Tuesday, 31 October 2017

SIV Course - Lake Berryessa

The main reason Andrew and I headed to California this fall was to take a paragliding SIV/maneuvers course with Let Fly Paragliding instructed by Dilan Benedetti. He came highly recommended by our friend, Lorenzo Romano.

It was a great course but, trying to get a video done, I never wrote a blog post about it! Also, Andrew did a great job of describing the course in his "Incidents in Flight" post.

Here's the video -- unfortunately, we didn't take the good camera out until the third day so some of it was taken with iPhone which is not the greatest when zoomed in. Oh well, you get the idea anyway!

Because I'd taken a previous SIV course, Dilan asked me to write a review for him. Here's what I wrote:
Last year I took my first SIV course. I thought it was pretty good but I had nothing to compare it to. A good friend recommended my husband and I take the next one from Dilan at Let Fly Paragliding. My first clue that this course was going to be a bit different than the first one was that there was a scheduled briefing the evening before. The next clue was that the briefing was going to be 2 hours long. We learned A LOT in those 2 hours! General information about the course, terminology that we needed to familiarize ourselves with, and an overview of what we could expect during the next 3 days. 
On the morning of Day 1, Neal (tow operator) provided a thorough briefing on how to launch on tow, how to be towed and how to release. Before each flight, Dilan ensured that everyone knew exactly what was going to be asked of them and what the outcome should be. The tasks and skills progressed in a very logical and individual way as the course went on and some students progressed faster than others. Dilan pushed me beyond, but not too far beyond, my comfort zone each time and I came away feeling more confident in my skills and in my glider. 
Debriefings at the end of the days reinforced what we had done during the day and WHY we needed to know these skills. The detailed briefings and debriefings, the progression of one skill moving into the next skill are not things that happened on the first course I took and I really appreciated the attention to detail that Dilan provided. 
Since taking the course, we’ve had an opportunity to meet and talk with several other pilots who have taken SIV courses and, without a doubt, Dilan’s courses get the most consistent great comments, especially from pilots who have taken courses from both Dilan and others. 
Both my husband and I would highly recommend taking an SIV course from Dilan and to “let fly!”  

Monday, 23 October 2017

3 Days in the Owens Valley

Enroute home from the Mexico part of our trip, we wanted to get in a few more days of paragliding before having to pack our gliders away until we can get somewhere warm again in the new year. The Owens Valley seemed the obvious choice. While it's notorious for strong spring and summer thermals, it mellows out in the fall. 

Between cloud cover and smoke from the fires on the west side of the Sierras, it made for dramatic views of the sky but not dramatic flying. Most of us got at least a couple 20-30 minute flights and Andrew got one cross country flight of just over an hour.  We flew at the Paiute and Flynn sites. Thermals were not the best (small with sharp edges) but I must be getting somewhat more comfortable in the air as I didn't find them too bad and stuck with it for longer than I normally do. 

Regardless of conditions, we got some instruction from Kari Castle (multiple-time world and national champion in both hang gliding and paragliding as well as numerous other records) and we were with a fun group of people! 

David was our fearless driver. The photo doesn't do it justice but serious skill is needed to navigate
 the rocky, twisty, steep road up to (and down from) the Paiute launch. 
Checking out the conditions on launch. 

John, who we met on the SIV course a few weeks ago, was able to join us for the few days.
It was great to see him again.
Nice torpedo position on launch, Russ!
Kari and Cookie in the air.
A pilot from another group -- but I liked the photo!
Andrew in the air. Paiute LZ is lighter coloured area in bottom right of photo.
Andrew . . . and my wing tip.
I want to be like Cookie when I grow up. She's 74 years young!  :-) 

I always enjoy watching more advanced pilots. 
This tandem pilot was doing wingovers on approach to landing at Paiute. 
Note: Pilot was Dave Turner of "North of Known" fame.
Hanging out in the Flynn's LZ, waiting for the last pilot to land.
Kari has several large rocks in her yard and wanted this one
but we all decided it was just too big and heavy! 
Andrew practicing the art of kiting upside down
in order to get dirt and sand out of the wings before packing them up for the trip home. 
Beautiful evening light from Flynn's LZ.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Views From the Water

Not only are the views below the water beautiful, so are the views above the water. 

I love the variety of colors and layers in these rock cliffs along the coast north of Loreto.

Unique rock formations rising out of the water. This was one of our dive sites. 

Arroyo Blanca - a great location to drop off snorkelers while we dive nearby and then wander and take photos between dives.

Trying to get decent photos of birds is always a challenge! We love seeing the blue footed booby.

Sea lions doing temperature control . . . 

It's a game to figure out what you can see in the rocks. This one looks like a monkey face. The closeup shows the birds on the nose of the monkey. 

Links to videos of diving and ocean life around Loreto that I did this trip:

Monday, 16 October 2017

More Street Scenes From Loreto

It's always interesting to see just a small part of how life is lived other parts of the world, even when it's really not all that much different than our own. 

Early morning paddle boarding and fishing. 

I don't think fall protection and safety requirements are quite the same in Mexico!

Traffic control, early morning and mid-afternoon, in front of the elementary school while parents drop off and pick up their children. 

Kayak lessons.

Our favourite bartender, Emmanuel, at La Mision Hotel. It was the air conditioning and the great view above the malecon and out to the sea that got us in the door but it was Emmanuel who kept us coming back.

Real fruit popsicles at La Michoacana. We stopped here just a couple times. Ha! :-) 

A live-aboard dive boat overnighting near Loreto. 

The last three times we have been to Loreto, we've stayed at Villas del Santo Niño. Located on a quiet pedestrian street a half block from the malecon, a half block from the town square and 2 blocks from Dolphin Dive, it's the perfect location for us. The owners, Chatto and Oralia, are a lovely couple and have done a wonderful job of upkeep on their property. The beautiful mural below was completed the day we arrived. 

There are three studio suites along the street (pictured above) and a two story house (pictured below) with a "villa" suite on each of the two levels. Chatto and Oralia's house is a third building behind this so they are always around if anything is required. 

Divers walking out to the dock.

Rafael driving the boat over to the dock while the boat operator parks the truck and trailer. 

This juvenile yellow-crowned night heron had a favourite spot near the dock and we saw him almost every day.

When not diving head first for fish (note the splash and feathers in the photo below) . . . 

. . . the brown pelicans observed the rest of the action from the dock. 

More residents of the marina area.

Frigate birds, gracefully soaring over the lighthouse.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

San Javier Mission and Hiking in the Heat

Almost every time we come to Loreto we drive up into the mountains to the San Javier Mission, about 30 km from Loreto. Not so much because of the Mission itself, but the scenic drive is spectacular. Especially this time with the vegetation being so green. 

On the drive up, forgetting what we learned previous times, we wondered aloud why on earth anyone would establish a mission this far back into the mountains (with no paved road as there is today!). But of course it was because of the fresh water and more fertile soil than down near the sea. They built wells, dams and irrigation channels that allowed for growing plants to provide food; the grapes produced the very first wine in the Californias. There are some very old olive trees still standing. 

Olive tree trunks.
Prior to arriving at the Mission, we stopped for a hike along the way. We only lasted a couple hours in the heat but it was a beautiful hike up a valley to find a waterfall and observe the birds along the way. It's too bad that turkey vultures have a face only a mother could love because, otherwise, they really are beautiful birds. 

These little red-spotted toads were everywhere! We had to be careful not to step on them.

Lots of egrets too.

And one lone owl. 

Beautiful flowering vines.

A trail leading to a series of waterfalls and a small dam.

A geologist would have been fascinated by all the volcanic intrusions! 

And then we found a couple places by the water to have a late lunch, relax and read our books for a while. All in all, a lovely day!