Monday, 20 July 2009

Encounters during holidays

Frequently, when on holidays, you don't meet anyone, just grockeling around, sometimes talking to waiters, hotel personnel etc.

But I happen to be a camper whenever possible and the activity of paragliding makes it easier, too, to engage a conversation with strangers.

After grockeling around for a weekend in Pau (on video till 1.30) and deprived of sleep in the local camp side by a bunch of night-boozers and dedicated beer-singers we moved to Accous for more peaceful surroundings, the splendor of the mountains and for flying.

First encounter:Jean-Luc in his camping car. He was squatting near the glider landing patch, looking longingly at the sky. "Not today, he said to me, ceiling far too low". In the evening, after dinner, we had our first pow wow, no camp fire but a glass of Porto.

He had become a paraglider addict. Nothing else counted any more. He bought this camping car, kind of live-in truck and took a three-months-leave to travel from one flying site to another. He regretted his girl friend, met two months before, but that's life, he explained to us. Before hitting the Pyrenees, he had been to Greece, Spain, Morocco, Portugal. His son from an earlier marriage, living nearby, came to visit him for the week-end. "Papa has gone crazy", he told me. "What about visiting the Lescun mountain circus" (see also video, from 5.07 to 5.50), I suggested one day. "There is certainly no flying today". "No, no, thank you, he said, "the weather might turn at noon and then I am ready".

Second encounter: Pierre, the hard of hearing. He had booked a 5-day-session at the local flying school for about 450 € (about 500 US$) and camped right next to us. They start the real flying right on the second day but he didn't dare. On the third day he had a tandem flight but still was unable to do it alone. Did the instructor talk too fast? I don't know, I wasn't there.

I told him that to be afraid is normal. "Each time I decide to leave for a flight somewhere, I have to go to the toilet, every time. And this though I have now about 500 flights under the belt". He was afraid and I understand him. Each pupil carries a walkie talkie attached to his harness but Pierre did not fully understand the messages and probably only half of what the instructors told him. Who would dare to launch himself under these conditions?

Third encounter: Mister X, the smoker-boozer: He arrived during the bad weather period and was obliged to set up his tent when it was raining cats and dogs. We felt sorry for him. Next day he told us inside everything was dry. The first day he just sat inside his open tent on a low chair smoking cigars as thick as my middle finger and coughing from time to time. Late afternoon I met him again in the nearby little supermarket where he bought a bottle of rosé wine. When I came back to our tent he was already sitting on his chair, smoking, coughing, his bottle next to him.

Second day: no movement to report. Whenever we came back he was sitting there, steadfast.

Third day: no movement to report. Just smoking, coughing but the wine looked like red one.

Forth day: no movement to report. Just smoking, coughing but the bottle seemed to contain something else.

Fifth day: same as before. I was a bit uneasy having never met someone like that. We exchanged polite greetings plus some small talk remarks about the weather. In the late afternoon I took the shuttle that ferries the pilots to the paraglider launching pad (at 1.47 till 1.52 in my video). And who was standing there, red in the face and smoking a cigar: Mister X! I proposed him to take the shuttle down but he declined. Walking up there takes you about 3 hours and a little less to get you down.

But he had not finished to astonish us: one day in the late afternoon we suddenly heard a very loud, lousy gangsta rap coming from a house near the camp site. There was a bunch of teenagers sitting on the terrace and having a good time. After an hour or so it stopped. Next day, same time, same "melody". But as I walked past the car of Mister X I suddenly realized that he and not those youngsters had the rap stuff coming out of his car radio!

Fourth encounter: superman. We met him first while walking from the campsite to the village. A bus stopped at the main road, he got out carrying his huge paraglider on his back, a backpack in front and trailing a luggage caddy. Next day I met him in the shuttle going to the launching pad. There was no wind, so we all had to run as fast as possible to take off. He was the only one who managed to stay in the air. It was amazing. This guy was the best pilot I have ever met. One of the next days we were sitting at the launching pad, waiting for some wind coming out of the right direction. When you sit on the ground, your trouser pants come up a bit. This guy had only one leg and was wearing a prosthesis!

Another day, Luis the superman was sitting next to me in the shuttle. "Let's relax a bit" he said, took his wooden leg off and swallowed some pills. Pain killers I imagine.

Then came a five day stretch with very bad weather. Not the slightest chance to fly and thus we moved around to visit places. Luis told me his intention to leave for the Atlantic coast, flying at the Pyla dune. But when the weather cleared up, he was there, waiting for the shuttle. He did not leave at all but had remained inside his bed and breakfast house, all holed up, becoming invisible to the outside world. He had no car and could thus go nowhere.

Where did he loose his leg? He was vague about this "it was an accident" but living in Tel Aviv/Israel I can imagine what kind of accident that was.

PS: The last post had 185 visitors. Not bad for a shithole!


  1. You do meet the most extraordinary people!
    Something about people out of their normal element, in places where they are relaxing or recreating. My children like to make up huge stories about the strange people we meet camping. Sometimes i wonder if the stories aren't far from the mark!
    congratulations on your shit hole.

  2. Hi Georg,

    Enjoyed reading the post and watching the videos and photos. Some shots ares simply breathtaking. Seems you have a flair for photography too.

  3. To Sorrow
    Glad to hear you liked it, those little descriptions. Unfortunately, modern life being as it is, those kind of encounters tend to remain an exception in the habitual surroundings.

    To Vinod
    Thanks for the compliment. I always liked to make photos but our big chance - yours and mine - has been the Internet. Now, for the first time in human history, everybody who owns a computer can sing his own tune instead of just listening to the "chattering classes".

    Cheers to both of you

  4. Hi Georg,nice to have you back!btw: thanks for your nice comment while I was in my short holiday-break,I almost choked laughing!I love your comments ;o)
    Have a nice day!

  5. Those are some nice shots there Georg!
    Isn't it strange that meeting strangers makes us and others(here me as in the reader of your blog) more aware of who we are...
    Your meeting those people and your exchanges, or the lack thereof, with them help in understanding who you are :)
    ...and it's all good Georg :)

  6. To Geisslein
    Sorry to hear you are already back from your island trip. I imagined you are just getting ready for some intense grockeling.
    Glad to hear you like my comments, I do what I can to keep you smiling.

    To Id
    You made there a very true observation. You are right, those encounters help to position yourself and become aware of difference in character and outlook. I'll remember your comment.


  7. Wow, you do meet all sorts of people wherever you go! :o) Mr. Superman would really get on well with the Californian surfers, I think. They go out for any kind of waves at all and would stay at it all day if you let them.

    Thanks a bunch for a good glimpse of your trip! I love tacking along on other people's vacation. ;o) Southern France looks like paradise!

    Smorgy :o)

  8. Hallo Smorgy,

    Thanks for your kind comments. I suppose not only Superman would have a great time atthe California Pacific coast but ME, too. I'd love to go there and flying at the other side of the world (your side).

    Southern France is certainly beautiful. But it should be said that all over Europe you find spots of splendor. Contrary to those real big continents like America and Asia, little Europe has a landscape that can change radically within 50 km (30 miles).


  9. C'est vrai qu'en "se déplaçant" on rencontre des gens étonnants.
    Il m'est arrivé de rencontrer des personnes très originales, mais bien souvent c'est après "coup" que je mesure "leur dimension" sans pour autant décrypter leur propre façon de voir le monde!
    Pour la question que tu me poses sur Sirius qui est mentionnée dans le Coran, je ne sais pas grand chose sur ce sujet. Lors des études scientifiques on nous dit toujours que cette étoile était mentionnée dans le Coran et dans la sourate an-Najm, verset 49, elle était déjà reconnue comme étoile double avec une orbite de 49,9 km et il a fallu attendre le 20ème siècle pour en avoir la confirmation avec une orbite pratiquement égale à 50 km. Si je sais autre chose dans le Coran elle est appelée Chi'râ ou asche-era (à peu près...)
    Je te souhaite une bonne soirée