Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Thermals, XC and Flying in the Rain

Andrew calls it "tandemonium" -- the launch craziness of busy tandem businesses!
Another mostly cloudy and overcast day meant that Day 2 of paragliding in Nepal was a fairly mellow day. Three flights, mostly sled rides but still such amazing scenery from the air.
A fairly common traffic jam on the road up to Sarangkot where the launches around Pokhara are located. It takes patience and lots of help from friends to organize the almost inch-by-inch move to get vehicles around the corners. Amazingly, no one has road rage!

After an overnight rain, Day 3 dawned mostly clear and bright. We got to launch just before four van-loads of tandem pilots and their passengers. We knew conditions would only get better as the day went on so we just sat back while they launched and then we had the place to ourselves for a short time.

I didn't get much lift right off launch and as I headed out where other people had seemed to catch some thermals, I wasn't getting much there either. I was annoyed! But then I managed to find a reasonably nice one and worked it, worked it, worked it, with Claudio's guidance on the radio.

Andrew had launched before me and didn't get anything at first either. It looked like he was heading out to land already. It would have been one of the few times I actually got something to work and he didn't! But he did a great job scratching and scratching along a ridge lower down and by the time I was heading out, he was managing to get higher and higher! He ended up landing just a minute after I did.

It doesn't seem like paragliding should be hard work. You're just sitting there after all. But when you're new to it, holding your arms up and tensing shoulders for that amount of time meant that I was tired after just the first flight, not to mention the exhausting mental part of the game.

As we headed back up for a second flight, I debated what I wanted to do. It finally came down to some self-talk: "Getting thermal practice and trying some cross country is what you came for, Shelley, so don't be a wimp! Just do it!"

The idea was for Andrew and I to launch first and then Claudio would launch on his tandem wing with a new paragliding pilot/student, Dima, that he's been instructing this week. Andrew and I both silently wondered how the heck this was going to work with so many other wings in the air but it actually went fairly well, at least to start. Andrew launched first and immediately got up high along the main ridge. It took me a while longer but we managed to sort of keep an eye on each other until I got high enough and Claudio and Dima launched. We all got over Sarangkot (further along the ridge) but then I thought it was Andrew and Claudio I saw back over closer to launch. I headed that way but Claudio kept telling me to  go back to Sarangkot. It wasn't until after we landed that I figured out they had moved yet further east along the ridge and it was totally different people on similar wings that I saw by launch. Oh well! We all landed at a new-to-us LZ and I celebrated one of the few little XC (cross country) flights I've done. I even managed to hold my own for a short time in the big gaggle of pilots above the more popular Sarangkot launch.
Lots of wings above Sarangkot.
I think that's Andrew's wing between the lines of mine.
Water buffalo in the LZ. Take care on landing! Don't get your wing caught in one of those horns!
Today (Day 4) dawned clear and bright and we figured we'd be in for a good day. On the first flight I again wasn't having much luck (or more accurately, skill!) with the thermals and every time I turned I was getting closer to terrain than I was comfortable with so tried some figure 8 turns until I was able to get a bit higher. It was another fun flight! 
Claudio and his wife, Elena, on the tandem wing on the left; Andrew on the right, coming in above the LZ.
That's one way to keep the leading edge from blowing away!
(Packing up in the LZ.)
As the day progressed, things quickly became over-developed. Andrew had a good launch on the second flight but then it started blowing over the back for a brief time and started spitting rain. It stopped, the wind changed and I managed to get launched only to have it start raining a bit harder. But the thermals were amazing! I was up, up, up in no time. But it was also a bit scary. It wasn't long before Claudio told both of us to head out to the valley and to the LZ. He and Elena and Dima waited a long time at the top but it never did calm down enough for them to fly. 

My view along the ridge down to the LZ with Fewa Lake and Pokhara in the distance.
The rainy, cloudy afternoon view from our hotel room.
A photo of the two of us in honour of Valentine's Day! :-)

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