For the last month I’ve been in Bir, probably my favourite place to fly a paraglider. I’ve chose this place as my first stop to train for my vol biv adventure this coming July for various reasons.
First, it has big mountains. Bir nestles right at the foothills of the great Himalayas and what better place could there be to get used to big air than these mountains? I had a long break from flying this winter, since I had to go back the grind. I was in desperate need of good xc flying and get my bump tolerance back up to date. And this place offers good air bumping in April.
Second, it’s in India, so it’s affordable. And my fragile western stomach will have time to get used to all sorts of interesting bacteria, that can wreak havoc with your intestines. Don’t get me wrong, I love indian food, but some of those roadside kitchen goodens’ leave you a cramping mess on the floor of your hotel room, trying to get to the bathroom every five minutes. And sometimes you’re not fast enough. And also be careful when you want to let out some air while flying…
Third, there’s friends. April is the strong season in Bir, so it’s not as crowded as in the main season in October, but the few pilots that flock here every spring are a wonderful crew that are great to hang out with. And there is nothing better than to fly with friends in this massive playground.
Fourth, the trekking here is phenomenal. Once you leave the towns and the honking behind, you’ll find blissful solitude among incredible mountains. There is old goat trails everywhere, so you can always make your personal adventure. A perfect place to get my legs a proper workout.
I’ve been here in 2015, but the spring season was average. I had heard the stories of 5000 meters cloudbase over the house thermals, but the reality of last year was much lower. It still was awesome enough to get me back here a year later. And I was in for a treat.
I arrived after what felt like a week of no sleep at my hotel room and got invited to go straight up the hill. It was a mistake. After half a year away from the game, my launch skills were… not there. But I’m glad to say I’m still here, even though I desperately tried to kill myself on that launch that day.
Second day was better. My friend Fredi Bach was here, like he had been the last season, and he was looking for kilometres. They call him ‘Fast Fredi’ for a reason back in Switzerland and I was keen to keep up with him this year. Last spring I only breathed his exhaustion fumes when he pushed his speed bar like there was no tomorrow. But I had learned a lot this last season, so I was itching for a payback… or at least not see him disappear on the horizon.
But my bump tolerance wasn’t there yet. Even though I kept up with Fredi, dodging big rain clouds and flying further away from Bir than I ever did, I didn’t have fun. My reactions were generally too slow and my wing was responding with many collapses in the rough air. I dreaded the thermals whenever I flew towards a group of soaring birds, not wanting to join them, but had to, in order to get back to my hotel. I had promised my girlfriend to take it easy on the first day and I had to admit I didn’t. I felt stupid riding under the big clouds in that monster air. When I bombed out after a 130 km underneath a stormy sky, my self confidence had shrunk to the size of a pea. What was I getting myself into? This was exactly the thing I can’t allow myself to do when doing my solo vol biv! Fears and self humiliation kept me up for a good part of the night.
And then there is always a next day. I had told my girlfriend Sarah that as soon as I have flown my 200 kilometre out and return, I will have all the time to go trekking with her. She would be arriving in a couple of days, so it would be perfect to achieve the goal before. And -SPOILER ALERT!- i did. Me and Fredi flew the 200 kilometer out and return in fast pace. I was back in the game. My bump tolerance was back and I felt confident under my wing again, even though some of the climbs were mind numbingly strong.
I won’t be bothering you with all my flights I had the next two weeks. But the flying became outrageous. Cloudbase rose to heights where breathing became hard and I broke my personal best twice.
At some point Base went up to 5000 metres over the flats! Kind of extreme when you think that the ground was around a 1000 metres AMSL.
On the best day I ever had flying a paraglider I hardly had to turn. I flew 228 kilometres thermaling fives times.
The views of the Himalayas were unbelievable. The world was under my feet while I glided effortless above snow covered peaks.
Slowly the good days came to an end and I spent my time joy flying and trekking in this wonderful playground.
I had my fill for long flying in this last month and I feel like I was ready to get into some bigger stuff. Everything I had planned in theory had been tested in real life and I know now I can pull off what I have in mind.
The next month I will embark with Kubo, a dear friend, into the back, into the main heart of the Indian Himalayas where we will seek out new flying areas and more spectacular views in the biggest mountain range of the world.