“Thermal flying was difficult but the soaring was amazing, although taking off and landing in such strong wind proved to be very technical,” explains Tom de Dorlodot about flying the islands of French Polynesia.
He, Horacio Llorens and a film and photography crew spent several months flying and sailing through the region, hiking up to unflown spots and searching out amazing places to paraglide.
Once in the air they found they could stay up all day – and all night too if they wanted. “There was no sea breeze that would reverse when the sun went down. Just the same steady wind.”
Approaching these islands to fly demanded just as much technical know-how as the flying, if not more, Tom said.
“We had to take into account the requirements of our sailing boat. We wanted to fly from the windward side of the island, but we approached the islands and moored on the lee side.
“We then had to hike all the way through the island and find a take off spot on the other side, literally carving our way through thick vegetation, in 35C heat and with 20kg of equipment on our backs.
“Also, we had to take the strong wind into account and fly early in the morning. We would approach our chosen take off spot in the evening, do a bivouac there, sleep in our gliders and launch at sunrise.”
It all sounds very romantic, but it wasn’t all easy life and sand-in-your-toes.
“If we let ourselves drift inland, turbulence could get very strong. On other occasions, we would do a perfect flight and land on the other side of the island, but we sometimes needed two full days to find our way back.”
The full story of Tom and Horacio’s latest Search Project adventure is in Cross Country issue 153 (May / June 2014).
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