So, Friday night James (one of the instructors) took us to his home village of Competa.
James is a bit of a (sometimes anti-)legend in this village. It was a rare homecoming. Everywhere we went people ran up to him and shook his hand, kissed his cheek and/or gave him big hugs as appropriate. We kinda basked in his glow as we walked around.
His best friend since he was 8 runs a fantastic restaurant. Her husband waits tables, and her brother is the chef. Her parents hang around and supervise.
We had a fantastic meal, and really enjoyed it. They gave us the local sweet red wine, finished off with patcheron after dinner drink, and then Ricardo (the CFI) serenaded us.
After that, we headed to one of the local pubs, and met a *lot* more people. It felt as if 1/2 the village was there.
Somewhere in there we decided to spend the night in the village.
There was a sing along in the bar, and lots of lovely folks. What a great welcome.
After that, we went to a more bar-like pub, and had a second round...as you do.
At some point, we decided enough was enough (3am? Later?) and went back to the hotel and fell asleep almost instantly.
The next morning, we realised that this village was just down the road from Heaven, as this is the panorama from the hotel balcony.
It was a magical night, but to get back down we needed to drive 30 minutes in mountain switchbacks.
Note: we were all feeling rather delicate at this point. I lost most of Saturday sleeping and recouping.
This post was meant to be posted Friday morning, the 26th.
This is it! The last day we’ll be able to fly. There’s a storm front coming and Saturday and Sunday will be no good.
At least the sunrise was a good sign:
So, we arrive at the hilltop site...and no wind.
We try a little ground handling, but it’s exhausting without wind.
Finally, around 17:30 we get a little wind!
I line up, and Bam! Failed inflation.
I line up again, and Foop! Frontal collapse, and the wing is on my head.
I line up again, and the wing veers off to one side.
I can see the CFI’s face...this is my last try...
I run, I wobble, but I eventually get off the ground!
I got to fly around the hill site for a while. A beautiful day, it was lovely.
And when I came in for a landing, it looked like this:
Now *that* felt good!
This post was to go out Thursday, the 25th of October.
So, not much wind today until late. We were on a hill site instead of the normal beach site. (The police had moved us on, apparently).
I tried 3 times, but couldn’t get my wing to inflate properly. Never got off the ground, but then again, didn’t face plant and no broken props. Small blessings, I guess.
Worked up a hell of sweat to no avail.
Kept practicing both my forward and reverse launch technique.
Just as I was about to try again, a bunch of local paramotor pilots showed up. Really old, tired wings, loud, smoky engines. They were doing crazy flying, constantly buzzing around the top of this hill.
I was psyched out even more. No flying for me.
This post was meant to go out last Tuesday, 23 Oct.
This morning, I went out and was ready to get into the air, having once launched already.
The first flight the wing came up immediately, formed well, and I was on my way. Due to an adjustment of the harness (hang point 4, thank you very much) I could actually get into the seat and get comfortable.
A beautiful day, I got to fly a long ways...almost out of eye shot. I also rode formation on another pilot, and felt my first turbulence from another aircraft. I was probably 8 lengths behind him when I should have been 10. Didn’t cause any issue, it was just noticable.
When I came back, the CFI had me practicing figure 8’s to lose altitude, and then planning my approach. 2 dry runs, and then I came in pretty as you please, and landed on my feet, and fell over.
Oops. Not supposed to be that clumsy. Right.
Second flight time. I got ready and tried launch attempt 1. Splat. Tripped on something, face plant.
Nevermind, pick myself up, and try again. This time the wing didn’t inflate properly.
Okay, try again, this time, the wing inflated to the side, and I face planted again, breaking the tip of my prop.
I was grounded for a while to let the emotions burn off. It’s funny, but when you have a *ton* of adrenaline, and you get angry, you’re *very* angry. I took a long walk.
By the time I was calm and ready to go again the wind had died. No more flying tonight.
So, yesterday was yet another day of non-flying.
Three separate times I got the motor on my back and was ready to take off, yet the wind gods frowned.
In the morning, the wind died down instead of picking up (low pressure system just off coast killed us).
In the afternoon there were a few gusts, and we were going to try...but to no avail.
Around 5pm, we upped stakes and went to another site that we hoped had a better situation, but another thunderstorm in the mountains was causing the wind to be highly variable, and caused the site we were using to be over-crowded. For someone going up for only the second time, I decided it was above my skill and pulled my own plug. Just wasn’t right.
I’m beginning to feel the passing of days now. Today is Wednesday, and due to an impending “major thunderstorm” that is due to hit Saturday and Sunday, there’s really only 2 more days of flying.
Time’s-a-wasting! Friday, Saturday, Sunday no flying, Monday morning, one flight, and since then no flying. Very frustrating!
I made it into the air today!
It was a lovely day, with near-perfect wind. The instructor said that he’s just going to test me running with the motor...but then it went well enough that he started saying “full power, full power.”
Next thing I know, I’m 5 0 feet off the ground and climbing.
I then flew back and forth several times, learning how to stop rolling (quit putting fast inputs in, and slight pressure on one side), S turns, what turbulence feels like, how to plan the landing, and then how to land.
The. Only down side is that the seat wasn’t comfortable for the whole flight, so for the bulk of the flight I was dangling from the harness, which just kills your legs.
The weather for the next couple days is meant to be amazing, so hopefully there will be more flying.
Sadly, they hasn’t posted the videos tonight of my takeoff and landing...so I’ll be posting those when available.
Sorry for the late posting!
Yesterday was a washout. A front came through spawning at least 3 storms during the day.
This is a bummer, as it was the day I was to actually fly for the first time. We’ve got the theory out of the way, we’ve practiced, and it’s time to go up.
Still, when you’ve got lemons...
We made the most of it. We started by heading over to the town of Nerja.
It was a little bit wet.
When we got to Nerja, it was pretty enough, but we didn’t pass anything particularly photogenic. We chatted a little, and decided to go to the caves at Nerja...
I loved these formations that look like draped cloth. Apparently, the way these form is water flowing over a surface. Microscopic patterns cause the initial patterns, and then they grow from there. The bottoms are cut off as neatly as if someone pulled out the scissors.
The cavern was massive. Easily 3 football fields long. In this image, you can just make out another walkway in the distance.
This is a massive 32 meter tall column of stone. At some point thousands of years ago there was an earthquake which dislodged some of the column (seen to the right at a 45 degree angle). Then the column continued forming. It is now in the guiness book of world records as the tallest cave column in the world. I think this is the wine they call ‘Church Organ’.
Another bit of scarring from an earthquake...you can see how the column formed, and then was slightly angled in the earthquake. The water continued to drop, however, and created new bits of stone that go vertical.
Oh the way back, we saw this little bridge... Kinda looks like an aqueduct, but we weren’t close enough to see what it was really for or its age.
This was the kind of landscape we drove through. On the left-hand side you can see a little of the terracing that is *everywhere*.
As we neared the campsite, we saw a farmer out with his goats and sheep.
Then, it was time for laundry. Ugh. I *still* have clothes hanging everywhere in my cabin trying to dry them out.
As one of the students got back to Gibraltar, this was the weather there. It was a big storm, apparently.
Last night was had a good night hanging out at the cafe, and making way too much noise.
Today was an interesting day. It dawned pretty, but with very low winds. We practiced forward launches for a while today, and then the exciting bit started.
We strapped the engine on our back’s for a long time, and then stood around and had a lecture talking about how the power ramps up and what not. That’s tiring.
Then, we actually started the engine on our backs, and ramped it up to about 25%. The power it provided is amazing. We practiced walking back and forth with the engine running. It’s strange, you have to lean back as you “run”. You’ve got a big thrust on your back the whole time trying to pitch you forward.
Then, I tried raising the wing as well (with the motor off). I found that excruciating. You have a heavy weight on your shoulders, have to maintain a good posture, have to keep your arms out to hold the risers, as well as holding onto the brakes with the finger and thumb of both hands, while at the same time being ready to monitor how much throttle you put into the engine to take you off.
As I was doing it, the weather picked up as there was a thunderstorm out on the ocean. It turned out to be a major storm...so we ended up having a long lunch at this really nice restaurant on the beach.
Here’s what the storm looked like as it headed west (note the blue skies after it).
Once the storm cleared, we started trying to do mini-wings on the beach, but the wind was gusty enough that it was even able to pick me up, and I’m the heaviest guy on the beach.
Anyway, fingers crossed, we get to fly tomorrow. Failing that, we’re off to the go-karting place just down by the nudist beach.
You gotta love Spain.
I said that there were no pictures from yesterday...but then just before dinner, I saw this:
And then, as we sat down in the cafe at our campground, this:
Not, perhaps, as exciting as flying down a slope, but beautiful all the same.
Today, as expected, was completely different.
Major thunderstorms rolled this this morning, putting flying out of the question. It was drippy when we woke up, but torrential while we were in briefing. Lightning strikes every few minutes at one point.
We watched a video (starring William Shatner, who’s a paramotorist as well) about things to watch out for when flying. We saw a *bunch* of examples of how /not/ to fly, and ways to do things correctly.
We learned about preflight checklists, for ourselves, the site, the weather, and the equipment. We learned that if things feel even a little bit off...you pull the plug.
It’s always better to wish you were in the air than to wish that you were on the ground.
We spoke step by step about both takeoff and launch steps.
Finally, we ran through the safety procedures if the radios go out.
After class, I found an open patch of land, drew a beach on the ground, and practiced various scenarios. I feel we should do more of that. On the ground if we goof up we look silly. In the air...well...
All told, not so physically demanding, but a hell of a day. I’ve got a lot to think about and a lot of notes to transcribe tonight.
So far I’m having the time of my life. I should have done this years ago.