Monday, July 18, 2011

Planes, Paragliders, Trains and Automobiles

Yes, I am still travelling. I had the most amazing stay in Switzerland with some great Friends. Thanks Anders and Susanne and the yet to be named child that has yet to arrive. Yes Susanne is due to have a baby tomorrow. I stayed in what will be the babies room so fittingly I slept like a baby in the room. I arrived on Monday night after many trains across 3 countries and a plane from Madrid. Susanne was there when I arrived as a South African family reassured me that if I could not find Anders and Susanne I was more than welcome to stay in there hotel room....haha. People are so nice sometimes it amazes me. I had many great conversations with the family as it turns out they were standing behind me when I arrived at the train desk in Munich and thought to themselves what a poor guy carrying all those bags and looking so tired.
So arriving at the pad in Interlacken to a very warm evening all I could think was maybe not being at the Worlds was not going to be so bad. One beer and then two beers and then SLEEP. I went to sleep at midnight and woke up at 10:30 the next morning not having woken up even once all night. Anders jokingly wondered whether I had actually died in his babies room.
Anders is a full time tandem pilot and does between 6- 10 tandems almost daily so he was very busy as its high season right now. At any given time there are about 20 tandems in the air at once. ITS CRAZY. they all land in a special field in town. The passengers range from 5 year old Saudi kids to extremely old Koreans. I thought the Golden guys had it tough till I saw what goes on here. They drive to launch then hike for 15 minutes to the launch. Every pilot has wheels like a luggage bag to drag there gliders up the paved path to launch. Each company is like a rafting company with about 10 pilots working for each company. They have a system worked out where the lay the gliders on top of each other on launch so as one goes the next can go and so on until they are all in the air together. They have all sorts of different ways to take pictures of the passengers with extra A lines connected to the camera so they dont even have to hold on to the camera. Most of the pilots here in a season do between 300-500 tandems in a summer.

Susanne decided I should fly so she took me to a Suisse bakery and let me get lunch then took me to the launch or as I referred to it the Golf Country Club. This launch was so grassy I felt bad even walking on it never mind laying my glider on it. After lunch I took to the skies for an afternoon sled ride. Upon Landing I looked over at Anders and asked if they turned off the lift just cause I was around. It turns out that just like Canada this place gets baked out too and when its that warm it becomes very soft.

It was now time to go to the Lake as the pregnant one decided she was to warm for this...haha. I was more than happy to tag along. We went to Lake Thun which is one of many lakes around but also the biggest. It was about 32 degrees so getting in the glacial water was more than refreshing and also the cleanest lake water I have ever seen so close to a city.
The Night ended with the biggest storm I have ever seen and I am not kidding. The winds reached 125km/hr in town and blew over trees that were over 100 years old. Some broke that were more than 3 feet wide and others just plain blew right over roots and all. It was crazy. I filmed it from various angles so will post some video when I get back. After the storm what do any normal people do but go walk around and check out the damage. Staying with Suanne and Anders is like staying with people with way to many friends...haha. During are walk we of course ran into other friends sitting on a patio overlooking the damaged town and promptly invited in for drinks.

The RAIN. Vincene warned me about the rain plagued alps but I never truly understood. I guess looking around at all the green grass should have been a clue. Think Vancouver in January with huge mountains surrounding you. It was biblical amounts. I ran from store to store and napped and napped and watched movies. After going to new levels of rest Susanne suggest we head up to Lauterbruan which is close to Wengen of ski fame. What a cool town where Anders took me hiking in the rain to see waterfalls and keep ourselves from driving Susanne crazy. She was happy sipping her coffee in a friends coffee shop.

On Friday I went with Anders to fly the World Famous Grindelwald which was spectacular to say the least. I flew like a moron and not understanding how far they push into the lee side here and landed at the valley floor instead of flying home but at least I understand now why flying in the lee in Europe is so popular as its the only thing that works...wink.

More great dinners with new friends and old. Who would have thought in Interlacken they would have the best Thai food that I have ever had?

Saturday was spent hiking up in an ALP eating fresh cheese and chasing cows with bells around there necks. Good fun if you have never done it. They are so friendly we even pet them. But the bells do get annoying. The Alp was up at the end of the pass in Adelboden.

I now sit on another train headed to my european family house in Salzburg. Home to Rudi, Esther, Paul and Jakob. I look forward to seeing them all as everything on this trip is spontaneous as I should still be in Spain. I will spend Sunday through till Wednesday morning with them and head to Munich for my flight to Montreal and finally get to see Loic and Caroline.

Sorry for so many words but these trains in the rain are great for spewing words. Now I know why Gadd's posts tend to drag when he is on a train...haha

All the Best for Everyone back Home

Keith( still making the best of everything )

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bull Fights and Short Nights

The last 48 hours have been crazy. Deciding to leave Piedrahita after a very disappointing decision by the FAI left me calling Luftansa and being told fine we can get you to Munich Germany for 300Euros or all the way to Montreal for 2000Euros I decided Germany it is. I had already been talking with my Best European friend Anders and his Wife Susanne who is do to have a baby any day. I decided I would fly to Munich on Monday morning then train across Germany to Interlacken Switzerland.

Before that I was still in Piedrahita and some how had to get out. This is when KEITH'S LUCK finally struck. My flights were all changed by late Saturday afternoon leaving me time to join my adopted team the Americans for a swim at one of the local swimming holes.

Early Sunday morning chaos all begin with me packed and ready to go only to find out the one and only bus going to Madrid did not leave till 5pm which just simply was going to suck for my luck. Well up to the plaza to see if my Canadian Charm could get me to Madrid sooner. Well sure enough it did and in a very nice kind of way. Steve Ham mentioned that one of the drivers from the comp had just left in his personal vehicle to go home which was just past Madrid. A short phone call later and 5mins later I was sitting in a pimped out BMW travelling at close to 200km/hr at times across Spain to Madrid. Before long Benjamin and I were speaking and sort of understanding one another with many nods and pointing. I was lucky that my terrible French and his even worse French was still better communication than my english and his spanish. I managed to convey that I knew nothing about bull fighting and this was a terrible trip so far. He proceeded at speeds quicker than I have ever travelled in a car to get me into Madrid in record time. My new best friend then drove right through the trendy section of Madrid to the Plaza de Toro. Next thing you know I was the proud owner to a Seat at Sunday evenings Bull Fights.

Now time to find Brett at his Hotel which turned out to be no problem with a local. Now time to get Brett to the subway and with little convincing he was all the proud owner to a ticket to the fights.

Our Madrid Metro skills are top notch now and we were able to criss cross back and forth with little to no trouble at all around the city.

The fights I will not describe as they are certainly not for the faint of heart but the ambience in the stadium is like nothing I have ever felt before in my life. It was truly inspirational to be a part of and I am so glad to have gone. Brett and I got lucky again as the man next to me was the proud father of a young matador and was there with his family cheering on a female Matador who is 19. The rules are hard to figure out but by the end we were able to tell who should win and who sucks. The basics are that 3 Matadors and 6 bulls, with the matadors taking turns killing one bull each.

By the end of the night it was close to 2am when we got back to Brett's room close to the airport and with maybe 2 hours shut eye I was back up at 5am and in a 3 minute taxi ride that cost 17 euros to get to my 7:30 am flight. Europe is ridiculously expensive.

Its now Monday afternoon and I am sitting on the very packed train to Switzerland with plans for a cold beer and dinner with very good friends.

Germany is stunningly beautiful so far and I have managed to put a large grin back on my face after a disappointing trip so far. I guess all things happen for a reason but this is one that sticks out as strange. Between all the comps I did just to qualify then the support of all the local pilots here I am not competing at all and doing something I honestly never thought I would ever get to do and that is travel Europe. I am totally 100% relaxed and feeling all sorts of energy return. I figured this morning on the plane to Munich to just not worry about and to really enjoy myself.

One last thing I plan to do after Interlacken is travel to see Rudy and Esther as I looked on a map and they are too close to not go see my favourite Austrians.

So thanks again for making this a vacation of a lifetime after a major disappointment at the comp.

I will try to continue my blog with the goings on around Europe. Oh the weather is great...haha but very humid here in Germany after very dry Spain

Keith

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Change of plans

So I have decided to go to europe as they wanted 2000 Euros for me to switch my ticket....haha. They only charged me about 300 to go to Munich on Monday then take my normal flight from Munich to Montreal on the 20th. So I will leave piedrahita Sunday afternoon and spend a night in a hotel in Madrid then take my flight to munich then take a train to Interlacken Switzerland. I will stay with Anders and fly around the alps and then head back to Munich and likely spend a day or two there before flying back to Canada. I have been invited to many dinners in suisse as the pilots found out I was coming which is super nice and bound to save me a bit of money.
I appreciate all the support as this not exactly what I had planned when you all chipped in for me to go to the World Paragliding Championship. I will at least get some flying and see a part of the World that I have always wanted to visit.
WIsh me luck on this new unplanned adventure
Cheers
Keith

Thursday, July 7, 2011

BAD DAY

As most of you are aware we had the worst thing that could happen in a competition happen and it happened twice in one day. We lost two of our pilots to accidents yesterday. They were from Argentina and Chile. As you can imagine it has been extremely somber around here and there is much talk of abandoning the competition. I am unsure of my views as they are mixed and it depends on when you ask me. I took the day off and went exploring a 12th century castle in a little village then went for a swim with the team in a great little river spot. It was a great chance to discuss and reflect on why we do this. I was left with nothing beats a great day of flying with my friends. So for now I will stay and see what comes of the many meetings on whether this competition can be saved by using a different format. I also may just hang up my hat and choose a different way to spend my time while in Spain. I am lucky that I have the support of all of you back home and know that you will all hopefully accept my decision whatever that may be. But life is too important
Cheers
Keith

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 1

It started off great as the team was all in relative good position at the start. We all got established on course and after about 75 km we ran into the first set of Airspace. After that we got separated so I will tell you about my day from here. I managed to still be with the lead group but choose a hard left line to avoid the airspace and that was maybe not the best choice as the pilots who stayed close to the edge of the airspace had a much easier time of it. With me now a little bit behind I instead of being patient with my climbs rushed myself to get back into the lead group which of course left me low over some trees with no way to go downwind so I fought the headwind back to clear terrain with a ground speed around 5-10km/hr. Once over land able terrain I got myself a great climb that the gaggles behind me of course joined so at least I was now with some company. We continued downwind again with ground speeds in the 80-90km/hr range so was making great progress. I took another giant climb up to the ceiling level which was 3048m so stayed under 3000 to be safe which left me not paying attention. I headed downwind as I was the top of my group and glided straight towards goal. At this point I thought to myself isn't there more airspace so I turned on my map page to find out that of course there was albeit a small piece and I was smack dap in the middle of it along with the rest of my gaggle. I did the best thing possible and fly back in to the wind to at least land outside of it and hope that it was only a don't land area and not a don't go here area. Wishful thinking on my part as I was told that it was a don't go area. SO it appears my first day will be left with a ZERO. Instead of getting credit for my 112km flight which only ended cause I figured out I was in airspace. The gaggle I was with got to goal early but they will likely get ZEROS too as they were in the space as well.

Claudio flew very well and made GOAL and I believe Brett landed around the 90km mark.

Tomorrow is a new day

Keith

Monday, July 4, 2011

More Info for the Worlds

Here are some blogs for the comp and feel free to pass along

http://canadianparaglidingteam.blogspot.com/
http://www.flypiedrahita.com/blog/
http://www.xcmag.com/
http://alaskaparajack.blogspot.com/

My SPOT should be tracking plus they will have live tracking for the comp too. SO you could sit at home early in the morning and watch the paint dry if you feel so inclined.

http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0exBicqind4ap6IoIoiXahrraJrnqxzTI

The live tracking should be on
search for it on http://www.piedrahita2011.com

Great test day today flew around for a bunch but took it easy too

Good Night All
Keith