Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

End of Season

Slowly everyone is leaving. Patrick takes the bus tomorrow, Charlie left before the weekend. Pero is planning his return to Macedonia, maybe with Peter, but now it looks like Pete may head to Austria instead. Brad is just waiting for his visa to Pakistan to come through, and Tom’s going back to India in 2 weeks. The only foreign tandem pilot left will be “Kite” but he’s a self-medicated weirdo with some unfathomable mental health issues and an involuntary shoulder spasm which means he shouldn’t be put in charge of a shopping trolley let alone flying tandems.

I’ve only been here 2 weeks but I’m so at home that when I sit on the balcony to use the wifi, not more than five minutes goes by without someone I know passing by and stopping for a chat. Evan the tiny Swiss solo pilot, Wally the Romanian, Bhupal the owner of Frontiers Paragliding...

My day begins when the sun wakes me around 7h30. I check the sky from bed. If it’s clear then I’m up and ready for the 9am jeep up the mountain, a bowl of low-rent cornflakes and buffalo milk sitting uneasily in my stomach. All the pilots sit in the back and we talk over the day’s flights and conditions. I love it. Really feel part of the team, even though as a beginner solo pilot I am in primary school compared to these university professors.

Depending on the lift I fly til midday. The conditions can be anything from totally still air to 15km/h winds, and the thermal lift fluctuates from none, to smooth, to leaf-in-a-tornado. My flights have ranged from 10minutes to over 2 hours including several visits to the cloud base, and I flew briefly inside the cloud. Total whiteout. The cloud base is quite low, which means doing any cross country flights is quite hard, so I am focusing on practicing finding and coring the thermals (circling in the strongest part of the rising warm column of air) and flying in formation with other thermaling gliders.

As I’m turning in a thermal I’m trying to feel if there is more lift to the left or right and making minor adjustments to the brakes to help me find it. After a few minutes of spiralling up, listening to the vario beeping contentedly, and eagerly watching the other gliders in the thermal I realise that while being totally focused I’m also zoned out. Suddenly wisps of cloud I’m heading into snap me out of the climb hypnosis. Coring the thermal is a chance for my brain to relax from the concentration of searching for lift, and as soon as it has an easier repetitive task it’s no wonder it spaces out.
On the contours of the hill, the shadow of the other wings rising round the same column of air form a swirl of ovals which gives you the satisfaction of knowing you’re probably in the best place for lift, as well as a glow of knowing your mates are there with you.

John, a retired ex-paratrooper from the UK and owner of the Safari Garden hotel leant me his vario/gps. Flicking through the logs stored in its memory, the longest flight is 2hours 17minutes. I’m trying to beat the best score on the instrument before I give it back. It’s become like an arcade game obsession for me. 2hours and 14 minutes so far. Three minutes short!

After I’ve flown and walked back into town with my wing on my back, I’ve got such a sweat on, I cycle round the lake to a place where I can swim and wash. Because of the rains, the level has climbed and the water feels smooth and soft. There’s still the occasional buffalo turd floating out there, but where I go now is much better than the dam outlet pool downstream of the lake. I’ve tried collecting rain water running off the bus so I can shower inside, and it worked really well at first, but I tried it again today and the bus is so grubby that the water I collected is brown.

On the last no-fly day Tom, Pero and I cycled 10km up the valley to swim in some rock pools which we never found, so we made do with the river and pretended it was where we meant to go.

For lunch I’m off to the “Cathouse”, the nickname Tom and I have for the restaurant where Catwoman holds court (see previous post Dharam-wit) although I think she might have left now, and I miss her. The place is like X-Idol without Piers Cowell. Over apple pie, Tom and I share our post-match analysis about the morning flights. Today we discussed coring theory. It’s like a cult meeting where we feel uninhibited to geek out about our thoughts on tandem spreaders, practical rights of way, pros and cons of using speed bar and how long it takes to clean puke out of a tandem harness.

After a nap, I check my emails, try to make some skype calls on the atrocious broadband connection, and finally it’s time for the nightlife, which mainly consists of sitting in one of two bars with Pete and Pero wondering if the girls they flew during the day are going to turn up. Statistically the (100%) safe money is on them not showing up, and my faith in these guys’ ability to pull more than a glider into the air, means and I’m currently down 100Rs.

I can’t imagine this being of any interest to anyone else, but I’m loving every minute of it.

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