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January 19-February 9 --
No Training -- No training scheduled until the week of February 9th.
January 24 - February 8 -- Colombia Cross Country Paragliding Adventure -- no training during this time
February 18-23 -- SIV Clinic Elephant Butte, N.M. -- Max Marien and Karina Gomez have organized an SIV Clinic in mid February at Elephant Butte in NM. Max Marien is the current U.S. acro champion, so this is a special SIV clinic for PGs. Sean Buckner will be supporting the towing. There will be two tranches for the event. The first is Feb 18-20 with 21st as a rain delay and the second session is 21-23 with the 24th as a rain delay. The event is $900 with a 50% deposit required for registered pilots. Contact Arizona Paragliding to sign up at (480) 294-1887.
January 26-28 -- Titiribi, Jerico, & La Pintada - We took off and headed across the Andes and visited these three sites.
Titiribi launch - The Cauca River is visible below launch in the distance. A little town, Bolombolo, is visible in the distance which is located right on the river and is the choice LZ. Lift from this site is strong. About 1/2 mile in front, the air was easily doing over 1,200'/min. The launch area was clear and suitable for both hang gliding and paragliding. Why aren’t PG & HG pilots flocking here from all over the world? Getting to launch is difficult and long and the distance between launch and the LZ is probably over an hour drive. On top of that, there are no hotels in the area = remote but really nice! Here is some YouTube video of some launches and landings at one of the sites.
Bolombolo -- the LZ is the long field right next to the river.
The LZ. The locals rarely see paragliders or hang gliders so it is quite an attraction. They always want to help. We saw a boy there of about 12 who had badly maimed his hand with a machete a day or two earlier. It was obvious from the stitches that medical care is not the best but adequate.
The coffee plant -- Colombian coffee is the finest in the world. The pen hanging in the plant is to give everyone an idea of the size of the plant and its fruit. As the coffee fruit ripens it turns red. The reason the Colombian coffee is so good is because the beans are picked by hand when they are ripe -- just the correct shade of red. The fruit does not ripen all at the same time. The actual bean/seed inside the fruit is colorless and tastes like hay at this stage. All coffee is roasted and that is what gives it its special flavor. Remember that these plants grow on the sides of the Andes Mountains where the terrain usually a 45° to 55° slope. I cannot imagine the work required to pick these beans. Banana trees are often seen among the coffee plants.
When the beans have the outer fruit removed, they are dried in the sun on special floors in the farmer's barn. The dried bean is then packed in bags and sent to a processor. The 3rd photo (R) is the owner of a coffee processing business in Jerico, about 6,000' MSL or so. He opened his place just for us. The machine to the far right is a coffee hulling machine. It was made in the late 1800's. The processor told us there is nothing as good as this machine for hulling the bean, even today.
The beans before before and after being hulled. The machine the coffee-master in showing is the roaster. It bakes the beans at around 450°F.
The coffee beans at different stages of roasting. The far upper right beans were cooked for about 16 minutes at 450°. These dark beans are the typical beans we find at Starbucks. The cost of the unprocessed beans is about $2/lb -- not much. The correct processing of the coffee beans is critical to their flavor. The guy here is an expert in the subtleties of how to bring out the correct smell and flavor of the coffee bean. Of course, the smell of this place was heavenly.
The launch at Jerico with yours truly. We do not need to fly to cloudbase -- we are above cloudbase! So far, only Titiribi has an LZ that would work for hang gliders. The other LZ's are all cramped and hilly and hard enough to land a paraglider in.
Facing out from launch. I was ready to launch from here but we got there about 1/2 hour too late and the little hole in the clouds was closing. It would have been one of the most beautiful flights I would have ever had.
We left Jerico and moved on to La Pintada and our hotel gorgeous hotel.
The launch at La Pintada. It is about 5,000'MSL and much closer to the valley floor than the others we have visited. This is simply that there are no roads to the tops of the peaks in this region. Roger, a retired firefighter from Washington state launches in dead air late in the afternoon for a little fun. We all had to run hard to get in the air. I followed him right after -- one of (4) that day who launched. Because we are near the equator, dawn and dusk are very quick. We only had about 30 minutes before it would be dark.
This is the La Pintada LZ. It is hilly with switchy winds, especially just now when it will be dark 15 minutes. I landed just where the white glider landed. There are more flat areas to land but they are not near any roads. This is country is up and down. The landing area I picked was 30 yards long and 10 yards long -- a lot smaller than we are used to in the southwest.
Safely down in the tall grass at the end of the day. Roads in Colombia are few because they are so expensive to build. That is why we try to land near them unless we want to walk for miles.
January 25 - Sunday -- Santa Fe de Antioquia - We traveled from
Medellin, Colombia north about 50 miles to this town founded in 1541
A.D. This is a vertical country located in the Andes Mountains.
Paragliding launch sites, as one can imagine, are abundant in Colombia
despite most of them being undeveloped. That is, access and being
clear of vegetation are minimal. The site below is located at the
north end of Cauca River valley. The river flows through Santa Fe.
On the east side of the river the Andes tower up above cloud base.
The enormous mountains (+3,000m) eliminate the effects of winds aloft
(which are light in any case) at the surface. Translated: flying
sites here are thermic with winds at launch determined by the location
and intensity of the sun. When the sun pokes out from behind
clouds, the winds at this launch changed 180 degrees from west (and over
the back) to east. This is due to the powerful thermals in the
Valley at this time of year which tend to suck in the cooler Pacific
Ocean air over the mountain passes to the west of the Valley. As
launch faces east, we had to wait for the right cycles as launching
downwind off the side of a mountain is not recommended.
January 20 - Tuesday -- E Potrillo Mountains -- PPG pilots Tom
Bird, Max Bennett, and I (Had Robinson) headed out to our favorite PPG
launch site that is just southeast of the south end of the Potrillo's
for a late afternoon adventure. The winds were light out of the
west/southwest. Launching outside the sod farms requires caution
because the desert is, generally, a huge thermal generator and, as the
winds get light towards the end of the day, they can change quickly as
thermal releases of air masses nearby can change the wind direction.
January 11 Sunday -- Magdalena Rim -- Jason Tilley and I (Had
Robinson) went out to Mag in the late afternoon hoping conditions would
be strong enough to stay up over the Rim. When we arrived at
around 4:00PM, it was blowing a steady 20 mph out of the west -- too
much for PG but just right for HG. We waited around until near
sunset before launching in the weaker conditions that usually occur at
that time. I went up first and, just when the sun was about to go
down, the winds shifted to the northwest. If Mag did not have the
Uvas Mountains north, it would not particularly matter but as it is,
winds from that direction will cause rotor and turbulence at the Rim.
Jason also launched and we both experienced the expected turbulence.
To be safe, we both headed out and landed near the tank in front.
It was a long hike back but the scenery and views cannot be beat around
January 6 Tuesday -- Training -- Phil Ehly continued his PPG
training, gaining more confidence during the launch routine. All
pilots find it easy to become overwhelmed at launch by the engine at
full power, the glider overhead, wind direction while running, etc.
That is why it is best to learn & practice single events as much as
possible until they become routine.
December 31 Wednesday
-- Alpine, Texas Ice Storm -- There were many reasons not to fly today and
here was one.... The photos below of the ice storm that gripped
central Texas were taken near and on the eastern rim of Marfa plateau
that is just west of Alpine.
December 28 Sunday --
Transmountain -- It was off again to challenge the weather-gods
to see if there might be some thermals somewhere. It was sunny and
the winds were light and out of the west so Transmountain looked
the best -- and closest. Jeroen Kusters and I (Had Robinson) headed out. Magdalena Rim
would have had similar conditions but it would have been a 140 mile
round trip if there was not enough air to stay up. Jeroen did find
a thermal out front but he was close to the ground and deep turns are
not recommended and he had to let it go. I did not find anything. It was a sled-ride but it
was still fun to fly in the light conditions. We were the only
ones to foot-launch an ultralight in the state of Texas that day.
Here is a short video of our
flights that day.
December 24-25 Wednesday-Thursday Training -- Daniel Rivera
(Midland, TX) came into town for the Christmas holidays and, while
visiting family, continued his training right on schedule. We have
had very good days of stable air in the region so it was a good time to
come. Just the same, I (instructor Had Robinson) launched and
sampled the air. It was east at the surface and but 200' up it was
from the south. By noon, the high winds aloft had started to mix
down so it was a good time to quit (and also to get back to the women).
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