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Monday, May 26, 2008

Flying over Yunnan

Paragliding from a mountain in Anning

Saturday it finally happened: we went paragliding! The original plan was to do it last week on Shos's birthday, but due to bad weather conditions it didn't happen. Since last Tuesday, however, the weather in Kunming is great again! So we (Shos, Stephanie, Marc and me) planned to go on Saturday. We met at 7.30 in the morning (which is hard if you went out until 5.00...) with the other flyers and the instructor. An hour and a half later we arrived on top of a 2500 meter high mountain next to the town of Anning. The sun was burning down on us and there wasn't a single tree or other shady spot in sight...

We decided that Marc should go first and so it happened. But unfortunately things did not go exactly as planned... the idea was to land back on the mountain, but the instructor was having difficulties finding a good thermal (hot air that you need to go up) so instead of landing at the top they landed in the valley. Not a big deal, but now we had to wait for almost three hours for the Jeep to go down, pick them up and drive back up again... not fun when the sun is trying to melt you and there's no hiding from it!

After two more flights (Dennis and Stephanie) it was Shoshannah's turn. Buckled up and excited she was ready to "fly" for the first time in her life. And she got lucky, right after take off the "wing" (as that paragliding thing is called) caught a big thermal and they went up and up and up... after a couple of minutes they reached almost 3200 meters and as we heard from her afterwards it was really amazing to experience the difference in altitude and layers of warm and cold air. Approx. 30 minutes she was back on the mountain and it was my turn.

For me it too would be the first time to do anything like this. Unfortunately I have never done bungyjumping, parasailing, kitesurfing or any of those other exciting things... But now it was going to happen. After a failed take-off, the wing caught a bad wind and dragged us back on our asses instead of lifting us up, we succeeded in becoming airborne!!!

During my flight the instructor (Mike) had the same problem as during Marc's flight, he couldn't find a thermal to bring us back up again. The cool part was that he decided to fly away from the mountain and look for some good air on the highland. And we found a good air stream! Nothing big, but strong enough to take us back to 2600 meters so we could land on the mountain. Because of all this searching my flight lasted 40 minutes which was quite nice!

Overall a great day, except for the major face burn Shos and I have now... haha! We look like a couple of tomatoes! The flight including transportation costs only 380 kuai per person (about €35,-) which is almost for free compared to what you pay in Western countries. Where Mike works in Canada people pay 150,- Canadian dollars for a 20 minute flight and each additional 5 minutes is another 20 dollars! So we got a great day for a great price!

Now back to normal life with more preparations for the roadtrip, mailing parcels home, prepping classes and putting lotion on our faces ;-)

Tis hier fantastisch!
Ruud Laoshi

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