Saturday, December 6, 2008

Final few days....

Visited "The Clark", an art museum famous for its French Impressionist art collection. ONE of the rooms had over a BILLION dollars worth of art on display!!!

One of the churches:
From Travels

Had Thanks Giving dinner with the McNeil's - the food was piled high:
From Travels

Had one final night in New York before heading back to New Zealand. Stayed with Dale, adn spent the afternoon wandering around downtown:
From Travels

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I flew into New York and found my way to Tama and Dale's place on the subway at 150 Mott St, Manhattan, NY 10013-5409 (or for an oblique bird's eye view....)

View of Empire State Building from Mott St outside Dale & Tama's apartment
From Travels

Then onto Jeannette and Matt's place in Raleigh, North Carolina - I originally met Jeannette as an exchange student at Massey University back in 1979... One Friday we went up to Triple Creek Ranch
From Travels

Jeannette's husband Matt is in a folk band: Back Porch Boys - on Friday night they got together at Matt and Jeannette's house for a practice session.

Jeannette's video of another song:

Saturday flew to Albany to catch up with Mike and Hollie at 334 County Route 59, Buskirk, NY 12028-1829
From Travels

On Monday visited Mass MOCA - an amazing museum of contemporary art. The primary exhibition was by Sol DeWitt - huge wall drawings.... (more on LeWitt)

Click on slideshow for a larger view....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Sunday 16 November

Sunday – the three of us catch the ferry to the island of Zealand for a family gathering....
From Travels
The ferry crossing takes about two and a half hours, then it is another 90 minutes driving across Zealand to Charlottunlund (sp?) where Stine, my cousin, and Kevin, her husband, live. Elsebeth, my other aunt is there, along with Stine’s three boys. In due course Annette, my other cousin and her two sons arrive. I show them my photos and videos of paragliding in India. That evening a major feast is served…..
From Travels

Monday 17 November

In the afternoon I go to an art exhibition with Elsebeth – three Danish artists who have won a major award – a retrospective of their works is being held. We are both of the opinion that we are viewing the emperor’s new clothes….

We then return to Elsebeth’s apartment, and Pira, a cousin of my aunt is phoned up – she comes around immediately, and we spend a very pleasant afternoon chatting….

I then catch a train to Lyngby, and am met by my second cousin Merete and her parents. French Café takeaways are obtained, and we return to her house for a very pleasant evening. Vibeke arrives later for desert.
From Travels

Tuesday 18 November.

I go out to Birkerod to see Susanne and Uncle Hans for lunch – however, I get distracted and end up at the end of the line at Birkerod,,,,, A few text messages later and I am back on the train. Later that afternoon Susanne and I go to Louisiana – an art gallery set in a large park next to the sea. There are some wonderful exhibitions, but the main one, we both agree, we could have equally have easily daubed swathes of paint on large canvases!
From Travels

That night I catch up with Rikke, a Danish woman who spent a couple of years in Wellington studying algae, and Jonas, who had spent couple of weeks with us as a Wwoofer.
From Travels
From Travels

Wednesday 19 November

The alarm goes off at 6am, as I need to be at the airport at 7am, for my flight to New York….. I transfer at Geneva, and the flight is delayed briefly as USA immigration requirements are fulfilled by transiting passengers. The in-flight movie I watch is “Affair de Familie” – an excellent French crime movie with several surprising twists…..

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I love the rain!

The flight from New Delhi to Munich was uneventful, taking about eight and a half hours. Lufthansa has “on-demand” video, which to me at least was rather novel! Watched the movie “Flawless”, which starred Michael Caine, to pass the time (and I'd recommend it!). Arrived in Munich, where it was 4 degrees and raining – I took the opportunity to go outside for a a few minutes to breath in the cool crisp air and luxuriate in its freshness! “God I love the rain!” I said to myself, having come from a very dry and dusty place – It rinses the air clean and you can SEE for more than 800 metres. It washes the dust away and the grass is GREEN. I resolved never to complain about rain again at that moment.
From Travels

My flight to Copenhagen was on a small turboprop, and before I knew it I was on the ground in Denmark. Marianne and Ejnar meet me at the airport – surprised at how fast I have been “processed” – then whisk me into Copenhagen. They then depart to visit for the first time their third grandson who has been born that very day!, and I take the opportunity to relax. I have sole use of their basement “apartment” – the only problem with it being that the ceiling is 185cm (about six feet!) – so when downstairs I have a permanent stoop….

Thursday afternoon I catch the metro into Copenhagen and go “window shopping” as I discover that the NZ dollar buys only 3.3 Danish Krone! I had bought a small bag of sugar roasted almonds from a street seller and belatedly discover that they cost the equivalent of NZ$8!! I consequently savour each nut!

Friday I travel by train to Sonnerborg to visit Inger-Merete and Calle – Inger-Merete is Ejnar’s sister and they had been to our place in Wellington in 2007. They were very keen to reciprocate my hospitality and rued that I could only stay one night. Dinner was roast duck with sugared potatoes. One of the things that visitors to Denmark should know is that you should only take the smallest of portions to start with – as the more “seconds” you take the higher in regard and esteem you are considered to then hold your hosts! One of the rudest things that you can do in Denmark is to not take second helpings! Conversely Danes have been “caught out” in New Zealand by taking a small first helping – then starving when no seconds are then offered!

Saturday sees me catching the train to Arhus to visit Susanne (my Aunt) and Uncle Hans. The train arrives early – I spend 15 minutes waiting on the front steps of the station while Susanne waits on the platform…. That evening another wonderful meal of many servings, this time salmon, awaits me!

Sunday – the three of us catch the ferry to the island of Zealand for a family gathering....

Friday, November 14, 2008

Leaving India....

Tuesday 11 November.

Tuesday morning entailed sorting out a final few things for Lucy before Dr Samir Dwivedi arrived from International SOS to take Lucy to London. The ambulance set off through the New Delhi traffic at about 8:30am – with the siren whining at various intervals as we sat stuck in jams…. About an hour later Lucy and Dr Dwivedi were deposited at the International airport, goodbyes were said and I was then taken back to the hospital in the ambulance.
From Travels

Later in the day I “volunteered” to repack Chris’s wing, as it had only been roughly packed after his crash. This was to primarily try and reduce the bulk so other things could be also packed into the PG carry bag. A large area was found in the basement next to a café area, where I then proceeded to disentangle the lines and then concertina fold the wing. This caused a considerable amount of interest from passing Indians!
From Travels

Ozzie Chris: “It would be fantastic to have a Kingfisher beer with our Indian meal tonight – afterall, it IS our last night in India. However, if you don’t want to go out a find some beer that’s okay.” Chris says this from his bed, whih he is confined to with three compressed vertebrae…. How could I say no! So I venture out of the Max Super Speciality Hospital for the second time that day just as it is starting to get dark, and having NO idea as to WHERE beer could be obtained. Earlier in the day I had enquired as to where I could possibly find an internet “café’” and had been given vague directions as to where one may be. My supposition was that if there were internet cafés in that direction then there would probably be bottle stores too.

I turned right down a small “alleyway” that was chock-full of pedestrians, tuk-tuks, and bicycle rickshaws. I explored down this street for about five minutes then asked at a store where a wine or beer shop would be – they waved me on staying continue to the “circle” further up, then catch a taxi towards what sounded like the “car mart”. Five minutes walking and I arrived at the indicated round-about, but none of the tuk-tuk drivers could understand English….. Three Indian guys came to my rescue and assured me that it was only five minutes further walk to the market, where a bottle store would be found. What seemed more like 10 minutes or more of walking I seemed to be in the centre of a market area, with many street stalls selling delicious looking deepfried foods, feshly sliced pineapples wafting alluring aromas and other interesting looking fruits. A query at another shop had the bottle store “only” another two blocks down the road…. An then I spotted it. It contained rows upon rows of whiskey bottles – and I had to wonder whether I had found a whiskey shop or a bottle store! Down the back I asked for two bottles of Kingfisher Strong, and the Indian guy plunged his hand into a large barrel filled with ice and withdrew two bottles. 90 rupees (about NZ$3) later I was on my way out looking for a tuk-tuk back to the hospital – one was rapidly flagged down and we were off down the road dodging pedestrians, cars, rickshaws and other tuk-tuks…. In short order I was delivered back to the “Max” and then smuggling the beer into the hospital!

Chris was very pleased to see me with beer in hand – the bottles were opened in a very short time and we were toasting our time in India – but with the hiding places for the bottles nearby in case nurses came in! Eventually our Indian meal came at about 8:20pm - there are three choices – European, Indian vegetarian or Indian non-vegetarian [an interesting distinction!] and we finished the beer off with the meal.
From Travels

The next task was to then pack all of Chris’s gear into his paraglider bag, and this was accomplished with judicious stuffing and pushing of clothes and gear into the nooks and crannies of the harness and wing - then it was time for an early night as Chris had to be at the airport at 4:45am the next morning.

Wednesday 12 November
At 1am the phone went off – it was a call from accounts saying that Chris needed to pay for the ambulance that was going to take him to the airport. Chris patiently explained that East West (his medical insurance provider) were providing their own ambulance – and that he didn’t need or want the Max ambulance. At 2pm the phone went off again - accounts having another question about the ambulance - a not so patient response was given...

At 3am the phone went off again, this time requesting Chris to come down to obtain his discharge forms – he patiently explained that he was confined to bed and this wasn’t possible! I suggested that I would be able to do that a little closer to when we intended leaving. At 3:30am I reluctantly got up – and headed off to the Accounts Section (which runs 24/7!) Chris’s bill, which was being fully picked up by his insurance company, came to R51,000 – about NZ$1600 for a seven night stay!

Dr Singe and his accompanying nurse arrived about 4:15 and Chris was then bundled into the waiting ambulance. It was decided that with my paraglider and large suitcase that there was too much for me to also get in also – so I was to follow in a taxi. I tried phoning for a taxi unsuccessfully, then one of the security guards said that they would get a taxi for me. Five minutes later an unmarked car turned up, with the driver wrapped up in a blanket, and shivering in the cold. The agreed fare was R450. Just before we arrived at the airport he asked if I could pay before we arrived – as it was illegal for unlicensed taxis to drop people at the airport, and if asked to say he was a friend dropping me off! I found the ambulance outside Gate 3 as promised – where we proceeded wait for about 90 minutes while all the immigration procedures were sorted out. Eventually the ambulance moved off to deliver Chris to his Singapore Air flight (from which nine seats had been removed for his stretcher), and I headed off to check in for my Luthansa flight to Copenhagen.
From Travels

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Delhi again...

I'm back in New Delhi again - arrived on Saturday and have been hanging out with Lucy and Ozzie Chris. More details on Lucy's blog. Went off to the markets shopping for various trinkets for Lucy and Chris on Monday.....

Lucy doing exercises
Bernie, Chris and Peter

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Leaving Bir

I pack up in time for my taxi ride at 12pm – the trip to Dharamshala airport is at least two hours – the flight is 3:45, but contingency time has to be allowed for. A small Suzuki Maruti van arrives for me, and the agreed price is R1400 – about NZ$45. Miraculously the van has fully functioning safety belts. I encourage to the driver to also wear his – say that while he may be an expert and careful driver, that there were others on the road who were not, and that it improve his welfare by wearing it. He reluctantly puts it on…. An hour into the journey we are following a bus very closely, the driver looking for an opportunity to overtake, when the bus stops suddenly. Brakes are slammed on and we stop with a few inches to spare. The driver shortly afterwards then takes off his safety belt with a flourish – his demeanor indicating that he considers that by wearing the safety belt that it has jinxed his driving. Despite the near miss he is not inhibited from continuing to tailgate the bus. Five minutes later the inevitable occurs and the bus stops again suddenly. Once again brakes are slammed on, but this time we are short of about three inches. I laugh with involuntary nervousness as we thud into the rear end of the bus…. Having stopped for a few moments the bus continues on its way, the driver obviously oblivious to the collision at the rear! My driver jumps out and inspects the dented bumper and front panel. I assure him that the din rapid Hindi what has happened. We then continue on at an only slightly more sedate pace….

At Dharamshala airport I start chatting to the person next to me in the queue – his name is Tendzin Choegyal, and it transpires that he has visited Wellington in the past! He was part of the delegation that traveled with the Dali Lama a number of years ago, and that he was a former MP with the Tibetan Government in exile. I ask what I, as an individual, with many other demands on my time, could do in a remote land to promote the freedom of Tibet. His response was that I should travel with other paraglider pilots to Tibet to explore and get to know the place, even though it would mean money going to the Chinese government…. We sat together on the plane to New Delhi and had a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation. Tendzin was now devoting his life to studying Buddhism.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Last day of flying

My final full day in Bir before I head on my way…. I head up the hill with the rest of the group at about 11am. The inversion is looking strong, so there is no motivation to launch early. Beyond the Red Temple we can see a group of paragliders flying back towards launch. We presume that it a group that had gone off the previous day to search for a bag that had fallen from an unzipped pocket from 3000 metres on the Wednesday by Jim. It transpires that the bag HAD been found at 4pm the previous day (a real needle in a hay stack problem), but it was too late to fly back, so they had slept inside their wings on the mountainside.

I film Craig and Phil launching:
I eventually launch, but the thermals are rough where they bump up against the inversion, and Russian pilots still have no conception of how to apply the rules of the air, so I fly away towards the main landing area. I arrive with plenty of height, so I decide to do a spiral dive – a couple of wing-overs and I lock into a spiral. I gradually weight shift and the spiral tightens up, the Gs increase and the ground seems to approach rapidly. I’m going so fast now that I worry about exiting the spiral safely – I ease my weight shift to the other side and the spiral starts to ease off. However, I come out faster than anticipated and the wing threatens to surge overhead. A vigorous tug of the brakes stops the wing overshooting – so I then head off towards the landing area. I come in with what I consider is “just enough” height, but small thermals give the air lots of buoyancy and I keep sailing over the landing area and down over the rice paddies. Eventually my trajectory connects with the terrain and I am on the ground for my last landing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Flying to Mandi

Today I thought I'd video part of the drive up to launch - to give an indication of the steepness of the terrain:

I launched shortly after 12 and decided to head towards Mandi – a town about 45km south of Bir - I landed within about five kilometres of the "official" landing area - in a small paddy field, where a bullock plowman was chatting on his mobile phone!
From Travels

Once again I was meet by a substantial "welcoming committee"!
From Travels

The drive back was along about 75km of twisting mountainous roads, and took longer than the flight!

USA election results

Wednesday morning was significant because we watched the USA election results live on CNN a small Indian shop. A huge cheer went up from the crowd of foreign tourists at the end of Barach Obama’s victory speech.

Then went up the hill and watched people fly for a while then launched and just “boated around” enjoying the view and air. Highlight was thermaling with Himalayan Griffen Vultures
From Travels

Finished off by cruising out over the landing area at a high level then doing a “spiral dive” – this was my longest sustained spiral that I’ve done. Maximum descent rate was 14m/s – was rather exhilarating. Landed in the main landing area for the first time and watched lots of other wings come in::

Boating around the Red Temple

Four of us - Phil, Peter, Bernie and I went off boating around the Red Temple - a very pleasant two and a half hours in the air.
From Travels

Part of the Bir taxi fleet
From Travels

Monday, November 3, 2008

Buddhist monastry at Palpung Sherabling

On Monday a group of us traveled to the Palpung Sherabling Buddhist monastry near Bir.
From Travels
Inner courtyard.
From Travels
Lion guarding entrance.

Tibetian monks chanting:
Public safety, however, doesn't seem to be a high priority...

Farewell dinner

On Sunday night our group went off to an Indian restaurant to have a farewell dinner for those pilots heading back to Australia - eight of us crowded into two small Maruti Suzuki 800s, and travelled across rough roads for about 30 minutes to the best restaurant in the region.

From Travels
Peter, Matts (obscured), Ron, Julian, Phil (Sagar), Kris & Phil Hystek
The food was wonderful, as was the decor
From Travels
but the safety standards left something to be desired....
From Travels
Note lack of balcony on stairs up to restaurant!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Boating around

The inversion was still fairly strong on Sunday - however, I managed to launch without any issues on my first attempt, then spent a very pleasant 90 minutes "boating around" the launch area. The challenge I set myself was to get as high as possible given the conditions - I got up to 9500 feet (although launch is at 7500 feet!)
From Travels
From Travels

Bir has an "Unemployed Taxi Operators Union" - what they really intend to convey is that they are self-employed or independent contractors!
From Travels

Saturday, November 1, 2008


On Saturday our group was supposed to fly to Camp 360 to "Vol Bivouac" - however, the day was very strongly inverted (a layer of warmer air above cooler valley air), so the thermals weren't working very well.... Only three people managed to fly to the camp, with four others flying down to bomb-out, then catching a taxi, then donkeys, to the camp site. Julian and I had had several unsuccessful launch attempts (because of the very light wind conditions), so at the end of the day caught a taxi back down the hill and remained at the Colonel's Resort...

Several other Kiwis are here at Bir: Steve, Ko and Dave
From Travels

From Travels

Friday, October 31, 2008

Flight to Dharamsala

Thursday I launched to fly to Dharamsala 42km to the NW. However I landed 7km short - almost landing in the middle of a military base! From the air the large green field with "H's" on it looked very appealing. As I flew over other paraglider pilots radioed me say that they had landed there and had been surrounded by 20 armed soldiers and interogated for two hours!! It is relatively close to both China and Pakistan here - so there are SOME sensitivities. (Flight path in orange in map below)

Video from early in my flight:

At one stage of my flight I was flying with Himalayan Griffon Vultures - magic!
From Travels

One of our group crash landed in trees high on a ridge top - this entailed a rescue with a very late night for everyone.... See map below in "Day Two" for crash location
From Travels

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday 29 October

Today dawned perfect with a high cloudbase - so plans were made by some to fly to Manali. However, the lift proved slower than anticipated, so people headed towards Dharamsala. I spent too much time trying to get above the mountain behind launch (eventually getting to 10,500 feet!) before heading west. Five in our group made it to Dharamsala - including Lucy. They have decided to stay overnight there, and fly back to Bir tomorrow....
From Travels
Billing launch.

My total flight time today was two hours 50 minutes (Green line in map below)


Today dawned rather overcast, so the decision was made not to go flying. Instead we went exploring up into the gorge above Bir, where we found a waterwheel powered flour mill. Along the way we passed lots of locals carrying hay on their backs.

On the way back to Bir we bought fireworks for the Diwali festival - this is the start of the Indian New Year, and is celebrated with LOTS of fireworks.

From Travels
Julian preparing fireworks...

From Travels
Afermath of Diwali - the "string thing" is a VERY loud banger. In NZ you would need an explosives permit to set these off! We nicknamed them "nuclear bombs"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day two in Bir

Flew east to the Camp 360, then back along the ridge. In several days time it is planned that we all fly to this place, land, then "camp" overnight. Tents and food will be awaiting us - so it's not exactly Vol Bivouac.

From Travels
Lucy near Camp 360

I landed at Galu village, only five km from launch, but a 20 km drive! The field where I landed immediately filled with children, and shortly after I had landed a taxi turned up! They must keep an eye on low flying paragliders and then swoop on them when they land! The taxi cost 400 rupees - about $12!

From Travels

View Larger Map The flight took two hours and 45 minutes - blue line

That evening there was a wedding celebration at the place where we are staying - and we were all invited. Traditional wedding celebrations in this part of India have separate parties for the bride and groom! The men all dance together all very unashamadely - it was lots of fun!

Day one in Bir

Today's first flight is to the "Golf Course" where we do a top landing
From Travels
Golf Course. The first flight took exactly one hour - and ended with a rather ungraceful landing.... It is called "Golf Course" because from the air it looks like one! When we landed we were greeted by a group of immaculately dressed children who were tending cattle.
From Travels

New Delhi

After 28 hours of travelling I arrived at New Delhi and meet up with Lucy
From Travels

Video of traveling around the streets of New Delhi on a rickshaw:

Free flying at Canungra

Sunday dawned perfect - so a group of us decided to go off free flying.
From Travels
Beechmont was the destination, and we were soon in the air skimming underneath the clouds.... Unfortunately the clouds dissipated and I was on the ground in the Kerry Valley. Three other pilots laned near me on a very quiet country road and eventually we all got rides into Beaudesert... One of the features of Beaudesert is the "reverse-angle car parking"
From Travels

Monday dawned even better, and I headed off with six hang glider pilots to the Flying Fox launch. At 10:25 I was in the air and going up and on the start of a 42km tour of the Scenic Rim!
From Travels

I was joining up all the clouds and catching lift under each of them. eventually the clouds ran out and I landed on the main road south of Rathdowney.

Canungra Cup

The first day of the Canungra Cup dawned overcast and drizzly - nothing like a paragliding competition to awake the rain gods....

Day two was at Hinchcliffes launch - and I spent an hour scratching around in front of launch before heading to the bomb-out field....

Day three saw us heading to Beechmont, where we waited around in the drizzle. Eventually the drizzle dissipated and we launched into grey skies.... About ninety minutes was spent scratching around launch until I got sufficiently frustrated and headed south, only to land in a field of weeds with lots of seeds that stuck to anything and everything.
From Travels
Day four was fine and sunny with a light norwest, so we headed to Mt Tamborine. I managed to fly 11.4km - so I was happy to escaped the bomb-out zone....

Days five and six were wet and overcast or had thunderstorms forecast - so no flying...

Day seven saw us back at Beechmont in grey conditions. After an hour of frustration scratcing in front of launch I lobbed myself over the back hoping to catch a thermal but instead landed in the Flying Fox valley 100 metres short of escaping the 5km bomb-out zone...
From Travels
Day eight dawned brilliantly clear an saw us heading to Beechmont again. I launched in 6oth position, climbed out and immediately headed towards a thermal coming out of the Flying Fox valley. Soon I was pulling "big ears" to get out of cloud and I was on glide! 64km later I landed at Lake Moogera very happy!

Results and videos from the competition.
From Travels
Team Kiwi