only tapping on my speed bar. Smiley was flying the parallel course over the hills on the left and was encountering serious turbulence. That I could see in the brief moments I was able to take my eyes off my own glider. Doing multiple maneuvers clinics and practicing Acro when I can was certainly paying off on this flight giving me an extra edge of calm in this very textured air.
Soon I caught up and overtook a local pilot flying a lower performance wing. For some reason I was getting a distinct feeling that he was not having have the fun I was. I later found out that he was a beginner on his 6th high altitude flight. That kinda puts it into perspective! Anyhow, to make the long story a bit shorter – 21 km on a straight line for points for speed and a bit of a triangular path all added on to the credit of 31 open distance km. Not bad for a bad day! Smiley, on his superior flying machine and far superior skills made it to the target city of Prilep a few kilometers ahead of me. I landed in a huge flat farm field and made acquaintance with some local farmers – check out Radko and the gang in the picture section. Radko told me all about his family and his 10 eu per day job as on the combine collecting “psheniza” and he still insisted in treating me for a beer (or a yogurt in my case). The hospitality of the people is incredible here.
Then, after being collected by our omnipresent Land Rover we were off to Ribnik for the late evening soaring again. It is incredible how much you can learn goofing around on a barren hill with smooth winds… and I cant even start raving about the picture ops!
So, finally we got home and after a big dinner some of us went to sleep. “Karolina, oh Karolina…”
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Then, we checked the hill again, the wind was howling, so we'll be content sorting pictures, watching flying videos and hoping for a better day tomorrow!
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
The funny thing is on the days that you expect big clouds and overdevelopment those things don't crop up till later in the day. So, getting out of the house at 430 am turns out to be just early enough! Trust me, pictures would tell a better tale!
We were up on top of Vodno overlooking the city of Skopje, next to the largest cross in the world at 545 am. Set up, goofed around in front of the camera and took off! The smoothest, calmest air ever, just playing around, taking pictures of the Omegas that Marko and Joka were flying - all that before the city even thought of waking up! Landed 3 blocks away from Marko's appartment and went to sleep! Woke up, cleaned the post party appartment (oh, yes, there was a reason why we were STILL up at 430am) and went up again, this time to Skopska - the wind was over the back - so we took off over the back too! Flew toward Kosova - yes, here you have to be careful to land in the same country you took off in! - turned into a ravine and off to the landing zone - a 10-15 min glide in the evening air... and more pictures to come.
Then, collected ourselves and headed to Joka'a parents for a home-made meal. Could not wish for a better conclusion for the day. Tomorrow - Krushevo!
Monday, July 02, 2007
We started by with an early flight around 1130 am with conditions still developing and after 30 minutes of hard work landed in the landing zone at the foot of the mountain in Krushevo. After taking a short ride back to the top we were ready for the goal of the day - Bitola 40 km away.
The flight started simple enough with Smiley being a sacrificial lamb on his Omega6. He managed to make it a few kilometers away putting him down in the valley to have a perfect, albeit a ground, view of things to come. Next up was Marko on his brand new Omega7. I followed close behind. But after only a few turns it looked like Marko's flight is not going to be much longer then the first one. He continued down and down as I tried hard to stick to the hill near launch in slightly turbulent air. Little by little I was able to climb to about the height of the launch itself - about 1450 m ASL (above sea level) or around 800 m AGL (above ground level). Then Dima on a Titan II, Bobo on a Jazz and Alek on his Jalpa joined the fray. As they came out to see what's going on where I was my luck began to run out and I headed down the ridge.
Only about half a click down my glide I hit gold. A solid thermal pillar that took me to 2555 m ASL (nope, you don't need oxygen there :-)) Smiley from his ground control position advised me that I am in a perfect spot to get ready for the valley crossing. This was consistent with what Marko was telling me about the lay of the land. The mountains and hills were starting to look like the "foot prints" in Marko's schematic in the dirt... and I was definitely getting high enough when the mountains that would take hours to scale are looking like "foot prints!" At that point in time I could still see Marko scrounging for lift in the valley and Bobo, Diman and Alek were starting to catch up from their position at the start. I got on my speed bar and went forward. Soon after there was another thermal to carry me back to a respectable altitude to make the big leap over the sinky valley. Alek hung back building altitude, Marko and Dima finally found something good in the valley East of my position over the mountains but Bobo decided to plow ahead. This, proved to be a miscalculation. Very soon Smiley was busy trying to "air traffic control" Bobo back to the pack... but it was too late. He was the first to drop out from what was becoming a very exciting flight.
Meanwhile, I was across the valley with thousands of meters of altitude to spare but getting a bit worried about a massive cloud building up ahead. With big clouds come big lifts, big shadows and big winds. I checked in with Smiley and he reassured me that the cloud did not look scary and all was clear but I was still a bit tentative... which cost me my place in the mini-race. Though I was still gaining height and doing well when a suggestion to come out to join Marko and Dima came over the radio I did not think twice and ran... despite a big shadow and breaking a cardinal rule of cross country flying - never leave a good lift - unless assured of something better. In the corner I saw Alek fly just to the position I left a moment ago... and my flight was irreversible lost.
Next things happened fast. Marko radioed that he is sinking and may be landing soon, Alek proceeding to go higher and higher easily riding the winds from the cloud sitting above the mountain and Dima rode his last glide to the valley ahead. I tried to turn back to the hill and even considered flying back to launch which would have been a great fun too, that just to maintain position until the cloud moves along and then... Well, let's just say they don't make easily accessible facilities in the sky for paraglider pilots. This overriding need sealed my decision. I found an absolutely perfect landing zone with short green grass and huge "topol" trees indicating the wind direction. My landing was perfect and easy - but the local farmers may still wonder why a paraglider pilot would run so hard right after the landing to the nearest trees.
All this was just half the tale - Marko did not land after all! He found a massive thermal that took him to over 2000 m in minutes, and rode those unruly thermals past the goal as far as 42 km on a straight line. Alek landed in Bitola itself after his successful decision just couple of kilometers short of Marko.
Joka guided the retrieval. Yep, his conversation with his Omega7 left him somewhat unhappy. Always a better day ahead!
After the pick up we all gathered at a good local eater and partied to our heart's content. Then a short ride back to Krushevo to pick up a tandem passenger and we were off for the third flight of the day.
Yeah, you read it right! Third flight! At this point we all felt the need to relax a bit. Marko borrowed Alek's Jalpa and with my Sigma6 our wings were closely matched in speed and performance. This allowed for a bit of wing walking by Marko, well, more like a wing kicking but who cares, and an entire flight where we flew so close that talking in the normal voice was completely within reason. In conclusion, while Marko was circling and getting for the landing I was carefully counting the number of turns it took him to get down. Then, it was SAT time in perfectly smooth evening air and in a few moments I was joining Marko on the ground.
Alek enjoyed a fine tandem time for the first time... with the minor matter of an acro turn. Smiley and Joka did an unthinkable just a few years before gliding down a 2 km loop on pure glide capitalizing on the incredible leaps in technology of Omega7 and Bobo with Dima just free flew. Good day all in all!
Saturday, June 30, 2007
All but one, that is. Alek took off a bit later than us and proceeded riding all the way up to around 6000 ft ASL and going 30 km out and BACK! By the time we were up and done with lunch Alek toplanded and then took off again! So, we went for our second... and third flights with various degrees of success.
More local pilots joined and all kinds of fun have been had. Check out a brief selection of photos above.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Next morning the winds did not seem to give up. So, after visiting the Vertigo office - a brand new impeccable space that I hear Smiley designed himself - we headed up for a tour of the city with Marko. All the time we kept an eye on the sky and an ear to the cell phones to keep up to date on the weather happenings. Around 6 it was the time to head out to the town of Krushevo. This is a very important town historically to the country - here some of the decisive battles took place at the turn of the nineteenth century that solidified the local sociopolitical ties. The country takes these events extremely seriously complete with full blown re-enactments around August 2nd every year - a man standing a shooting off his Kalashnikov courtesy the last war of 10 years back especially comes to mind! But celebrations are just that - celebrations and no signs of the last hostilities that marked the the last days of Yugoslavia remain in the mountainous and beautiful country. To make the long story short - we got here, settled in a great old inn, got dinner and went to sleep.
Today we woke up around 9 am and headed out to the mountains. To everyone's disappointment the winds were strong and seemingly unrelenting. But, just as the winds have strength the Balkan folks tend to have plenty of perseverance. SO, we head to what is locally known as a training hill. Let me tell you, this treeless, grass covered MOUNTAIN has only one thing in common with what we think of as a training hill in the Eastern United States. People do train here to fly. A LOT. Soaring flights lasting a few hours are more a rule than an exception. But, for a little while it seemed that even this spot will fail us. We waited and played a bit in strong winds but ultimately a lunch in town of Prilep was all we were able to master till about 6 pm. And then the wind died down. Just like that there were about 8 gliders in the air and we all enjoyed this long awaited present, soaring in the rolling country side, enjoying the view of great mountains rimming the valley and dreaming of the long distance flights tomorrow.
Welcome to Macedonia!
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Here are some more details on the accident. The day started really late due to stronger than usual winds and an unusual wind direction. Cloud base was very low - so everyone patiently waited. Finally the competition window opened around 1 pm. I was not in the comp so stayed behind and assisted some launches and just stayed out of the way of the competitors. Finally, after about 50 other gliders were safely on their way I set up for launch. Many pilots had a difficult launch because of the side of the mountain that had to be used - somewhat of a cliff launch. I had a smooth and easy take off waiting it out just enough, built up good altitude easily and had about a dozen gliders join me in the air soon after. Getting about 300 meters over and ending up at the cloudbase it was time to move away and take advantage of some XC possibilities. I was working intermittently light lift with mixed in ridge lift in places and in less than an hour made it with relative ease as far as 17 km and then hit, what likely was, a major sink/rotor. My 600 meters of altitude quickly disappeared as I was going about 4.5 meters per second down. Had to use the speed bar to make it over the crest of a near hill to, what appeared, a safe landing zone.
Somewhere in all the excitement I lost some of the perfect clarity to keep myself safe, and instead of choosing to land on a slope that was clearly clear I decided to fly down to the foot of the hill that appeared to a be a fine, albeit a dry landing spot. Now, I did think that amidst the grass the dry spot may be more likely to release a thermal but choose the option because the place looked open, flat and comfortably away from any obstacles. Mind you, there was the 4.5 m/s second to take into account - I was coming down fast! Just about 50 meters off the ground I noticed power lines rimming the field and was as quickly as I could scanning the field for any lines a farmer could have pulled across the field (not at all an unusual occurrence here). I came in with some minor oscillations at good speed to the field that was lifting and was concentrating on not running out of space if the lift was stronger than expected. Still, knowing the safety of speed on landing in turbulence I kept my hands high but, and, this was critically different than my usual landing approach, stayed in my seat. SO, when the wing lurched forward with just a meter or two remaining off the ground I made the decision to skid in on my butt. Only this was a very bad decision indeed. Sitting back in the harness I could not flair hard and when the tuft of grass revealed a hidden ditch in the middle of my flight path I was completely out of options. My legs missed the edge just so and the bottom of my harness that contained my reclining body came in perfect square contact with very hard and immobile ledge of the ditch. From 30 km/h to 0 in 0 seconds. The pain was immediate and so severe that my wind was knocked out of me for about a minute before I was able to take a breath. Local kids immediately surrounded me, and then may be a minute later 2 other PG pilots where on the scene. Franky and Pedro helped to keep me comfortable, immediately radioed to the mountain with the emergency post there, ambulance was there in 15-20 minutes, local EMTs were professional and quickly gave me pain meds - Xray, and CT scan showed initial trauma and the day later MRI revealed the damage to T6, T7 and T10 but all were stable and I was released from the hospital next day. Marko and Joka kept a close eye on me throughout the stay, staying in my room over night bringing food and generally humoring me thru the whole thing. Marko headed home first with all my gear and Joka joined him next day.
The conditions continued to be sketchy for the next 2 days and 2 more pilots ended up with back injuries. It goes to show that no matter how usually forgiving a site is one should never become complacent at assessing the risks and deciding just how much risk to assume for the ultimate joy of free flight.
I will try to settle my hospital bills tomorrow and head back to New York. Till next flying adventure, Sander out.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Who could have thought! Valadares seems to be back to it´s well forgotten glory! Today´s flights were long, fun and did I mention long? But here is the funnest part - the results. The estimated distances - pending GPS log uploads - Slave ~55 km, Sander ~40 km, Joka and Marko ~ 37 km. Yep. All these in correct order! Did I mention that this was Slave´s FIRST cross country flight? Oh, well, let me tell you - this was Slave´s FIRST cross country flight. Yep. Not just in Brazil, but altogether! Smiley, you taught him well! David and Ken had shorter flights today.
So, the day started simply enough - with a taxi ride up to the top - but the top is quite different these days - it is the 2007 Brazil Open Championship - check out in pictures - dozens of gliders on launch are just as tightly packed when they are up in the air in a gaggle - luckily today´s task took them around our path but it was quite a site to see about 60 gliders glittering in the distance, pushing out, low and fast to make the elusive goal.
As to our flight - we all were doing quite well. I finally payed attention to my own thinking about shedding some weight off the gear - and getting rid of about 4-5 lbs of non-essential stuff seemingly payed off - I was able to stay in and use the same thermals as Marko and Joka with greater ease. But the real surprise came today with Slave´s flying - he simply would not give up. More than once he was so low that landing was the only option to all observing - yet he persevered - and his insistence payed dividends quite handsomely - of 4 of our little gaggle he has gone the longest, even overflying the competition goal!
I had a little adventure after the landing to lighten up the day - I landed about a half of a kilometer away from the road and was hiking back. Saw a kid with two bicycles that he was struggling to get to the road with one falling over the other. I asked if I can help by riding one of these - shortening my walk in turn! He said ¨sure, but *((&()&¨ - well, I should have looked that up. What *((&()& meant was - ¨but there are no breaks!¨ Let´s just say, I was very happy to see the end of the road going uphill - because I would have continued rolling a very long time with extra 25 kg on my back!
Hitched a ride back and for just extra 10 reals same guy drove me to the top - so I got another flight in, did some acro and landed to join the rest of very happy pilots on the ground! Flying the way it was meant to be! Oh, and check out updated Floripa post - added 38 new photos with comments. Some are quite funny, if I may say so myself!
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
And, by the way, Florianopolis is quite beautiful and I can´t wait to be back - according to Fabio the best flying/relaxing season is in January... Will just have to pencil that it, would´t we? Oh, and that reminds me - I still have that not-yet-redeemed ticket for an adventure vacation!
Monday, February 19, 2007
Though, I must say, having a house at our disposal for the last 3 days was fun, David and Ken proved to be invaluable resources each contributing some incredible skills to the affair - David with cooking and sense of direction. Ken with driving and... other things!
Anyway, time to go pack and marvel at the crazy Brazilians driving around the huge carnival floats - the little town in Barra de Lagoa is giving us a unique, unrefined view of the carnival, that´s for sure!
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Saturday, February 17, 2007
By the way, the pictures are coming in due time - and we have plenty of them - but I simply forgot the card reader at the hotel... Oops.
Today we also hooked up and were welcomed by some local pilots - of O.V.N.I. - Organizacao de Voadores do Norte da Ilha - we happily hung out on the beach, shared some drinks and played around in a very impressive surf. Great folks to come do some tandem flights with when you are in Brazil!
Anyhow. As much as Valadares is a very much a town avoided by the usual tourist crowd and the only gringos are the paraglider pilots - Floripa is a very different scene. The sign on the door of the computer room I am using are in Portuguese, English and Hebrew. Surfers are all over. And probably most amusing - I had to spend 5 minutes trying to convince the lady that is renting the house to us that I am NOT in fact a "paulista"- i.e. a native of Sao Paulo - but a real gringo! I guess this country starting to rub off on me too. Well, the other thing is - Brazil is as much a melting pot as US is - but here the racial stratification is a bit different. For one - further North you get - such as GV and Brasilia - the most African descendants you encounter - the further South - where we are right now - the more of German and Italian descent Brazilians you happen to see. SO, being a gringo it is far easier to blend it down South - and my hair is getting just unruly enough!
Another thing Floripa is known for - a great influx of folks for the time of Carnival! So - the atmosphere is extremely festive and loud, crowds are in the streets in force and we are getting and entirely different perspective on Brazil! So, all in all, I am not really complaining!
On that note - it is time to go join the crowds!
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Good news - making new contacts on Fabio´s lead with pilots in Florianopolis - is our first lead - his hotel is full for Carnival - but, Zé Maria the owner of CHALES DO CANTO who is a HG pilot, http://www.voolivre-sc.com.br let me know that flying has been spectacular, new records being set as we speak and overall sounds like a great guy - so off we go!!!
Some pictures of the past 24 hours including Ciao pics for Steve and Carol heading to Rio de Janeiro to join festive crowds for Carnival!!!
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Here is some "stock" footage from couple of days ago to keep you entertained.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Three flights - where quality was a bit lacking - quantaty made it up amply!