Friday, December 23, 2011

Wilderness Unexpected

Important Information
Don't you just love it when you start a day not expecting much and then events take it in a complete different direction and at the end of the day you just feel totally stoked about the way it turned out? I got up this morning and the plan was to go get my son some Lego blocks at the George Mall to keep himself busy when the vacation gets too long for him. Not much of an expectation. Now if you have ever been in the Southern Cape over Xmas time, then you know that a shopping mall is NOT the place where you want to find yourself days before Xmas. The idea was to drive to one of the entrances, drop my wife and then pick her up a few minutes later. I knew we were heading in the direction of Wilderness, which is a few kilometres further on the N2, but I never expected to see it today as the hope of getting the shopping done in a reasonable time didn't cross my mind.

Launch Site facing Wilderness
My wife went in and came out about 20 minutes later, Lego in hand. Because it was still early I decided to drive through to Wilderness to spend the day there next to the Kaaiman's River or on the beach. I had my paragliding gear with me, but had no idea what the wind prediction for the day was. When we got to Wilderness I decided to drive up to the Map of Africa, which is just opposite the launching area for the paragliders and hanggliders.  My plan was to take some pictures of "The Map of Africa" but when I saw that there were already gliders laid out on the grass, I lost interest in the Map and headed straight for the take-off site. The wind was definitely not strong enough to take off and stay in the air, but I eventually took out my glider and took off after two other pilots. It was straight down to the beach, no lift.

Old Post Office Restaurant
After my wife picked me up at the beach, we stopped in the little town at The Old Post Office Restaurant and had something to drink. At this point I was really hoping for the wind to pick up so that I could try my luck again. Soon enough we were on our way to the top again. My wife dropped me with all my gear and returned to the beach to spend some time with my son while I waited out the time. It's called "parawaiting." By this time more pilots came and things looked much more promising. My glider was laid out and ready, and I was the first pilot to actually decide that I am going to give it a try. If it was another foofie, then so be it, I thought. But this time I stayed up.

During the flight I tried to take some pictures. In the beginning it was a bit difficult to fly with one hand as I was scraping the vegetation in order to get as much lift as possible. As time went on the wind gradually increased and after a while I was flying effortlessly along the ridge. This gave me time to take out my point-and-shoot to take a few pictures. Probably not the best pictures, but not bad considering that it was with one hand while flying the glider with the other. In the end there were about 6 gliders in the air and later 3 hanggliders also joined in the fun. This is probably a bit short notice for a Xmas gift suggestion, but maybe next year I must invest in one of those helmet cameras which allows you to take videos and pictures without having to risk your life. Maybe I can use it for my biking and kitesurfing as well.

Bird's Eye View - N2 below towards Kaaimans River
From the air I could see my son and wife on the beach. I knew it was a bit far for her to take pictures of me, but I was having so much fun that I couldn't care less if I had pictures or not. I flew for more than an hour before I eventually decided to go land. As I went down I flew out to sea as I had enough altitude to turn back should I need to. Nobody wants to land in the water, but I had no alternative as the wind was now really keeping me up and I needed to lose some altitude in order to land on the beach. When I finally landed I was more than stoked. It was already after two and all parties were satisfied about how their day turned out. My wife and son for having time on the beach and myself for having an unexpected awesome flight. When I looked up I saw the other gliders in the air and thought to, that looks so nice. I just smiled and packed my glider for my next flight....

Wilderness beach from the air

Try and spot the real bird...

Spot the odd one out.....

Coming in for the landing

Perfect flight, perfect landing, perfect day

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