Sunday, May 17, 2009

Come join me on Imagine This! TV

Join me on Imagine This! TV
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Individual/Group Instruction

New York's Premier Hangliding/Paragliding Outfit Fly High New York gets a new Paragliding instructor - truly yours! Visit for detailed information.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Living Green! - a good place to get some solid information on all things green.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Knowledge/Action: Ways to Charge the Kindle

Knowledge/Action: Ways to Charge the Kindle - I love my Kindle but charging it without the dedicated charger has been a pain. This is a solution.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Korea Oil Spill

Carol is in Korea now, posting some pictures from the Korean Oil Spill clean up effort on her blog - check it out!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Back in the USA!

...and we are back!  Imagine that, on a honeymoon there is much less time to blog!!!  We are back in the USA and busier then ever!  Will add travel pictures from Turkey and Prague in the nearest future.  Oh, and did I mention I am going to Peru in a month?  Should be interesting.  Will keep you posted!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

...and we are off!

Stop number one on our honeymoon trip to Turkey and Prague - a five hour layover in a rainy Istanbul! We started by sneaking into the "CIP Lounge" - probably someting like "Cind of Important Person lounge". Anyhow, will go try to enjoy before they kick us out!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Prison Break!

Ha, so, here we are driving out toward Ellenville on Sunday morning in a light drizzle in NY hoping against hope that the forecast will pan out. By the time we get to launch things are starting to look up so I head out for the first extended sledder.

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


Praha is one of my favorite European cities, got to hang out with Atanas (Marko's brother) and Mariana - had a great time, maxed out on complete lack of sleep and once on the plane back home all I could do is wish for the next trip to Macedonia next year! Signing off. Sander.

Rolan's Soarcast

Rolan's Soarcast - an effort to improve flying in the North East...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Home, sweet home

So, I am a bit behind on my blogging responsibilities - so here is my catch up effort...

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

Today I was entrusted with the duty of waking everyone up at 9 am. By 10 we were successfully out of the house (which is some feat with 6 loud and only moderately awake guys in the house with two showers). Had breakfast and off to launch. The usual launch did not look good with moderate backward winds. So, we strolled over to the South Launch about 3 minute walk away. The winds seemed tame with a low inversion layer promising only limited chances for cross country flying. No clouds made looking for thermals only that much harder. Smiley asked me to be a more than willing guinea pig and explore the winds on landing “but if you catch something… good luck!” It did not take long. The moment I got off the mic telling Smiley of a somewhat turbulent air near take off a sweet 4 m/s honker picked me up. It is always a show of confidence and degree of positive impression when within moments three more gliders were joining me in the air. It also seemed that the previous day’s story was about to repeat itself (albeit in a far less turbulent manner). The best flight of the day, though with about same final distance belonged to a relative beginner, Sasha. He stayed the highest the longest, gingerly working his way thought the valley and two mountain ridges. An hour and 13 km later I was landing, ahead of Sasha and Alek about 2 km short of Ribnik that we left only 12 hours ago. 5 more pilots eventually made their way to the same village while I was garnering the good will and more beer and yogurt. By 4 we were all back at Krushevo getting ready for another flight and enjoying a well earned lunch.

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.
Busy day - wind, flying, playing, pictures - got home too late but will write in more detail and with illustrations tonight!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wow. These two days have been filled to the brim and describing all that is going to take some energy… which is all nearly gone. Between flying and having general fun not too much time left to sleep, and even less to work on the blog… but duty calls!

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…”


More story to follow but pictures would tell a good story too.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A break.

Today we woke up a bit later, looked around the sky and decided to head out back to Krushevo. As we were driving the winds kept picking up and our hopes for flying waned. Got back to the house we usually stay in, with it's beatiful views of the mountains and the red-shingled roofs and I went to take a good nap. Meanwhile, Marko went for a photo tour of the town with his fixers. The light was perfect, the wind was cool - and my nap long!

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

Two flights and a lot of sleep.

What do you do on a day when you think you can't fly... but really want to? Well, first of all you don't believe the forecast, of course! Second, you hedge your bets!

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

Sunday flying.

Well, here is another day of fun - this one is mostly in pictures - so check out the slide show below or click to see the mapped gallery - a google map will actually show you were the pictures were taken to get an even better sense of where and when!

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

Flying in Krushevo - and this is called suboptimal!

Today started as per usual, getting some yogurt and pastries at the local breakfast spot, then heading up and out, oh, whole 5 minutes up the hill and setting up for the first flight of the day. We took off with Marko around 1130am - the air was what you would call "textured" but we headed out for a cross country flight after quickly getting to about 4000 ft ASL or about 3000 ft over ground. After bobbing about for 40 min or so decided to play it safe and come back to the landing zone to go for another flight later. In the meantime everyone had happy "dart flights" dodging thermals and quickly landing to start getting ready for another flight.
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

So, I am at it again!

This time paragliding takes me back to Macedonia. I flew in through Turkey making just a short stop over in Istanbul - this time no chance to sneak out for another look at the Blue Mosque - and just a short 14 hours later of being on the road I was back in Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia. Here I was greeted in the airport by the "usual suspects" - Joka and Marko, Smiley and Dima, Alek was also there to complete the crew. Breaking with tradition we did not go directly to one of many flight sites in this small but picturesque Balkan country. Instead we headed to the city to relax and party a bit. The hopes for the next day were not much due to a strong wind forecast so I was happy to use the chance to catch up with some old friends and talk business with Joka and Karolina. In the evening Slave had one of his famous pool side parties - pictures coming up to cover all these little adventures.

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

LifeStraw - a very cool device, does not filter Giardia - but perfect in every other way! It is $15 straw like filtering device that filters enough water for a year of personal use. Now widely distributed by aid agencies in Africa. Highly recommend as an emergency water purification devise. Easily would fit into a smallest flight pack.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

38.5 km, continued.

Road signs near the pick up point
Marko serving as the retrieve. Then, we head back to the mountain for another flight!
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38.5 km in Ellenville!

I must say, it is quite an achievement by local standarts... As can be attested by the size of my smile!

My gracious hosts, Stefania and Mark
The antennas marking Bailey's Gap near the Hudson.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A great site with nice prints - here is my favorite.

A friend of mine runs a very nice site with her own illustrations to life in NYC - here is my favorite - the rest of the site is just as whimsical. Enjoy - Kate Forman Illustration

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Back in the Air!

I am back in the air! Took a nice flight this Saturday at a local flight park - Ellenville Flight Park - concentrated on a good take off and landing and when had that went home happy! It's good to be back in the air!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday March 25th, NY Times, Travel Section

Sunday March 25th, NY Times (or Saturday home delivery) - Page 15, Travel Section - Marko Georgiev photo of yours truly! - in the monthly "Why We Travel" section. The only unfortunate omission is the lack of mention of Vertigo Paragliding Club - those "closest friends" mentioned in the caption below. Will just have to work harder to get into the news paper again!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Doing great!

Just a quick update - I am doing great, everything is healing according to plan, no pain meds or nothing and can't wait for the new flying season in another month or so. Still not supposed to lift anything heavy for another month but otherwise - as good as new. Cheers all. P.S. Just to clarify - the only damage was T10 - all the other stuff was a "movement artifact" on a poor quality initial CT scan.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Some more details...

First of all, thanks for all the well wishes I got locally and via email from Macedonia to Valadares to New York - I can´t tell you how much it all meant to me - especially when I was not sure what exactly was happening. Will Silva showed up on his red buggy, others offered place to stay, help with phone calls and papers, you name it! Amazing really.

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

Hmm, back injuries are NOT fun.

The understatement of the week. But I am back and will tell the story in detail - will have time, you know. The bottom line - no flying for 2 months. The upside - no foreseeable problems promised at this time - just rest and give time for the spine to heal. Seems like there is minor damage to T6, T7, and a broken but stable T10. All these will get another lookover once I am back in New York - trying to get back there by Thursday. Essentially missed out on 1 week of flying and made lots of new friends at the local hospital! Everyone has been incredibly kind and helpful. If a bad thing had to happen - this was certainly the best case scenario!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Valadares, take two.

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


SO. We are back in Valadares. I wish I had the energy to describe this in detail but let´s just summarize our 3,000.00 km forray to Florianopolis and back as this - 5 paraglider pilots, 5 days, 5 busses, 2 Kombi VW van rentals, 2 planes, ~$400, ~46 hours of travel time - do I need to say more? All of that culminating with a 5 and a half hour race to make the track from Bel Horizonte to the top of Ibituruna and fly down - and yet, somehow, it all made sense! I will put pictures and details in the next day or two. I promise.

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

You are not going to believe it...

Yep. We are on the move once again. Sitting and waiting for the weather to clear yielded just one result - complete desperation. After another heroic effort (and a few drinks) the decision became clear. We are going back to GV. Yep. You read it right. We are cutting our losses, abandoning the idea of becoming surfers and fitting in the crowd in Floripa and going to our adopted home in Brazil - Governador Valadares. The weather has not been spectacular in GV either but according to our scattered sources there has been 2 days of moderately good flying for 1 day of rain. Florianopolis turned out to be a beautiful place and I certainly hope to return here with Yuliya in a very near future but this time it is time to go.

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

Still bad weather - looking for water sports!

Nothing new. Looking for water sports to occupy our minds.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

And we are back!

Ok. First of all - the weather is playing a nasty trick on us! It seems to be following us around the country!!! The next three days here are promising to be rain and thunderstorms - whereas in Valadares... all is good!!! Unbelievable. But what would you expect after being on the bus for 33 hours(!) to get through 1.600,00 km to get to the surfing mekka of Brazil - the island of Florianopolis. I do admit - it is beautiful here. The beaches are all white sand, the towns are very tourist friendly and our VW minibus - well - that's just priceless! We found a house for rent in a town of Barro de Lagoa for all of 150 reals per day - which is not bad at all. All we really need is some flying and all would be perfect.

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

Rain leaves us no choice...

We are all hard at work on our exit strategy. The first prize goes to Florianopolis -a beautiful island on the South of Brazil... The bad news - it will take over 26 hours on 3 buses to get there. BUT it is still better than waiting in the rain for things to change... in 2 weeks or so! So, hopefully the next posts will be off the road!

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, 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

Rain, rain, rain again...

Doing pretty much nothing except wondering aimlessly around, watching TV, reading, and eating. I think it is time to start looking for better forecasts around and hop around the country a bit. Will keep you all posted!

Here is some "stock" footage from couple of days ago to keep you entertained.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Paraglider Pilot Assemly Instructions.

Please visit this photo gallery for pictures and the commentary. Today´s topic - ¨Trying to understand what makes a paraglider pilot... a paraglider pilot!¨

Day off. Rain.

Well, not a whole lot going on today except sleeping, eating, working on a blog and running small errands. Uploaded the first week worth of photos with some commentary - enjoy!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Sorry about the messed up pictures in the previous 2 posts - I will fix them as soon as I am back from dinner!

Three flights - where quality was a bit lacking - quantaty made it up amply!

But let me retrace this day backwards - somehow it managed to become progressively better culminating by us stuffing our faces at a traditional brazilian grilling place, a churascaria - in this case called Spettus. I don´t remember myself be this ridiculously stuffed in a very long time. Within 2 minutes of us walking in we were virtually assaulted by skewers of deliciously grilled meat - beef, pork, chicken - what have you! Desert - grilled cheese and grilled pineapple. They take this grilling thing quite seriously, I must say. Here is how we looked at the conclusion of our venerable feast - essentially anywhere between ecstatic to comatose.

But preceding this we went flying. The last flight of the day was with Joka and Gabor. Gabor brought a video camera and we flew in wonderfully lifting air of the evening light that followed a day full of overdevelopment, rains and disappointing attempts at distance flying. The fun of flying close by, talking, videotaping, taking pictures and doing a bit of fun maneuvering that included wingtip touching and some inadvertent collapses (on my part) as the wing control was sacrificed to getting the best shot! Then, with a bit of spiraling and a SAT - we were back in the city to enjoy the rest of the evening.