Colombia Dispatch 1

Going XC under humid Colombian Skies

I arrived in Bogotá Wednesday morning at 2am. I had a hostel bed booked for that night, but the receptionist left much earlier than I arrived. The night played out like a puzzle game (Myst, etc.), which I entered a code into the front door, unlocked it, found a paper message hidden behind a sign on the front desk, found room 201, and snuck into an empty bed. I had perhaps 4 hours sleep.

Later that afternoon, I boarded a plane to Pereira, close enough to Roldanillo to take a bus. I met up with a pilot friend from Romania (Ovidiu) and together we bused to Rolda. Scenery was familiar on the ride down. Bogotá was at 8660 feet of altitude, whereas Rolda and the Valle del Cauca were closer to 3000, so the temperature in this equatorial region was much hotter. We arrived around 6pm.

My first night in Roldanillo was spent greeting friends from the flying community and locals I knew. Some pilots I had flown with 2 weeks earlier in Mexico. It’s a common rotation to fly Valle De Bravo (Mexico) before coming to Roldanillo later in the winter. The air in Valle De Bravo gets pretty strong in February and March. I had a few beers and a Patacón (Arepa with meat and cheese on top of it. very dense) for dinner.

Sunscreen exploded inside my paraglider bag. I’ve been warned that this could happen for years. It finally happened.

Thursday was my first flying day, and my first flight on my new wing, a red Advance Sigma 10. I bused up to Aguapanela and put my gear down in the back of launch. First observation: this used Sigma 10 (40 hrs) looked fresh and crispy! I really like how the left and right risers are labeled with colors (red-Left, blue-Right). Second observation: My sunscreen had exploded in the accessories compartment of my paraglider bag. I smeared the leftovers on my face and invited other pilots to take the free sunscreen; sunscreen is surprisingly expensive here.

Before I could lay out my gear for launch, it started raining. lightly at first, but steady. I was worried that I might not get a flight at all, so seeing that it was sunny out in the valley, I launched toward dryer air. The rain felt much harder when I was flying through it at 25 mph (trim speed of this Sigma 10 is about the same as the Ozone Rush 4).

The Shark Pod eating some of the weird fruit. They looked like miniature spherical watermelons growing on a bush.

Indeed, the air was dryer, and thermals were popping above the town of Roldanillo. I got to cloud base and went XC north. After arriving at the town of La Union, I crossed the valley toward La Victoria. La Victoria is a pueblo in these scraggly mini-mountains in the middle of the valley. I got there high, but thermals were not working there yet (it wasn’t yet even noon!).

In a last desperate attempt to stay flying, I flew over a dry, brown corn field with a farm in the corner. Dry corn both collects and traps solar heat– the brown leaves soak up radiation and the tall stalks keep the hot air in one place until something triggers it to leave. I was hoping the farm would trigger the thermals (machinery moving air down there, people and animals walking about). I got nothing. Landed on a small hill next to the farm.

Part of my enjoyment of flying in Colombia is the walk out. It’s hot, yes, but I don’t mind it. I love seeing the variety of birds, the bulls with their weird camel-like back humps, and the weird fruit that grows everywhere. The people I have met in the past 3 years have been nothing but kind and helpful. Colombia is a friendly place.


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