Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Long Road Home - revisited

Make it stop, please make it stop. The unending shaking side to side, back to back, bump up bump down and lurch seems to never end. While all roads may lead to Katmandu as the local saying goes; all roads within 35 kilometers of Pokhara wind their way to Pokhara first.

When one attempts to fly from a new site that you have flown to from a remote site the effort to return to home is much more arduous than a typical 100 degree Eastern Washington hitch hiking to The Rock affair.(The Rock is where we leave our car’s at our home flying site.) Launch altitude was 1750 meters, low to medium by hills standards and right on the boarder for sustaining lift. There seems to be a level, on stable days, where, if your above it your golden and below it it is real hard to maintain altitude. I was maybe 250 meters above the “bottom” of lift and when I left my meager 100 fpm climb looking for a better climb my fate was sealed.

The bowl to the left of Singdi, my take off site, looked to be perfect, it was at the end of a valley, well actually a branch of a valley, which I think was the problem. The bowl had a SW facing orientation with a lovely slope and high peak. I entered it with the expectation of blasting to the sky but found myself sliding ever deeper and ever closer to the point were there was no more lift. As I pushed round to the full East side of the bowl now oriented perpendicular to the overall valley flow I hit a solid 20 kph head wind and sink at the same time. This feeling, of getting truly stuffed in the mountains is heart-wrenching. I first experienced it at the Rat Race in Oregon with much the same results, although at the Rat Race there was a retrieve van that picked me up. Here I faced a sinking feeling that came with a “man your screwed” realization as I sunk to encounter a small LZ.

The LZ was a singular spot of flat/terraced earth in a sea of steep cliffs, jungle clad hills which lined the jagged valley for as far as my eyes could see. The terrace sat at the crux of the valley at the branching of my bowl of hope and the continuation of the valley up towards the Annapurna region. One stream joined the main river at this point with a 70 meter dropping face on the river sides of the terrace making coming in short a very bad option. There were trees that ringed the terrace anyway so dropping in was a bit more tricky. Terrace landings on the flat are difficult in a different way than those on the high hill. The space seems large but it slope downward making it difficult to spot a singular landing point. You don’t get to decide until the last moment which of 100 smaller, say 2 by 30 meter patches your going to land in.

Sleeping Buddies

Sprinkled among the 100 possible LZ’s each flat as a pancake but bound by 1 to 1.5 meter wall/steps, big enough to do damage if encountered on landing, were grass drying stations. I don’t know what they are called but they are ubiquitous made from of a four post structure with a long pointy stick coming up through the middle to about 10 meters high just for fun. Nice little search and avoid on landing to make life more interesting. Anyway the landing went off without a hitch, well maybe a stumble, as I have found that such small spots require an aggress stall at the end which tends to drop you a bit rather than a normal tip-e-toe landing for the cameras.

Once on the ground the full impact of my fate began to become clear. Not a sound of any human activity. No welcoming parting of yelling children, no honking of motor bikes just the noise of a stream and wind in the trees. It was sunny, which was nice, but other than that I was alone and a long way from home.

I took my time packing up and before I was done a young man came walking down the path. He did not seem particularly interested in me at first but we began a “chat.” Mostly with our hands and 5 word pigeon English. His left eye was red and he was complaining that it hurt quite a bit. I was asking / begging for help with carrying my wing and he eventually acquiesced after I flashed big enough Rupee notes. We continued our negotiation on the trail as he wanted to go home and I needed his strength. – We stopped by his “home” where his buddy was making lunch/dinner with lots of peppers and other ? things. His buddy didn’t want to help me get to more people and I was thinking this could be where I spend the night.

Fortunately Buda, his name, agreed to take me to a near by gathering of houses. Not a village but one of them was a “store.” This was to be my shelter for the night. The road/bus stop was three hours hike from where I landed and I landed at three in the afternoon. Only one bus leaves the valley system and it leaves at 12:00 noon each day. Spend the night it is. I was given a store room, a couple of blankets and some nice dohl bat for dinner – Rice and beans.

The next day the journey continued early in the morning with a different porter going the two hour down hill hike with three river crossings by foot and three over wire bridges. At the bus stop the boys were playing their game and I found myself engaged in a political discussion over a beer with a man who I figured was a democrat. BUSH bad bad war, what was he thinking? – Bill Clinton very great man but Monica. Obama: “what can you do, what can you do?”

After an hour and a couple of beers, the kids had pineapple drinks on the Preach the bus which was sitting at the end of the road began to attract attention. The driver mounted the powerful but ancient beast. Four or five friends ran to the back of the bus to push start it. Wow what a way to begin a bus trip. I was told to wait by the hut and they drove the bus up to the raised loading spot, actually the road was just lower by 2 meters or so. I tossed my bag on top and joined it.

Now for four hours I held on for dear life as the mountain road pounding proceeded with vigor. Back and forth up and down and happy to have a soft bag to sit on. We stopped to overload the top with straw, then unload 45 minutes later. Stopped for well dressed couples heading to wedding parties and the occasional group of children on the way home from school. The view from the top of the bus was stunning but my arms and hands became very tired in the effort to keep me on top. Riding inside is also bad but in a different way. While you may be one of ten when the trip begins a bus headed for the city is full in short order and you not only get the pounding of the road but the impact of fifty people in a bus made for thirty. I chose the top.

Finally after two days of effort the bus was swapped for a taxi and 300 rupees later I was in a solar fired hot shower and off for dinner. – At dinner Brad Sanders called and told me we were on to give it another shot at eight the next morning – Yippee here we go again.

Second vol bivi

Going to world first showing of Babu's NG flight from top of Everest program here in Nepal at Blue Sky - had a nice easy flight today - video to follow - All's well will be flying wind tec for Russian Open for next day or two - Brad off on vol with Nick we will see what they get - gust fronts this afternoon with rain - "on the ground by 3" glad to be back - had great second adventure - this time in a poor little two hut terrace set with a husband and wife and a few friends - best potato stew so far!!! - lovely folk.

Today - big sky's - happy to come down early - lots of big ears at the end of day.

Had a nice night out in a two hut terrace last night. Pic's to come but not much time right now

Monday, February 27, 2012

I'm Back and I'm leaving

SINGDI from the Air

Three days ago I launched myself into the unknown. After considerable consideration and consternation, leaving sleeping bag and most gear on the ground for weight reduction off I went.

Launch was fine but lift was marginal and it took three attempts to finally get up and established at toriponi. - From there the glide was good and with a spin or two at Dicky Danda I was off to the Green Wall - No worries there - two others were mega high and lift was abundant. - Late to the party I buzzed East.

I clicked through way points till I passed my first top landing way point(TL0). On I went till about 3:45 or so and over the ridge past TL1 I looked across the valley at a top landing option that I had not marked. - I had seen this place months ago looking at the route but had lost it. The place is called Singdi.

My approach was plenty high and I had nice lift on the lea/primary thermal on the Singdi point. I overflew the school and found expected rotor to be more than what I felt was safe and I aborted my attempt in the soccer field. - I buzzed about until I found calm flat air with a touch of down on the east side of the ridge where there were lots of terraces. After a couple of passes the air felt good and a shot or so gave me a nice little stall it in landing on a postage stamp terrace with a thud.

The children were on me in an instant. The first person to land from the sky in Singdi. Quite a stir. As time went by the news spread through the mountain village of 2000 that and event had happened. The landing made me a very special person. The elders said my name would be part of their history. They put flowers on me and gave me shawls of welcome. I was made to sit with the men of the village as they had tea for a wedding to occur later that day.

I was then escorted by the village Brahma who was also the teacher, having studied sociology and political science in England, to a top house. At this hut I became the guest of honor. We had fine food, dahl bot with special spinach. Go ahead and laugh Gail. The night was very comfortable in a prime sleeping place.

The next morning I hiked with the massive contingent of children and some curious elders to launch. - It took 2 hours and 5 different launch attempts to get off and up. The house thermal worked in 1 and 200 up but not enough for me so I dove for what I figured to be big lift only to get slammed with nothing but sink.

The next thing was to spot a landing in the bottom of the valley. No worries but from Singdi it was a two day hike and drive with an overnight so I just now am getting back to Pokhara. - Had dinner with Arnie and while waiting Brad Sanders called and hooked me in on a second effort, this time with partners, for the route to KMT leaving 8:00 sharp tomorrow.

Charge the Gopro and I will check in in a week or maybe sooner - we will see. More Vol-bivi - what am I thinking?

Adventures abound.

Friday, February 24, 2012

very quick

battery almost gone on laptop - Yesterday great day to fly - took the green wall from toraponi cap at 2300 - easy - but I was way over weight - have to loose some gear - chucked sleeping bag and extra stuff in exchange of plan to only land with people or valleys. - Leaving on Vol-Bivi today if first day works well.
Saying safe - love you all

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Comp is Over - read the one after this as well - two posts today


The Nepal Nationals ended today. I flew the task very fast and low, ending up with Claudio and the R10.2 at the 2nd to last turn point. Aggressive moves both made and blew the day. At 1450 I skipped the house thermal on Sarinkot and bugged for the conference center hoping to ride the ridge up on the waning hope of a dying day. The house at Sarinkot did not look too productive I was way out front which is closer to the conference center so the move was not without merit, it just didn’t work.
I bombed out scratching the ridge under the last turn point and got a nice walk across the valley for my efforts.

My porter named Nurgen took me direct to the pontoon boat that crosses the river. Quite an easy retrieve actually.

At the LZ where the awards ceremony was conducted, again lots of speeches in Nepali as well as perfunctory safety meetings. On landing the spot was an egg. Break the egg you get the spot. In the Sport class the women took 1,2 and 3. Not in the women’s class but they took the sports class. Claudio won the open and Arnie Frankenburger took second. If we had computer scoring I figure I would have placed top 10 or so finishing 8.7 short of goal on day 1, In goal with 5th day 2 and one turn point short day 3. No day had more than 12 in goal so I was quite happy with my flying.

Tomorrow I will fly over to the Green Wall and beyond pushing down the course toward the vol-bivi. If I crank the day then I will continue but if not it will be a overnight or just mega retrieve. It will be both a test and an opportunity to fly some deep stuff. This in preparation for 3 days out and a full on effort in 3 to 4 days to fly to Katmandu. Dave, Claudio and Bella are all in the loop regarding the flight. They will be the local check crew with SPOT updates going to their local phones. They like to keep track when wacko foreigners come to play in the hills. Nice folk.

Back to the experience of living in Nepal. – I have taken to the lovely cashmere shawl I bought Gail. It is “uni-sex” in Nepal and it dresses up my cashmere sweeter that mom bought me a number of years ago. The neat thing about the shawl is that I can cover my head, shoulders or just wrap the neck and keep my body warm through about a 10-15 degree difference in the evenings. Very nice.

Tonight I am eating at Shiva a waterfront restaurant that is open air but somewhat smoky from the fire in the middle of the space. – I am having chicken butter massala my standard favorite along with a beer or two. When I got here the lights were on and music was quite interesting and fun, then the power went out a communal sigh was echoed and we are now in very romantic candle light. – Where is Gail when these times occur. Eating alone and thinking of my love. Here comes the food. – Wonderful – rice and flat bread with a sautee pan’s worth of spicy hot chicken butter massala. You have to try it when you get to your local Indian restaurant.

Almost all the crew has left. – I think Patricia, Conrad, Randy and Jeff are still about but they are short timers. Conrad and Randy are nursing a cold (to minimize it.) Nasty bug. Our prayers go out to Tom for his recovery. Sickness or injury seems to be part of the game we play here and about the world. Speaking of the world the language dynamic is interesting. – This is such an international sport. Sitting in the restaurant I am listening to animated conversations in French, German and Spanish. The common language is English so the Germans speak to the Nepali’s in English as to the French and Spanish. English seems to be the key.

The mountains were out in the morning – stunning view of real big mountains.
More later.

left over post from pre comp

Matty’s tour is over tomorrow and Doc and some others are leaving. Half the group will stay on a bit which will be great. I said good by for now to Ralph and Maggie. Matt is leaving on the 24th and others also are leaving. It is looking as if I may get lonely at some point here.

This week we are flying the Nepal National Paragliding Competition. There were lots of formal speeches during the opening ceremony, all in Nepali. It isn’t clear if the competition is a competition or just another way for the paragliding association to extract a tax on foreign pilots who want to fly the main launch.
There are over 140 pilots in the comp and today was practice day. It seems there are 3 elements to the comp: XC ACRO and Spot landings. – I don’t know what ACRO I will do on the M4 but it will be fun.

Today I attempted to fly the Curshon route. (sp?) Lovely glide and ride on the Green Wall ending in a white room visit. I had only one event, a 60%er while entering into a thermal. I hit it straight on and the wing just wouldn’t pressurize. I hung there waiting, waiting, waiting – frozen and time with that bad feeling, then wam-bam-thank you dam hang on.

Went on down the route as Jeff Smith and others who had launched the Green wall joined in on the task. – Flying with vultures was interesting – had one try and scare me. – They dive at you and just as they get there they rotate pointing their talons at you, screech and flap. – and then they are gone. – Real life was just like the video when the Russian was brought down by a similar vulture action.

I landed out as far and deep as you can go on the route. – The hike back was about ½ hour with porters for the bags. – Jeff and I landed together. – hopped on top a jeep for 2-3 river crossings – by the time we got to taxi there were 24 people on top/in/hanging on the jeep made for 6.
All in a day’s flying here in Nepal.

Breakfast with Ritkita and off for another day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

sorry about spot - didn't seem to be tracking till eod and then tracked rather than ok

Quick note on plans

Today was a great day of flying - I snagged 4 or 5th in open class A great route and crew to chase around the mountains.

It looks like tomorrow will also be a good day to fly then the day after is looking like the big day. - If all goes well I will begin a solo vol-bivi for katmandu on that day. Seems few have made it all the way - I have the time and energy. I feel great after today and the experience that Matty's crew described about their vol-bivi was very encouraging.

Rock on
More tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day What Ever?

What day is today? I have been here long enough that I have lost touch with time. I know it is somewhere around the middle to the end of February and it is the middle of the afternoon but beyond that you would win the bet if I had to guess the day and time. It is a good feeling to be timeless.

The days in the North Lakeside district of Pokhara are quite simple. It is a somewhat upscale and less hectic part of town. Here there are many are more foreigners and tourists. The hotels and guest houses can be found for about 300 npr to 1,000 npr a day, maybe more but my room is quite nice at 300. exchange is 75 npr to the dollar. The room is simple and you don’t have electricity all the time but when it is on the internet is up and works well.

The children in the families that have Guest houses learn English from tourists and in school. At my Guest house my friend is Karina who is a sweet 17 year old girl that acts much more like a 14 year old. Very nice, doesn’t like to work too much but keeps the place running while her folks are doing other things. There is also an older and younger brother both of whom are involved in school. Karina said she quit school because she didn’t like it.

The continual sound of hammers, saws and tuk-tuks overwhelm the quiet of the lake side view during the day, though the mornings are quiet lovely. Everywhere in the town building projects are active. The quality of construction is like you might have seen in Mexico 50 years ago. Some brickwork, some cement, some bamboo and wood construction. Almost no power tools except saws and they stop when the electricity stops.

If you have never seen them a tuk-tuk is a small but sturdy diesel engine on two wheels with long handles that come back to the driver. Well a picture might help. – Some tuk-tuks, unmuffled are so loud I can not imagine the drivers have any hearing left.

And the matching Cement Mixer.

I have spent most of the day just lounging around. I spent a couple hours putting together a set of waypoints via Google earth that will be my starting guide for the vol-bivi which I will start in 2 to 4 days. The general plan is to go from Pokhara to Katmandu via paraglider on a tack that will put me over 2-3000m foot hills. Not many have done the route but it is quite doable. We will see.

More later.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Quick Update

Past three days were spent flying from a site about 30k South of Pokhara. The site is very sweet but the launch road which includes a river forging by jeep is by far the worst site access road in my experiance. - From now on when we find ourselves on a bad road the comment will be "Yea, but it isn't as bad as the road up to Sirkot." Time up the hill 1hr of bone jaring terror. JEEP OR BETTER ONLY
Day one - Doc and I had sledders after I botched a forward into a stone wall - brused ego only.

Day two - Skied with Randy - team flew with tops to 3,000k - lovely day of flying - landed at lake just before a gust front / swirl hit - Doc spanked by it and ended up in the lake - again alls well but likely lost his gopro and vario. - packed his reserve on the montain top and we flew again.

Day three - I was lazy and lucky - I just waited until it seemed some were getting high - launched and buzzed fast at the "top" of 2000 to 2100m lift - not realy enough, but just enough - lifty line and great glide on the M4 made for an easy day back to lake -
I popped up over the house and pushed back toward the green wall - didn't make it and had the best part of the day given to me via a roof top buss ride back into Pokhara - WILD.

More video and blog will come - today it is the Nepal National Paragliding Comp - 5 days of XC ACRO and Spot landings. - LOL - combined score - 144 pilots - look at me to be on the podium for ACRO.

Plans are coming together for Vol-Bivi following or during comp. 3-5 days from now for 4-5 days.
A couple videos from the wedding are attached - (out of disk space on my computer I have shot so much footage. - )

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What would you do if your couldn't fly.

Arnie and I went to a Hindi wedding as honored guests

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dateline Nepal

This is the licence plate for a hit and run.

Dateline Nepal

Ok so the where in the world game is over. The crew in Nepal with Matty had their suspicions, some were sure I would show up at some point and others were less committal, but I don’t think anyone was surprised.

With the crew that is over here while I am “between work commitments” there could not be a better time for me to do this.

The picture on face book with Big Ben in the background was not as much a tell as I thought. I may have been the only person getting here via London. My travel task, like everyone’s was arduous: Early start to take the Airporter from Yakima. Good seat on bulkhead scored by being first in line, waiting most of the day for British Air to open the counter at 2:00pm. Flight out at 6:40pm on time to London, arrive with 9 hr lay over (time to take the tube into Westminster for the pic of the clock, back and on a second redeye to Deli India, 2 hour wait for 737 to Katmandu, and now it gets interesting.

In Katmandu at about 3:30 local time, Nepal is not just off set by x hours GMT but also by 45 min or 15 min depending on how you look at it. This place is actually out of a different time, and is a different world. The sites and sounds can not be described, they are completely other than anything I have ever experienced. The city itself is a seemingly unending maze of energy, a cacophony of attempts to sell and or make money amongst squallier, noise, signs, bodies moving about, cars, tractors, animals, children, and many motorbikes.

We drive on the other side of the road but the roads are so small that each encounter with the next vehicle begins with an apparent head-on followed by a negotiating honk of horns and then a near miss of 6 inches, Over and over and over. Amazing that this doesn’t happen more often:

I promised my cab driver in Pokhara I would try to get this hit and run up asap for his needs.

Good evidence but I don’t know if it will help his cause.

Back to the story – In Katmandu the attempt to find Matt’s recommended Guest House begins with the cab driver saying, Oh Yes Sir, No Problem and ends with a – “Just Let me Out where someone speaks English and there is a bed. This is a city without street names and endless Katmandu-ness.

Once my bags were in my room it was beginning to get dark and I learned my first lesson in Nepal. – always have a flashlight. The power is on based on a schedule, maybe. – No power for a while so out comes the flashlight and I head off on a walk looking for a restraint named ORK2. – I find it after another interesting story of looking about and trying to get a cell phone – Got one right quick and about 17$ US with 200 min or so. – Now I know why Matt said bring 4 passport photos. You need one for most official transactions.
The first went to the Entry Visa, second to Cell phone guy, third to Paraglider documents, and I have one for a souvenir for now until the Elephant trek guy needs one for Insurance.

I bought an Air ticket for the morning which was a bit of a mistake, but after a long wait at Katmandu airport, another experience that knocked me over I was in the air and then quickly setting down in Pokhara about 30 minutes later. – There Fish Tail element of the Hymilalias were out in stunning form – Incredible.

That’s all for now – Flights ok – I need to build bump tolerance following a spin/stall event 700 or so over the ridge on my first flight – All is well but back in the game later today. – All is well - Love you all –

Crash in Pokhara

This is the licence plate for a hit and run.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

It is cold - where to go?

Winter is the time one needs to get on a plane. I am one of the "lucky ones" who can leave anytime. - But where to go? - Late for the best of Valle De Bravo. - hmmm - All my buddies are headed to Nepal - hmmm - a little late to book that flight. - We will see - maybe OZ - I better make up my mind soon or it will be spring and my log book will be empty.
Any suggestions?