22. avg. 2009

Travelling Russia

RUSSIA

Moscow

On 23rd May we finally came to Russia to Saint Petersburg lost one day already (visa cannot be extended and lasts for 30 days only). We made a sightseeing tour around the city and in the evening we entered the train for Moscow. We have managed to sort baggage around coupe. When traveling by train we have to split our backpack in two bags every time as it is too heavy and big to put it on the upper shelf. We were looking forward coming to Moscow, where Alexander Bogdanov, UP dealer in Russia warmly welcomed us. We had a nice dinner in very interesting bar - I have never seen something like this - the place inside is all equipped with everything what is related to flying is stylistic included in the bar - airplane chairs, lots of pictures - base jump, skydiving, paragliding, para-moto, hang-gliding,... nice music, small cinema... Alexander is a professional photographer taking pictures in the air and shooting different kind of sport films. We agreed to hear each other the next day and talk about flying in the nearby place.


We misunderstood each other the day after and lost one flying day in Moscow. We wanted to go to Samara, to the South of Russia, but the weather forecast was bad so we decided rather to continue our way towards Yekaterinburg. Dimitry waited for us at the station early in the morning. We were offered a warm welcome by this special man, we made a brief look around the city and had a real Russian breakfast. Then we went on the meeting place where the rest of Dimitri's friend were waiting for us and we started to drive towards 300 km away paragliding site in Beskhir. Low ridge of cca. 40-50 m of altitude is facing from E to W. Only a hang-glider took off at the time we came as the wind was too strong for para-gliders. We measured the wind is blowing up to 13 m/s.


After lunch and a walk around tour to the nearby mountains thinking all the time it would be possible to fly there as we did not find the wind too strong there.
Mountains are surrounded by taiga, some small spots of swamp and no roads is what you need to be consider in Russia when planning the route you would like to fly. Denis, he is a paragliding teacher in Yekaterinburg was in contact with one of the pilot on the take off... he said the conditions got better and they are soaring even though it was already quite late. We hurry to the take off and in a very short time we were soaring above this small ridge too. The ridge is cca 300 m long and at once quite a lot of pilots enjoyed their last minutes of the day when the sun was getting down behind the Ural's mountains. It is a nice paragliding site suitable for soaring on dynamics and make some flatland flights. Wild camping is allowed, you can swim in the nearby lake, make some trips to the mountains just nearby and the place is great also for cycling. Strong N wind was predicted for the next day, we packed our camping equipment and start to drive back to Yekaterinburg happy we made some soaring on the previous day thanks to Dimitry, Denis, Sergej, Svetla and the rest of the Eburg paragliding family. Krasnoyarsk Tadej is looking for some contact in Krasnoyarsk. If there is someone going to fly during the day as our train leaves in the evening we would like to join. We found a Russian speaking man helped us to call Karinka and Pasha. They friendly invited us to their home where we checked the forecast for the next days. Weekend will be nice and we decided to stay for few days. We needed to change the tickets first, met new friends, talked a lot about flying in Krasnoyarsk, Kahazija (free flying site 300 km away to the south), talked about competitions, which kind activities are they involved in... on a Saturday morning we loaded all the equipment into the van and put the balloon gear on the trailer and we moved 30 km away to the country side.

Paragliding gear, paramoto equipment, winch machines, balloon. four of us and a doggy. They have found this new place just days ago. It is a huge field which they need for ballooning and winching mostly. Pilot can be winched up to 1000 m depends on the wind strength. We were lifted up to 350 m of altitude. We came to the field early in the morning help to set the balloon that it could took off before 10 a.m.. The wind and thermal start to get stronger after. It was our first time having a chance to touch the material of balloon, helping to prepare all the gear, hold the balloon that it did not take off to fast,... 'Ground crew' was following the 'balloon crew' pushed by the wind. Pasha instructed their students how to land and take off again, during the flight students are exchanging and some passengers enter and other leaves the basket. We were surprised by Karinka and Pasha many times during our stay at their place and in the next morning we jumped into balloon's basket too... ah, we are still dreaming... but the noise of the fire which heats the air in the balloon convinced us we are really flying with the balloon!!!


We could not even speak just smiling all along the flight... unbelievable!!!... the view from the balloon, the speed of flight, the reaction of the balloon on heating, how to control the landing, how much of a time does it take to climb, how to release hot air out of the balloon to speed up the landing maneuver, how not to jump out of the basket once right after landing as balloon needs to settle down and still needs some ballast, right Tadej;-) there is a way how to control the balloon:-) Our first balloon flight and our first winching in Krasnoyarsk - really unforgettable memories on our way towards Vladivostok. Krasnoyarsk pilots are traveling around world paragliding places a lot. They have been in Europe, Nepal, India, China... Some of them already visited Slovenia and this season they take a part in competitions in Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey and Macedonia. We wish competitors and the rest who will fly in Krasnoyarsk good luck and at hence special thank to Pasha and Karinka for their hospitality. Maybe we meet each other again in India in September.


Severobaikalsk

Again on the 'poezd' (eng. train) traveling towards Lake Baikal. We did not take the southern route which passes Irkutsk but we are on the way to the northern side of the lake to Severobaikalsk. Two nights and a day on the train gave us a chance to rest a bit and to make some notes. Severobaikalsk is a small city with picturesque landscape and a small fishery village. We found our accommodation just nearby the deepest lake in the world. Young people were listening to the music, dancing on the beach and just having fun. Not many tourists are coming to this side of the lake with old looking more Russian style city. The lake is quite warm in first 1-2 meters and further... in January usually gets icy for cca 3 months.
The lake is surrounded with still snowy mountains on the eastern side and wooded hills on the western side of the lake. 30-40 m high cliff rises above the water... 'here we could even take off with our gliders Tadej found out... next morning we've spread Summit XC on a steep slope 30 m long ending vertically to the 20 m wide stony coast... we were quite speechless that morning I remember. The wind is hardly blowing ... once you make a step further there is no step back... the canopy was hardly filled with air but must started to flying really quickly...

Tadej flew few meters above the lake, made quick turn back to the coast and landed safely... the whole scenario lasted few seconds but Tadej managed to fly over the Lake Baikal! Maybe he is the first who managed this? I choose other place to take off with my Kantega 2. This take is a bit higher but more narrow and the trees on the sides could keep my wing in their 'arms' just above the cliff.

Again the same story... once you decided to launch there is no way back. The wind was blowing nicely and the wing came quickly over me. I felt some wind helping me to maintain my height for a second above the water and made my flight few meters further... it was an incredible flight and even if it took only few seconds it was a special one... I looked toward the launching place and start smiling as I have never took off of such a special, different place.

We managed to make only two flights each as after we had to take care of our gliders... we wanted to fly above the lake as long as possible but after we were a bit short to reach the coast:-)

Another flying day in Russia in a bit even more exciting way and in a such a special place like Severobaikalsk.


Vladivostok

On June 6th, 22.33 Moscow time we arrived to Vladivostok after almost 4 days spending on a train. Andrew and an English teacher girl waited us at the station. They took us to the hotel which they had booked. The weather forecast for the next days for Vladivostok was rainy, foggy, visibility of only few meters in front... Pacific ocean's impact on the weather is obvious... we wished at least to handle a bit with our gliders or make a least a short jump like we'd managed in Severobaikalsk. Our wish was strong and that is why it became true... next morning we are on the bus five hours of driving to the north-east to Arsenev and Sergej welcomed us at the station. After having a lunch and tea we went to the meeting point where others were already waiting for us. They said it was rainy for the last two weeks and seemed we brought the sun with us. Wind of 5-6 m/s and a bit of thermal gave us three hours of soaring. Clouds were developing above the take off but once you tried to fly away to reach the next one too much wind disabled this try.

There are ten active pilots, they do not have their own club cause of long term bureaucracy but they are flying together on a nearby hill altitude of 840m. Some of them managed to make distances up to 50-60 km but they must plan their route precisely as taiga and military zones are surrounding this flying and skiing resort. Most of the pilots flies Russian brand wings but Sergej who has been flying for three years now is interested in Summit XC. When Sergey mentioned this we started to laugh... Tadej promised Sergej that he can try the wing.

Windy conditions on the take off where radio/tv tower is based. The road up to there must be maintained during the year and enables pilots to use it all the time too. Sergey's face on the landing place showed everything and even the next day he called Tadej discussing more about the glider and the possibility to get it to Vladivostok. We have spent nice evening with other pilots in Vladivostok after a brief sightseeing tour around the city. Aleks showed us their soaring spot in the middle of the city 'planted' with wires, radars, bunkers... It is possible to top-land and fly on dynamic only. After a dinner and first vodka at the end of our journey through Russia they have kindly accompanied us to the train station and helped us with our baggage. We kindly thank them for their hospitality hoping to meet us again somewhere. We could only dream about how we will finish our journey through Russia – a country full of nice people and beautiful nature.

Impressions are gathering in our minds every day... we have made a lot of photos which will present our staying in Russia even more lively. I hope it is written understandable and that you could get some impression about our journey through eastern Europe and Russia.
And now... we are in China now... in Beijing... Ni hao!
We have been flying in Beijing already... but that is another story;-)
Sasa@Tadej

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