22. apr. 2010

2 UP expeditions in India and Summit XC or the South Indian Sky


The last few days in the South of India were incredible. As soon as we arrived with Sasa from Delhi we had one of the best days of the season, they said. We were flying at 3500 meters while the guys from Himalaya Odyssey 2010 were waiting for better weather conditions 2000 kilometers north of us in Bir, in the Indian Himalaya. It was a big surprise because at the time of our arrival we had strong west wind and was not possible to think about long XC flights. I managed somehow to fly 30 kilometers the first day.

Behind Panchgani - East side

Panchgani, this beautiful place, is on the plateau amongst 1400m or higher peaks left over from the past which seems to me once formed even higher plateau. The west take off in Panchgani is at 1280 meters and Tapa, the Eastern take off is maybe 150m lower. Tapa is a perfect take off for easterly wind.

Weather briefing at 7.00am at the Table Land

Many said we had missed the best part of the season, in mid January to mid February. But we were lucky. We got four days of “bonus”. The first day I made a flight across the valley and the lake. At the beginning we were stuck at an 1800m inversion and were flushed in strong sink gliding through the down-wash surrounding each climb. Next we climbed to 2000 m and again the same story until it was not-going-up to 2300m and we could start XC flying.

After the take off towards Sasa's camera

I went to the East and came back along the North-South facing ridge to the take-off. A few days before we couldn't get across this first ridge a few kilometers in front because the west wind was too strong. So this day the dreams become reality. I could go West to the end of the valley, with a thought in my mind to be aware of the strong West wind that might come in afternoon; then I'd have a rodeo! There was no lift, but the air was extremely hot. On the way back I met two hunters and a herd of goats on the edge of some cliffs, who I think they were the trigger for my lift “UP”, that took me so high I could see the cliffs at the end of the plateau, near the hill-station town, Mahbaleswar. I didn't make it all the way back, because it was so late. It was a nice triangle of 77 kilometers. From the air I could see good landing spots, all of which had a white circle. I thought they were helicopter pads, but later the kids told me these are cricket grounds. Ahh!? India!

Irrigation system keep the valley green

Second day we could not fly as the authorities banned flying. There was no reason given for this action. It seems to me typically Indian! The last couple of months, India has been thinking that paragliders could be possible terrorists and due to it being Holi festival, were perhaps afraid of another bomb attack, such as happened in Pune only a month before. Only late at night we got news that the cause of the ban was that the President of India visited Satara, the nearby city.

UP Summit XC

Third day and my Summit XC is ready to go. The condition are quite strong and we are a bit late. But as soon as we climbed, we went up to 2500m and clouds were starting to rise in front of us. We were just two of us in the air. I headed towards the South. I was waiting for Urs who was following me, but I lost him. Later he said I was too fast for him! The wind was perfect to follow the ridge that forms the border of the plateau and the flat coastal plain where sea breeze was blowing. I was going as far as possible and the end was a valley that I didn't want to cross because the visibility was so bad that I could not even see any houses or roads toward the other side.

Ridges in Panchgani area

I landed in the valley, in the middle of nowhere, exactly in front of an under-cover policeman. I was transferred to the city of Mahad, where two more policemen were waiting for me. After 82 kilometers of flying, they took me to the police station where I was questioned about why I landed there and where I came from... After two hours I was released, and because there was no bus home, they arranged a free room in the hotel for me a room was full of mosquitoes!

'Tapa' take off

Fourth day I came back from the flight with the first bus and had a quick breakfast before I was again on take-off. That day my plan was 70 kilometers distance to Pune. It was Holi festival and people got painted with different color powders they threw at each other.

UP in the air

I had a difficult beginning to get the first thermal, but even later on when there were only blue thermals, I managed to fly, without a doubt, to get across the spectacular valley and lake with a river delta coming in from the north west.

AsiaTmin – travelling and flying Asian continent

in the mountains in front of me, but I decided to go for a closer thermal which took me right up to the clouds. 3200m and going slowly “UP”. I was 25 kilometers away from Pune.

Golden colored ridges cowered with dry grass were burned by locals to become more fertile for the next season

On my left side, 800m below me, was a passenger plane flying in its corridor to land at the airport. Waw… I planned to fly there, because I thought it was the best place to fly! Another plane was just taking off and my vario was just bipping with the nice noise to tell me I'm going “UP”! Just don't turn this plane in my direction, I said to myself. And he didn't.
I didn't need to make any turns for the next 20 kilometers, getting gentle 0,1m/s lift all the way. When I reached Pune I was at more than 3000 meters, but it was getting late and in my mind was just a plan to get down as soon as possible, to be invisible to the police and to try and avoid landing in the military base in South West part of the city. I could have continued over the lake towards the South West, but had no idea about settlements and roads in that direction. I landed, packed and tried to disappear before the locals came. They came just as I was leaving…

Landing on the Tabel Land on the piece of unburned grass

Together with Sasa, we hope the good weather conditions will move further to the north and help The Himalayan Odyssey expedition to fly “UP” with their 'lite X – Trango's.

AsiaTmin – Tadej&Sasa

Published also on UP's page

Edited by Dave Lewis dave@skylarkparagliding.co.uk

In the event that Tiday gets mega rich from this article, the editor will be paid a goodly wedge and made a tasty sandwich.

Nove slike v galeriji - Kirgizija - New images in the gallery Kirgizstan


V galerijo sva dodala nekaj slik iz popotovanja po Kirgiziji.

Misha, najin prijatelj iz Bishkeka, lastnik trgovine s sportno opremo, nama je sporocil, da se v teh dneh v drzavi odvija prava drzavljanska revolucija in politicna situacija ni prevec stabilna. Trgovino je moral zapreti in artikle shraniti na varno. Internet in ostala komunikacija je bila onemogocena oziroma motena. Upa, da se stanje cimprerj stabilizira.

Se kaj o najinem potepanju po Kirgiziji, ko je bilo bivanje v Bishkeku prijetno in povsem brezskrbno si lahko preberete v enem izmed clankov in se...

12. apr. 2010

Pakistan - Baba Ghundi, Rawalpindi,...


If you want to fly the Himalayas in Pakistan the best place is Kharakorum and the best time to be there is summer. We arrived in Karimabad at the beginning of October and just missed the pioneers who recently began flying in this huge resort of high mountains.

Karakorum highway

We checked the area, listened to the stories of locals and tried to imagine 6000-7000 m high flights. Mountains in Hunza valley like walls surround Karimabad, which itself is at high altitude already. Rakaposhi (7788m), the golden peak to the east, Lady Finger and Ultar II (7388m) just above the Karimabad.

A Herd of Yak in front of Pamir mountains

Alam Jan from Chapursan Valley on the border with Afghanistan told us about XC flights which matched the stories we read in XC-magazine. It is easy to read an article at home but when you make a trek along the same valleys those flights become even more incredible.

Karimabad - Hunza valley – Rakaposhi at the end of the valley

As we spoke to John S. he explained that flying at such altitudes is a huge effort, that you must put in. You take off in the morning, climb the difference of at least 4000 m and fly for 5 -7 hours in not-really-smooth conditions! You have to take a rest after a few days as you quickly become totally exhausted. Flying at 6000 -7000m above sea level, you do not really realize the altitude as you fly so high along the ridges, still relatively close to the terrain.

Left peak is Ultar II (7388m) in the evening light

Bad weather was the reason we did not fly in Karimabad but we would like to return one day to the pure mountain ridges of Karakorum and Himalaya.

An overnight bus drove us down the Kharakorum highway through Gilgit and toward Islamabad. The ride was awful, crazy and exciting at once. We had to stop many times due to checking controls. It was night and we rode in a convoy together with others. Army officers were hanging around, smiling, carrying their weapons, which looked serious enough.

Polo and honoured guests on Baba Ghundi festival in Chapursan valley near the Afgan border

We quietly waited in the bus until we moved on. You could feel tension in the air while driving close to the Pakistan - Afghanistan border. Our imaginations thinking too much about the men with long dark beards you see on TV, and the bumpy road, did not allow us to sleep much that night.

From Sost to Karimabad on the Karakorum highway

It was early afternoon as we arrived in Rawalpindi. Our taxi driver did not want to take us to the meeting point. We were tired and not willing to fight with anyone but we had to struggle to go to the place. It's impossible. Just two hours earlier there was a terrorist attack on the Pakistan security center, the streets were blocked and no-one permitted to go close to the area... where our meeting point was. After one hour we finally reached our hosts, who kindly invited us to lunch in the peaceful garden, only 500 m away from the place of attack. During the meal we could hear the bombing and shooting, but we felt safe as we had a few guards taking care around the property.

A huge blast woke us up the next morning, which meant the end of the police action; terrorists captured and hostages saved. Terrorist attacks and violence in Pakistan are happening daily and people are used to it. So... life goes on.

Two hours away from Rawalpindi you can take off and try to fly to Pakistani Kashmir

We met another local pilot who joined us flying on the paragliding spot who'd also driven two hours from Rawalpindi. The conditions were perfect for flying short XC flights, but it is possible to fly long distance up to Pakistan-Kashmir, which counts for approx. 180 km. We enjoyed flying a few times in the company of police and army helicopters, who's corridor is just above the take off.

Pakistanis waiting for Sasa at the landing

The wonderful landing field lies beside the lake and an ancient castle accompanied by locals and fisherman's families; you would have never thought you were in Pakistan; calm, peaceful, sunny day; simply beautiful nature and just great people.

Chapursan valley on the top end of Karakorum Highway

We loved it – still pure and untouched Pakistan.

AsiaTmin - Sasa&Tadej

Sponsored by UP

Edited by Dave Lewis dave@skylarkparagliding.co.uk

In the event of Sasa making it big as a result of this article, then a heafty chunk of the royalties, and a nice sandwich are immediately payable.