Over a few beers we decided it was good to have a plan a little more complicated than launching and finding lift. So, for me, I chose to fly from Kobala to Kobarid then back in order to complete another pilot tasks with a declared out and return. I fiddled a little with my GPS to reflect these choices, got my gear together in the car as after yesterday’s debacle it was spread liberally all over the camp site.
Car packed and flying head firmly on we drove a little late up to launch. Dan was off to Austria today with Ozzie to buy parts to fix his glider after his crash yesterday so Chris and I were left to get on with things on the Kobala launch.
Once I was rigging, my flying mind switched on, I felt that the day was good and could see no reason to wait so I packed all my gear and got to launch.
My glider feels really well-balanced so it’s easy to launch, I saw I had the streamers and the grass blowing on so even though I had nothing on my face I ran off. A few strides later I was in the air and off to where I had last seen someone climb. It was very turbulent there in the lee of the following ridge so I moved out above the rocks and connected with strong and smooth lift that took me to cloud base.
The day had started, I pulled on my VG and set off down the valley. I was mindful that I was not in any rush, so I took my time to stay high in any strong lift I found on the way. Most of the thermals along the valley were marked by paragliders from the British Open based in Kobarid.
The journey to Kobarid was fairly easy, I hit so much lift that in the end, just outside the village when I hit a boomer I just burst out into laughter. What a wonderful feeling to sense my wings lifting me higher: the acceleration, the active alive feeling to the air, it is intoxicating. I am so much more relaxed now when I am flying it is not physically hard like it was before. I am much more able to take in what is around me and enjoy the views.
Things did not go so well however when tried to connect to the Kobarid ridge. I was planning on flying to the launching place there but found only sink, I even thought about unzipping when I got to about 300ft above the houses but I spent that altitude going back to where I last found good lift instead. The landing options were not so good there but I had a feeling…
It took a long time to wait it out, flying close to the trees in the hot air near the ground – my mind went quiet, I was fully concentrating on flying slowly, sensing every little movement in the air. There was a quarry, and the village both were giving off something but not much. Slowly I began to make more up than down for a few beats, I was getting up so slowly but now and again I would lose it all and have to start all over again.
It was then that I saw them, during a turn really close to the trees, a little pair of white butterflies flew under me and with them I felt a warm wave of a gentle little thermal. I knew inside me that this was it, like angels they had saved me and my flight. I shut my eyes and felt every tiny wave wash over me and my glider, I loosened my grip on the bar and gently pushed out, my vario began to sing a beautiful song, my heart leapt in my chest and with this gift I managed to cross to the next ridge which was closer to the strongest climb I had found on my outward flight.
My little thermal slowly lifted me onto the spine and into the lower ragged part of that booming thermal. Sure enough, everything went silent for a fraction of a second then with a warm blast of air I was shaken out of my trance and thrown up back to base, elated, utterly saved, I took the time to look up at the cloud and gave thanks as I pulled on full VG and made for the campsite ridge and finally the goal of Kobala itself.
Just as I saw the windsock point directly up and I knew I had made the return portion properly I saw Matjaz round the take off ridge on his long flight from Croatia. I joined him while I flew back to camping impressed with his quick-witted decisions and lack of altitude. Later I would meet him in the bottom field when I was retrieving Chris and he would tell me that the flight from there to Italy had been easy. I thought to myself that I have a lot to learn about this flying game but also felt a sense of satisfaction that my goal of getting all the flying tasks for my advanced pilot rating completed on this trip was complete. It would only take a few beers to oil Ozzie’s writing hand enough to get them signed.
Another epic day.
A little later I got a call from Matjaz looking for a retrieve back to Nova Gorica. I was more than happy to take him given all his help and the inspiration for what has been, so far, an unbelievably wonderful adventure.
[Dec 2013 – Advanced Pilot Exam] – Finally I have taken the exam, while wondering why I should do it I was reminded about this flight, how beautiful it was and the time within which it was made, the sense of wellbeing and friendship of wonder and adventure. Remembering all this I had to give respect to this time and complete the process – we will see when the results are published but I am happy to be able to think again to this day, really a lot.