The madness continues in Cuzco with our international crew . After meeting with Jose Infantas on Friday evening plans were immediately drawn up to go flying and filming. Although it is rainy season here, we were in for a special surprise. Several members of our Airhead Crew were skeptical about flying at all during this monsoon time in the Andes. Jose had written us the night before, however, and set us in good spirits with news of great flying with Tandem clients untill at least 2pm the day before.
We negotiated a great price on a van, $60US a day with a driver and gas included, which was split seven ways, or less than a cost of one ride up back home in Pemberton, BC. .After an opulent breakfast buffet again at Cuzcos fine Casa Andina Private Collection Hotels, we set of for Valle Sacrado and the Urubamba River Valley which winds its way towards Machu Picchu through the towering and spectacular Andes. I was here in August 2007 during INKAFEST then. I flew tandem here with Jose but it was with a broken leg in a cast. It was dry season then and the countryside was so yellow and dry then. By contrast everething was very green with crops in full growth right now and a totally different picture as the scenery unfolded around us. We first drove to a lower launch but the wind was not that strong and Jose opted for driving to a higher 4000 metre launch and some microwave towers on a hillside above.
We arrived in slight drizzle to launch but I knew that the radiation of the sun was so strong here at the equator that the combination of sun and wind would quickly dry any moisture on the gliders in flight. I had butterflies in my stomach as I prepared to be first to launch, a guinea pig of sorts as the others looked on. It seems I did this quite often , first to go...
I felt for that light breeze on my face , brought my glider up , yet still had to run a bit in order to get off the ground in the thin mountain air here at the 4000 metre launch. The soaring was incredible as my Advance Sigma 6 performed like a jet fighter , flying way faster than anticipated in the thin air as I soared back and forth along the ridge playing and dazzling my eyes on the fabulous scenery below . It was heaven on earth, my first solo flight in Peru. Jose launched next on my Atis Sky wing and soon the two of us were like two birds , a yellow and blue one frolicking with the constant breeze coming up from the Valle Sacrado or Sacred Valley below. Next came Maciek, Tyler, Pawel and his son Philip . On launch were a couple of other Peruvian pilots including Leo, Joses cousin whom we met back in Iquique Chile. Unfortunately, the two are not on the best of terms due to competing Tandem interests , something very common in the international paragliding community. I still hope to change that with XANDES project , the race I hope to put together and bring everyone in to participate as the paragliding world is just to small for petty politics to interfere with the beauty of our sport.
After soaring for 45 minutes or so Jose opted to head for the LZ and I followed , catching a few small thermalls en route and passing him with my faster wing. Maciek landed first and I set up for the landing as well. Just before touching down, a sudden thermal spun me up again and I came down a bit hard on my butt and slammed my knee a bit hard into the ground. I later learned that I came down a bit down wind as there was no sock to judge wind direction by. Jose too pummelled in rather hard on my SKY Atis and did a summersault at the LZ. The others had more gracefull into the wind landings anm we all hugged after the exhiliration of our first solo flights here.
We had lunch next at a local little Peruvian diner. Soup and main course consisted of : veggies , rice and noodles with a bit of meat. A couple of the guys were a bit sick with MOntezumas revenge which I aptly called " The Tupac Anmaru " revenge here in Peru. I could not help to chuckle as Jose complained to our PEruvian Quechua hostess that she had inflated the meal price to a " Gringo price " from 3 soles or one dollar to a $1.75 for the meal and a drink !!??
After lunch we drove to the first launch site and Jose launched first, thenPawel flew Tandem with Tylers lady friend , then Tyler and Philip. I had a hard time taking off as the wind died to a nil and my knee was hurting in order to run fast and take of in the thin Andean air . After a few aborts I decided to pack it in and we packed up and drove all the way down to the Urubamba Valley below to pick up the others at various , sometmes funny LZīs. Pawel and passanger landed at some guarded fenced compound and were meniced by several angry dogs. Philip splatted in a pond of knee high water and Tyler found himself a better field with Jose. Maciek decided not to fly and had helped me trying to launch in the dead air , which we soon aborted and packed up my Sigma.
As we drove back to Cuzco everyone excitedly shared spectacular photos and video clips they had taken and chattered madly about their experiences in the air and upon landing in the very thin air. We had all learned soooo much from flying here our first day . One has to approach much more cautiously at this altitude and the sparse air makes for a much more faster and careful approach. This means landings have to be much more cautious and premeditaded , avoiding any sudden manouvers low above ground, and instead come in more like an aircraft , then break hard just before touching down.
We were all fine except for my slightly bruised knee. Today luck brought us rain so the boys went to the market and I opted to rest my leg and do more online homework at the Casa Andinas fine buswiness Centre again. Stay tuned for more from Cuzco on this report ....
PHOTOS MACIEK SIWOCHA / VANCOUVER CANADA
Well, we went back to Valle Sacrado with Jose again and had two flights yesterday. The morning flight was a sled ride down , but eventful as always in a narrow margin landing zone. My Sigma 6 performed amazingly well dodging a powerline and skkimming over a barbred wire fence, some things never change, eh ? The second flight was incredible and so unexpected. At first we thought the day was over, went for lunch of local trout, then came back to find strong Pemberton spring like thermalls that catapulted us sooooo high. The view was incredible although a bit scary in unknown Andean terrain. Even young Camil , Pawels cousin got in a great thermal tandem flight and everyone had huge smiles at our recently found new LZ surrounded by cornfields and next to the road in the Urubamba valley !
We spent two more days flying and took Sandra, the front desk manager as well as the marketing guru from Casa Andina for Tandem flights, thanks to Pawel and Jose. Then of course was the hangover flights today after a night of Pisco Sours with Christian , the General Manager in Cuzco and more friends . We also shot a short funny film with Sandra , so I will not reveal it, but it will be a short dramatic paragliding comedy.