The curtain catches in the draught and a sharp beam of sunlight lances into the room. Dust caught in a bright laser beam; swirling, rising and falling in micro thermal patterns. Sliding from under warm covers, soles plant firmly on cold slate. Mmm… cold air, warm sun, interesting. Open the front door, air on my left cheek, westerly. Ripples on the lake, flat patch at one end. Only leaves moving, not branches.
The fluoro pink glider spills from the bag. Wingtips folded to the centre are swiftly swept out and spread; Mylar standing stiff in the breeze. Helmet contains gloves and vario with leg strap; all items are pulled on and jeans are tucked in to socks for good measure. Three clips done up on the harness, turn, inflate, turn again and fly. Muted beeps from the underside of my leg lead me upwards to the clouds. The only display is the view. Real world laid out like a map.
Two great climbs and a landing in the third valley. Packing quickly amongst the sheep before the shepherd appears. Over the stone wall and head for the pub. I stop briefly at the red phone box outside and fumble a few coins into the slot. Going through half a dozen memorised phone numbers Eileen finally picks up. “Where? Oh, OK, it’ll be a couple of hours though.” Great, I relax at the bar. A great flying adventure. I woke mid-morning, seized the day and finished up rolling out of the pub at closing time.
Flash forward to now: Choose paragliding. Choose a forecast. Choose a RASP thermal updraught prediction. Choose a club. Choose a national association with multi-million dollar third party landowner cover. Choose an effing expensive glider. Choose a satellite tracker, GPS vario, anti-G chute, steerable reserve and Go-Pro surround-sound HD video camera. Choose wandering around St. Hilaire wondering who you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on launch on 4G mobile devices watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing wind predictions stuffing muesli bars into your mouth. Choose rotting away hung in the latest pod harness pishing your last into an XC Pee tube nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish acro brats you spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life…
But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got paragliding?
The last article discussed my achievement of the 22-year 100km goal. The one before, my best home flight. I’ve got a secret plan to fly 200k from our local site. Write about the plan then Hugh said. But there is no plan. I choose not to choose a plan. I’ve got paragliding.
I’ve had one rant so far and only brushed the surface of the internet, the World Wide Wait. Graveyard of hopes. All those forecasts, forums, Facebook groups and online contests. I now study the weekend forecast from Sunday the previous week.
Each day the tiny changes break like waves over the soul, peaking with crests and sinking into troughs. And every week we go flying on Saturday morning at 7am. Same spot. Same time. OK, maybe a slight exaggeration but I work in a school so only two days are available to fly. Saturday and Sunday. If you plan to go Sunday and it’s rubbish you can’t rewind to Saturday. Go Saturday if it blows out, go again Sunday.
Planning point one complete. I’ll go Saturday morning and fly 200k.
Next, route planning. I’ve done the first 70k a few times, I know the way. At 70km you hit a road, follow that. For another 130k.
And now we come to gear planning. 2016 and the marketing men have taken steroids. SO MUCH STUFF. In 1994 I had: Glider, harness, reserve, helmet and vario plus a few other crossover items like gloves and loose change for the phone. Now I’ve added: camera, mobile phone, Spot, Camelbak, XCPee system, UHF radio to talk to friends, VHF radio to talk to planes, GPS, battery pack to recharge stuff and pod harness.
Have I added increased joy? Not sure. Spotify at cloudbase is kind of fun. Press a button to send a message and get a lift home has worked really well. Did I remember the only time Eileen was in and the lift back was easy, and forget that five-minute flight at Manilla followed by the four-hour walk?
Good thermals are still the same. No time for accessories in a good climb. No other conscious thoughts when you’re going up like a freight train, banked over and twitching with each new surge.
So the plan is: Attach the glider to the old open harness, take the vario and no other electronics. Go on Saturday morning and fly 200k westwards.
Unfold the glider, strap vario to leg, do up three clips, turn, inflate, turn again and fly.
This article was first published in Cross Country 173 (September 2016). Allen Weynberg is a high-school teacher who lives in Townsville, northeast Queensland, Australia (pilot population: 2). If you enjoyed this sample article, perhaps you’d consider subscribing and supporting the world’s only international free flying magazine?