It all started in Miraflores, Peru, June 15th. 2011, at a press conference hosted by Benquello Morales and attended by various dignitaries including the mayors of Huaraz and Caraz among other VIPS . As press conferences go, this one was formal as most but aferwards we took everone including a lot of the press to Miraflores to show off some paragliding and the Mayor of Huaraz even went on a tandem flight. Since we had a paraplegic flyer from Poland with us, it was rather interesting for the media. It all seemed like such a great start.
We hoped to show those pilots with hesitations about flying the Andes near Huaraz, that if a paraplegic pilot Jedrzej can do it , so can they. And so, it started with a flying exhibition in Miraflores and Andy (Jedrzej) logged a nice lengthy flight on Leonardo and Google Earth on his first fly day here.
More XANDES Reconnaissance pilots would be arriving from now , through late June, and we had them all go through Miraflores and a friendly hostel and hotel, www.albergueverde.com , nicely positioned only a short cab ride or 20 minute walk from " Parque De Parapente", or the seaside Miraflores soaring location.
I wanted to write my account of what happened with our XANDES Reconnaissance trip and an account of the accident with Xavier Murillo , who dissappeared last seen our our new "Huandoy" dubbed launch above Caraz on Friday, July 1st , 2011 at 1pm .
I have known Xavier for less than a year. We first met last August when he came to visit and stayed at my house in Pemberton, BC, last year. He came with another good friend Pawel Boryniec in between his busy comp schedule. We flew just one day together and quickly became friends as we both shared a passion for free flight, mountaineering and adventure. Xavier was an accomplished mountaineer, having scaled an 8000 meter péak Shishapangma in the Himalayas amongs other mountaineering feats. This was to be his first trip to Peru .
When in Pemberton I told Xavier about our www.xandes.com project and he expressed an interest to join our reconnaissance team in 2011 to help prep the course for the event itself in 2012. Fairly soon Xavier received interest from Cross Country Magazine, Parapente as well as a Japanese paraglide publication to photograph and write stories for them.
We later met in Mexico at www.monarcaparaglidingopen.com and talked further about his participation later in Peru.
At the same time Benquello Morales, a friend and tourism director for Huaraz was organising a mountain festival www.semanadelandinismo.com . Since Xavier had gathered various magazine assignments, Benca thought it appropriate to help our XANDES situation and offered to buy Xaviers and Tod Lawsons airline tickets. I was comissioned by ABC0 TV to produce a German TV show about Benca had organised a mountain festival here and part of it was a local paraglide competition. Unfortunately most Peruvian pilots were busy elsewhere so our reconnaissance team became the only body of attending paragliders, apart from one Miraflores pilot Hubert Salas who arrived from Miraflores and was a great help. The others were off doing acro in Tarapoto.
Xavier arrived on June 24th to Huaraz. That same day we did a short trip to Wilcacocha and had a nice little flight to the valley. There was no thermals.that day but Xavier enjoyed his first gentle flight to the valley. We all laughed , how we dragged him out straight from the bus depot at 6am to fly from close to 4000 meters. It was not a very eventful flight but the four of us enjoyed little more than a glorified sled ride with some soaring moments along the way. It was a nice introduction, except for a bit of haggling upon landing where we had to pay a fine for landing in a cultivated Alfalfa field. This was all a part of flying in Peru. Just a few days earlier I had hooked a low slung high tension power line , just before landing. While getting my glider off the wire , by pulling and letting go in rhythm , I managed to cut the electricity to three campesino houses. This resulted in the whole village being somewhat pissed off at me. I remedied the situation by paying the costs, which included 50 Soles to the guy for climbing the pole to fix some transformers. I also had to go to town accompanied by three Quechua natives which supervised me buying the electrical spare parts. I also bought them lunch and in the end the whole ordeal cost me maybe $40US , a small price to pay for my screw up. Wires are impossible to spot sometimes from the air as the posts in this case were hidden in the trees.
We had already flown a few days with Jedrzej ( Andy) our paraplegic pilot from Poland who managed to do a 35 km cross country from Wilcacocha to Recuay. Andy landed at 2pm and informed us that even then, the winds were not too bad near Recuay where the valley already widened out , thus reducing a venturo effect .
After flying Wilcacocha we decided to take a two day road trip, driving a road to Huarmey and then north, back from Casma to Huaraz to look at the possibility of flying to the ocean. Thanks to Asociacion Ancash and Beto from Monttreck, we boarded two vehicles and headed out June 25th . Both routes proved risky due to very narrow canyon segments , making pg landing impossible. The trip was spectacular and we witnessed some of the most impressive canyon lands we have ever seen. A couple people used up all their memory cards on their cameras as the scenery was that spectacular. We had heated discussions about these possibilities. Maybe fly the first part, and descend by mountain bikes for the rest , hmm ?? Sure, some pilots may get lucky, launch, climb up to 6000 meters and make the descents to the ocean , but the proposition in general was just too risky to consider. We were now faced with the only real option of having the XANDES stay totally in the Huaraz valley. The town of Huarmey is an industrial little town dominated primarily by Canadian owned Antamina,(of Vancouvers Teck Resources)and its gold mine in the Andes,and its pipeline which pushed the ore to the ocean where it was loaded on to ships. A representative from the municipality met us in Huarmey and treated us to an amazing seafood dinner with some of the best Cevicze I had ever tasted.
Just north of Huarmey, Beto wanted to show us some dunes . The Municipality guy, Jaime, quickly made some phone calls and invited the local Huarmey TV crew to come and document our frolics in the sand. It was such a dreamy late afternoon of flying and we took many pictures. The Huarmey Muni dude was very excited as I told him they really had a mini Iquique here and it was only a four hour drive north of LIma, not 30 hours by bus south as with going to Iquique itself. Sure it was not quite the site as in Chile but it had potential for setting up a school, perhaps a hostel and attracting paragliders on their way to Huaraz or other flying locations in Peru.
It really proved top be a wonderful evening and later we settled into our hotel room (also courtesy of The Huarmey Municipality )
On the way back to Huaraz on June 26th Xavier, James , Yamid and Jedrzej flew from Punto Callan on the road to Casma. It was 4 pm and Jedrzej had another great high and long flight. To our amazement, he had landed on a sidehill, from which he was recovered by some local Peruvians. They folded up his glider beautifully, then carried him to wait for us at the side of the road. Xavier was so impressed, I recall ,when we encountered Jedrzej just sitting with all his gear , like waiting for a bus on the side of the road. We spent the night In Huaraz.
Next morning, or June 27th, we hired a few taxis and drove to the Barig Mine launch. Arriving there we saw two paragliders in the air, with one being Morgan doing a tandem with Jenny , and the other Hubert Salas , a Lima pilot who had just arrived. Xavier and Andy both had a couple faul launch attemps as there was a step in the takeoff ramp which gave everyone some problems. But finally , we were all airborne and enjoyed the landing in a schoolyard with hundreds of kids , all dressed in their red uniform sweaters, really such a happy sight greeting our squadron of incoming paragliders. A few of the kids recognized me from a few years before and even remembered how to pack my glider perfectly, I had made it a point to teach local kids how to fold paragliders everywhere I went these days, thinking it was just a nice micro-economy for them to make a few soles of the flying visitors.
June 28th was the day we first flew the Caraz site we nicknamed HUANDOY . It was also our first flight with Jeff Cristol who joined us early that morning coming in from Huaraz. The site was shown to us by a Tourism representative from the town of Caraz. We later found out that Dr Heinrich Berg, a German pilot from Lima had also flown the site previously. This was the day, Andy or Jedrzej from Poland flew his record 79km flight
http://www.xccomp.org/module.php?id=21&l=en&contest=PL&date=20110628&reference=31a292720c86fa03 (cut paste into browser)
Jeff Cristol and James Oroc both launched after Andy, after several gruelling efforts to get him off. Jeff managed to topland that day , while l opted for a more conservative flight down to the football Stadium in Caraz. Jeff took off again and went as far as Yungay with James . Yamid , our Colombian pilot landed in a field south of Caraz . Later Hubert Salas, a Miraflores pilot also flew to the stadium. It was really lifty around Caraz and hard to descend, often having to spiral and finally get down ...TO BE CONTINUED...