martedì 10 ottobre 2017
Aba, September 2017
In summer 2015 I come back from Aba with a dream: learn to fly a Paraglider and go back there to fly that sky. The puffy clouds, the light and the soft grassland slopes of that place left me astonished.
Kham, at the border of contemporary Tibet: a endless pasture covered by tiny flowers, Yaks, sheeps, golden roofed monasteries and white shepherd tends everywhere. A remote concrete-Han style Chinese town. Rich place, populated by a strange mix of Champa Sheppard that exchanged their horses with subwoofer geared motorbikes and post-modern monks chatting theology in Tibetan language via we chat on brand new golden I-Phones. Huge multistory monasteries newly built by donations from very rich buddhist businessman from shanghai and Beijing. The number of monks in town, the richness inside the gompas, the dimensions of the golden buddhas and the amount of brass statues ordered from Nepal is something difficult to describe and made me doubt that how we foreigners see “the Tibetan issue” is a bit too much in “contrasted black and white”. Nuances here are to be discovered.
That summer I had just realized that My life dream was in-fact not so suitable for me, the sailboat was sold and at the same time my bigger love story was finishing. I subscribed a paragliding course and took and took a heavy adrenaline shower to try to forget the past.
I remember myself at the paragliding school in central Italy: just a beginner, showing everybody pictures of Tibetan clouds. « I want to fly there... is this sky flyable ? » As every school day, the teacher looks at me with tired eyes that are, silently telling me: « you are just a beginner... this evening, when the wind goes down, you go back to the ground handling field... thats all... » and just to be kind he mumbles « there is a big overdevelopment over that monastery». At that time I started to question myself what was an overdevelopment.
I suffered a lot in that school: never an interesting answer to my questions, never anybody available to go deeper than, « you are not ready » ... I spent on ground the best flyable days of that summer and missed the best hours of the day. The instructor was busy with tandems but the official version was « the wind is too strong for You ». At the end I decided to learn hang-glider and paraglider together, at least the day was completely full. I left the school earlier than the exam, bought an ultralight harness at Coupe Icaire and went traveling with my A-glider all winter. I come back next spring just to show up enough to get the license. That was the hardest time. Other epic days lost on ground and tensions with the big boss. I never went back to Castelluccio.
Two years are passed and I am here again. Maya will arrive one week later and I was not able to meet any Chinese “Hike and fly” pilots to make a group; everybody here looks busy to fly High end Wings in brand new swimming-pooled clubs with golf-grassed take offs. I didn't even try to propose the idea to European friends, I have never been able to leave Europe with other people. I go, as usual, alone, usually I met very nice people on my remote way on the mountains, but here, and with a paraglider, I have no big hopes. Birger also destroyed my project just two weeks before i left « no lift at high altitude » « lots of wind up there ».
E vabbè ! What to do ! project was done, meteo was studyed, everything is planned, after two years I cannot give up, I go. I still don't speak Chinese and, as usual, I will have to roam around Tibetan tents with my white A4 paper, pencil and drawings to communicate, thats' ok, a bit boring, but I did it many times before. The only thing that really scares me are dogs: Tibetan mastiffs are cruel up here. Some times it is just a matter of picking up a stone from ground and their psyche goes quickly back to childhood forcing the huge Sheppard to run away crying like a puppet, but the « stone effect » is never sure and it depends from the family background of the beast witch is always unknown in advance. This would not be the first time that I find myself surrounded by a group of black barking lions ready to kill me. Sticks are useless, and I don't know how they will react to a red paraglider.
All this I think walking out of the airport. But the story ends here. At the first flight I land near town. Policeman see me from the road and they come in black. Just curious and very friendly but after them others are coming and the “foreigner relation girl” is with them. « Troubles » I think folding the glider. And indeed... forbidden for foreigners to fly here... thats all …
Stupid Bibo You already knew this: in Tibetan areas don't show up in town …
mercoledì 4 ottobre 2017
Pokhara Kathmandu EN-A
march 2017, the story
After roaming around in a hesitant random way the three high end wings, that are flying the cloud in front of me, make a sharp turn and head straight back to Pokhara. I am climbing the ridge over Tumako Danda together with a Nepalese-dusty-coloured-Mantra but suddenly I can't see it anymore, i look back twisting on my risers … disappeared …
The radio that I usually carry turned off and that today, by chance, is working but at minimum volume, is talking something from the bottom of the pocket where i forgot it; I can't hear properly but it sounds like... “Bibo, come back, there is a big cloud developing “... Peter is going back too ...
Hmm ...Yes, ok... cloud is sucking, but… I can pass. No way I go back... I spent Too long time waiting in Pokhara for a good day. Because of the unusual dry winter lots of dust was at lakeside and it made me sick, too many dinner at the restaurant, too little hiking, I got lazy and bored. I also got tired of playing FAI triangles and I start to be bored of the take off chat environment. Warm and friendly but I am becoming too famous for the many times i bombed out in Damphus because my wing cannot penetrate the wind to pass the ridge on the way home from the “big triangle”. I know most of the villagers down there, at the end of Pokhara valley, and I know every couple of birds habiting on the Panchase ridge where I usually end my days soaring for ours over the huge beauty full trees covering the village. I learned a lot from those birds, even from the young one that is always turning the thermal in the opposite direction than the others. But it's enough...
Today springtime has arrived, rain has passed, cloud or not cloud it is the day to go, no way I go back. The decision of going comes out suddenly and unavoidable. And I go ! Big hears, speed bar, freezing hands and adrenaline. After the cloud everything is again good, sky becomes puffy and sunny, I am exiting the Machapuchare valley system and slowly abandoning the Annapurans massif. Overdevelopment was for the guys that wanted to close the triangles and go to drink a beer at Sunrise landing, I am going another way, on a straight line, alone. I go east !
Finally ! so many times I dreamt to fly in one direction “to the unknown” with my tent and my backpack. When I bought the glider my 11 kg bag exploded and I had to spend the winter building a backpack to be used, in flight, as a back protection with a ultralight harness. Finally I managed to pack again all my life in a 15 kg bag and went back to travel ... after months the idea becomes real: travel and fly, and hopefully, in future, travel by flight. Finally free !Of course “the unknown” Is personal, this places are on a map and the flight area is known for Xc. But all my life I have been fascinated of finding out what's next after the mountain I am facing. It doesn't matter a lot if other people has already been there, what fascinates me is more about the evolution of the perspective in terms of motion; climbing to se what's next. Hike and fly arrived late in my life but it appeared to be the perfect solution. And of course I go slow; i am just a beginner. In this days Other two guys are flying double the distance I can fly in one day, and they travel longer journeys: The Slovakian Juraj Koren and a green dressed-with-green-wing Russian whose name I don't know. One flies lower than me and the other one higher, but both fly on much straighter and precise trajectories than my zigzags. I admire and envy them, of course, but here I am, I fly since one year and half, I neither consider myself a Pilot. In my mind this name is related to a sunglassed elegant man being able to conduct and land aircrafts, and being able to manage serious aspect of flying and procedures. Quite different than a dusty covered long haired guy hanging under a coloured spinnaker whose main flight thecnique is screaming “halloooo !!!” to every children in the below school with the aim to clam them and finally find himself in silence, able to be concentrated enough to climb the thermal and hopefully fly away.
My new high B wing arrived too late; the season was already too bumpy to try to go Xc with the new red rocket and it did not fit into my bag, space for the tent was not there anymore, a new bag design and construction would have been needed and a new cycle of too many things to do and too many things to learn was going to start in the wrong moment. So after a week of troubled mind and collapses with the new wing I switched back to my low-porosity-dusty-reddish-ex-white-Yeti.
And Flying with the Yeti today is like travelling with my Fiat 500 in a springtime day along the Po river in Italy: air is fresh and colours are bright. New, small intense green leafs are on the trees, I can see the flowers and I can smell the cow shit sprayed everywhere on the fields.... I drive with open windows, so slow that I can nearly talk to the people cycling on the river embankment. I have time to appreciate everything. Safe, nice.While contemplating the marvellous landscape of the Annapurans I discover myself too low and I land quite early before Besi Sahar. But is not because of landscape: Peter's voice from the radio kept talking in my head all the rest of the 40 km flight, warning me about over-developments. Other people advise tends to put my psyche in trouble and doubts sometimes become too big, unmanageable rationally. This process usually induce me to make mistakes. In-fact some big clouds are there, but far away, and not dangerous at all, Annapurna is far now. So ... I suddenly bomb out near a rounded paddy field on a sunny side slope surrounded by huge red flowered trees populated by white monkeys, eating bananas. As it happens in the Himalayas I am nearly in paradise and finally out of the dusty development of Lakeside suburb. It is warm here, and I have a big smile on my face. Village grandmamas, having nothing to do all day, are the first to run to meet me laughing and joking about my lee side-of-the-house-nearly-falling-to-the-lower-paddy-field landing. But they are not laughing because of the lee side but because the next field was a huge flat landing strip with clean smooth earth and the one I have chosen is full of long hard rice crops and It is difficult to fold the wing, whose light fabric they appreciate a lot and inevitably continue to touch and evaluate. The children run away from the school despite the teacher attempt to hold them and come greeting me offering flowers. I am touched. They are very different from the para-beggar children populating the fields surrounding Pokhara which at every landing run to me polluting my internal sacred peace with their endless mantra «give me money-give me chocolate-give me money-give me chocolate ». Here the children run our of school a second time just to say bye-bye, calling my name shinily when I pass by, hiking up to next take off. They are pure kindness and curiosity. W Nepal ! Hike away from the crowd for a day and you'll' still find simple nice and sincere people, And hiking here is something related to everyday life since ever: an old, wise, paved trail leads me up offering rest areas built in stones, by the ancestors, under the buddha trees that grew in the best viewpoints.
In Ghale Gaun I am hosted in a nice micro mud home, warm and amazing architecture. I am still in the Annapurna Conservation Area, just by one km but, yes, i have to pay the 20 US fee even if It looks like I am the first client here. The guard is not able to build a permit and a receipt, he comes back so many times asking if my personal data are correct that i get compassionate to him... finally next morning permit is built, I buy a toothbrush a pen ad go to fly … luckily I am alone on take off after the guard come to ask a last time if my birth date is correct and after an inopportune and improbable looking guy leaves me in peace after having understood that is absolutely impossible that he can get a free tandem ride on my 22 sq m wing. Crows are already playing in the air and a vulture starts to fly; cycles are growing. Time to go !
Readers of a Paragliding magazine would probably expect descriptions of a beauty-full 85km flight along the Himalayas slopes in a March sunny day but i should say I don't remember exactly anything.Views are so spectacular and emotions are so intense that images are still randomly roaming around in my brain for all the week later, sensations are not at all in a linear order and places are neither at all georeferenced.
I am only sure that I go east. First was the Annapurnas than Manasulu and than Ganesh Himal the sacred peaks look at me patiently through the Tibetan painting shaped clouds, i look at them carefully and respectfully keeping a reverential distance. The valleys disappear into the mist on their way to the Indian Plateau. The first day I had some waypoints on the smartphone but not having rationally programmed to fly anywhere today I have nothing. But navigation looks easy: Valleys are all south-north oriented and wind is mainly at beam reach. it is a matter of climbing the ridge, reach the village, pass the village, yell “hallooo” to the children in the school, reach the forest, climb to the pasture lands, pass the rocks on top of the peak, reach the cloud over the rocks, push out, skip the ridge, cross to the next valley. And start the process again and again. Orography repeats itself her, fires are everywhere wind directions are clear. What is changing are the myriads of micro daily stories that I can see from my privileged point of view down below in the villages and in the wildlife. Incredible the amount of inputs that I collect from here if compared to hiking speed.
Day ends up because of too much wind to fly with my wing. I land on a ridge on top of a windy valley just in time to avoid being blown back in the lee, a lumberman come to greet me happily.After a search for spring water, in front of a sunset stunning view from the tent, I have a muesli and chocolate dinner. I realize that I am just 30 km from Kathmandu but not in a good position to enter the valley, my enthusiasm for going east as gonna a bit too far. The rhythm of the valleys is changing and i got stuck in a dead end. Valleys get wider and windy here, and the next day I am not able to find a way through.
« Che garnè » , « what to do !! this is destiny » in Nepali. There are different levels of flight in this country: illuminates can fly through the world of gods face to face with the high peaks, best pilots can fly broad reach over the inversion in clear air and land to sleep in places where only animals and monks live, I can aspire only to zigzag here and there, battling with valley winds hoping not to make mistakes and sleep with a Shepard as a neighbour. If eventually a mistake happens, valley landing is waiting in the dust down there. My journey finishes on a bus witch takes 2 hours to climb the valley that i ascended in 10 minutes the previous day. It then takes one day to travel the remaining 30 km to Kathmandu. Luckily I did not try to enter Kathmandu from Thrisuly; slopes are covered by unfinished concrete houses with a myriad of metal rods pointing the sky, electric lines are everywhere wind is brutal and airspace is somewhere.
The bus, full of various humanity and various animals, fades away and disappears in the polluted blue fog of Kathmandu. Breathing pure dust, tired, but happy like the last day of school, proud of what I did, I go straight to Thamel to buy a pair of serious gloves for the next flight !