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…”

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