Wednesday, 28 April 2010

How to become a tree hugger

This is my new paraglider. Swiss made, called Epsilon 6 and I am eager to get my first flights under the belt.

Here I am in the Dordogne valley, about a fortnight ago. The wind was quite strong, a bit too strong to be honest. Look at the wind sack, filled like sausage.

There was another paraglider pilot and the chap didn't hesitate a moment to prepare for take-off. He had some difficulties to launch but finally he made it in the air. His example made me decide to go as well.

First, I managed to lift off in spite of the strong wind. Here, I have already gained the first foot of height. Just lifting off.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake. Instead of speeding up (hands up at head level) I was braking (hands at hip level). Consequence, I was flying backwards, and in no time, I was back on Mother Earth

have a look

Being on the ground, the canopy above and behind me, I could not do very much. Du to the wind I was dragged backwards. Two or three seconds later the glider wrapped itself around this young oak tree and I came to rest near its trunk.

My flight was over. All I had to do was to disentangle the canopy and this I did.
It took me about an hour of intense work. A little later another pilot came and helped me from below.

Those photos were made by the wife of the airborne pilot. Thanks to Odile's photographic skills this little incident is thoroughly documented for the posterity. She proposed to send me some pics and I gave her my e-mail address. And she kept her word.

A paraglider is a high-tech machine, made of cloth and lines. To disentangle the stuff from a tree requires patience, lots of it. Don't tear on the lines, don't tear on the canopy. Patience, patience. The idea was to roll the glider right in the tree before getting in down all together. Fortunately, someone was helping me.

I don't even know his name. But we met yesterday before yesterday at the same site and I thanked him again for his help. If I meet him a third time, I'll ask his name. It's useless to propose a glass of beer in a pub, there is absolutely nothing near Mound Mercou. Just trees.

Friendly people.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Number 2 - Escaping death by a hair breadth

It seems I feel like adding one more post on this subject. But not chronologically, let's jump to the 1945 event "The School Yard Slaughter". The last of my near death experiences that happened during the Second World War.

My mom could not stand those daily bombings any longer. My father had a weak heart and was thus not drafted into the armed forces. But in 1945, the last months of this war, they took everybody who was at least able to crawl and he left for the militia (Volkssturm).

Old people reading the announcement that they are being called into the militia

My father gone, she decided to go to Vienna his native town. She thought in Vienna everything was peaceful, no air raids day and night. In this she was totally wrong but she did not know. In Prague our train trip came to an abrupt end. We never made it to Vienna.

/> Beautiful Prague - in peaceful peacetime

I don't remember what happened then, I don't remember but I know there was an air raid, a big one, king size air raid, have a look at Wiki here in case someone wishes to know more about this one. Anyway, I see myself walking through the streets of Prague, the houses on fire to the right and to the left. It was so hot we had to walk in the middle of the street.

Then a army truck picked us up and soon Prague was behind us, we were passing through the country side. Suddenly the driver stopped and even to me, now an old war hand six years old, it was quite clear why. Ahead of us, to the right and to the left side of the road, there were burning cars of all kind, a flaming car cemetery. We all stepped out, our flight ended here.

We were herded by Czechoslovakian or Russian soldiers into a kind of garden park. I think we waited there quite a long time. A soldier came, took some chocolate out of his pocket and looked at me, quite a long time. Finally he made up his mind, ate the chocolate himself and strolled away.

Finally we left the place. A long line of civilians and a few wounded soldiers. After some time we reached a school built of red bricks. They parked us in the square school yard, surrounded on all sides by the school building. On first floor, running all around, was a colonnade.

The armed men who guarded us stood in this colonnade, looking upon us.

Suddenly they started to shoot. A panic brought out, people were running in all directions to escape the bullets. We, too. There was a nurse tending to a wounded soldier: her throat was half ripped away and she was standing there. Our eyes met.

In a corner right under the colonnade were cellar doors and windows. Someone smashed those windows and my mom and myself found refuge there. At least they could not reach us from above. Our cellar was packed to capacity. We were standing there like sardines in a tin.

At some distance from where we were standing I hear a whimper: "water, water, water please". And then some else answered: "no way, he'll die anyway". Some minutes later we were standing knee-deep in ice cold water.

So we left the cellar. The shooting had stopped............


Yesterday, I had my first real flight with the new Swiss made paraglider. The wind was very strong, too strong. While starting, I was lifted up some meters, came down again and was dragged backwards on the ground. Then the canopy was stopped by a small oak tree wrapping itself around. I had nothing, not even a scratch. But it took me more than an hour to get the paraglider back to Mother Earth.