I know there are mountains all around me even though I can’t really see them. I can feel them looming though. I know there are beautiful rocky outcrops, huge open spaces and my favourite lake (so far) in the world. Climbing, flying, walking, chilling and much more in store for the next two weeks. I’m so excited I can barely sit still.
We have arrived in Annecy. It’s dark and we have been on the road for 13 hours. That doesn’t sound like much fun. You think that the drive is the most boring part of the trip. But it’s actually wonderful when you get to spend that much time with your good friends. There’s nothing like spending 13 hours locked in a box together to remind yourselves that you love each other. We have talked bollocks, giggled, shared (driving, food, etc) and gossiped all the way down.
I’ve already met someone with so much flying, climbing and life experience that I am listening in awe. Even though it’s dark, we can see the shadows of the mountains. There’s much more to say, but I’m exhausted and tomorrow’s looking good, so I must go to bed and prepare myself for the fun!
I was so tired on Sunday, I actually fell asleep on the sofa, using the dog as a pillow. The reason? Breaking a flying personal best – nearly four hours airtime in one day.
To put this into perspective, this is nearly as much as I managed to fly in my first year after qualifying. This makes me reflect on what I’m doing differently now, compered to then. How did I go from 10 minutes being a good day, to the point where I expect an hour in the air whenever I go out?
Firstly, preparation. I was there at sunrise. After christening the new (pink) barbecue under the stars at Bo Peep with Em the night before, I’d curled up in the van wrapped up in my enormous duvet. Waking up at 6, I looked out at the rising sun, snoozed the alarm clock for a bit, made breakfast and lunch so I wouldn’t have to come back to the van, covered myself with factor 50 (one less thing to worry about on launch) and finally dragged myself out and up to take-off.
The wind felt quite strong on launch. But having been monitoring it on the way over and as I unpacked, I was able to make a quick judgement that it was within safe levels and be decisive about launching. This was helped by the hours I’ve spent ground handling my wing in the past year – hugely increasing my confidence at taking off in all sorts of different conditions.
Next, I set myself challenges and kept myself busy! Four hours of ridge soaring would have felt like a very long time indeed! But I took pleasure in exploring along the ridge – seeing how far I had the confidence to go in either direction. I got low and then scratched back up. At one point I went from thinking I was headed for the landing field to being top of the stack in two beats along the hill.
I loitered over launch as I watched a lost lamb running from pilot to pilot, wing to wing, bleating at them to try and find his mummy (while the mean pilots on the ground made jokes about mint sauce and discussed whether they preferred roast or casserole). I chased birds, with a wry grin as the gulls tricked me into following them, only to fly off as I arrived to find they’d been playing in sink.
I chased my friends round the sky, flying with Em, Catherine, Franco, Kevie, Mo and others at various times during the day. I chatted to other pilots as we flew around. I took photos from the air. I practiced using my speed bar to get through the sink. I pushed out front looking for lift, trying not to worry about having to walk up if I went to the bottom. And then, when we thought it was all over, I had one more little flight, squeezing the last bit of lift out of the day.
In between all that, I found time to relax in the sun with my mates, chat about our imminent adventures to Annecy, drink coffee and eat cake, finally wrapping the day up with a beer and sausage sandwich back at the van. Obviously this last bit didn’t help in beating my PB, but was a great way to end a great weekend!
So, it’s time to say goodbye to Sussex for a while. It’ll be May by the time I get back from holiday and fly my home sites again. But what a way to say goodbye 🙂