Another Ďurifuk’s adventure is a bit copy paste of that one from last year… however, I found out that in Nepal you can push your limits and besides that the time for this trip suited me really well, you know I’ll be off from home to Africa so I will look in on Himalayas on my way back home. Full of last year’s experience, hungry for adventure, longing for juicy mountains and unknown places and pretty fat after the winter, I would like to fly over 2/3 of Nepal and try to break the record, in that Aspen6 help me. Sure, it’s just a dream, I’m filled with respect.
Himalayas welcome me, as expected, with bad weather, the airplane is holding for an hour around Kathmandu, flying between storms and lightnings. I was a bit unsure because I decided to come here 2 weeks later, as my original plan said that at this time the weather could be better. Well, never mind, I’m studying the cloud layers from the safety provided by the steel monster.
I was faster than Mišo Sabovčík (my climbandfly partner, now conquering the 8000m´s) and I’m in Nepal one day earlier, the conditions after the storm became superb, so Mišo, sorry, I’m off to pursue follow the challenge. Flying together over Himalayas will have to wait and beer for 4.5 Eur/0.5l, too.
And good choice it was! In Pokhara I meet some friends, local tandem pilots and Sherpas. All of them worship me as if I were the Pope, it feels a bit awkward, I don’t enjoy this kind of stuff when my performance is really good, not to mention this easy-peasy flying. You know, it’s nothing special to fly 150km in such Mountains (not to repeat the word Himalayas all the time), just as “friend” said, “in that part of the world also the doors fly”… therefore the number of registered flights longer than 150km is exactly (in that time)… ZERO point nothing. Over 140km there are three; one of them is that mine form last year. However, in Slovakia the registered number of flights over 140km is exactly 197… so you can make your own opinion about who plays what kind of game. Why is it so?
Mountains are really great so are the thermals, the elevation between the valleys and the summits is sometimes 8000m with the distance of only 20km. That also means that the clouds, cumuli, so important for me to fly, are not higher than 4000m AMSL. Huge mountains also mean quite frequent storms and overdevelopments and quite short periods of time during the day that could be used for flying. You can take of at 3500m at 8:30 but you need special conditions for that; mountains which are around 2000m can support you until 10:30 and sun sets around six in the evening. However, in Alps you can fly until 10 pm or in Slovakia till 8 pm. What’s more, the time available for flying is quite significantly reduced by already mentioned storms. If lower mountains work (2000m) so it’s obvious that 8000 will produce some kind of storm already at noon and if not, you roam around in inversion and blue sky. And to summarise, to fly 150km through the air means 200 or more on the roads and not highways like at us and in two hours you are done. In Nepal 200km means 6 and more hours of bone-shaking drive. Therefore only a few people have the courage to go for this kind of trip in this kind of conditions and of course it’s connected also to bivouacking… and this is exactly why I’m here.
So the plan is as follows: get to the Mardi Himal camp or to Korchon – place above 3000m because of an early take off and fly towards east as much as possible to the eastern borders of Nepal. And since there is not much money I want to reach those place on the wing, for free
Nevertheless, my trips wouldn’t be that worth, if there were no strange things going on. Someone planted a bomb on the last and the only bridge on the main road in Pokhara, you know a plastic bag with some wires and other bullshit, which you can find on every corner here. So the road is closed, everyone is waiting, standing still, police officers are guarding the bridge, trying to look really important, carrying their Lee Enfield rifles that were used for the last time in ’41 during the siege of Singapore … everyone is taking pictures and laughing but me… Finally it turned out to be a harmless bag with trash but it managed to create a real traffic jam.
In the morning… how can a man feel like when watching such mountains, sorry, MOUNTAINS, not having anything to compare in the world? Crown of our planet Earth, Mountains proudly towering into the sky, beautiful and killing at the same time, some of them smooth because of the strong wind, others covered in the snow-white gown, like brides… they’re calling me. Just come, come closer and you’ll see, experience! Damn it! There I fly!
The first day is spoiled by clouds and showers already around noon… it’s snowing on me in 2500m! However, the visibility is incredible… just a bit of speed, trying out the possibilities of the new Aspen and camping on the ridge of Sarankgot in the evening, looking forward to the visual orgasm.
atmosphere and solitude like a real congestus.
In the middle of the night I’m awaken by bright light, maybe Šimek – a friend from the Skybean company wanting to get some experience and flight hours here – arrived. I jump out of the tent and I’m almost thrown back… the full moon is lighting up everything around… and those hillsides! I didn’t sleep much, I just gaped like an oyster, or like Slovaks at the rising preferences of certain political parties.
I’m up before the sunrise, excited about that show… staring again. One can barely get used to such majesty.
I’m enjoying the moment until ten, and then unpack my Aspen and right from the place where I slept there I jump straight into the sky where my place is.It takes quite a while to climb the higher mountains, captivated by the view I fall to the ground. I waved down two or three motorbikes to Diky Danda, the closest take off spot. Again, I try to make it to 3000 m summit for tomorrows take off but the weather doesn’t let me… the clouds are too low. I land at 2800 hoping that I will manage the half-meter snow and 200m high and steep uphill in trainers.
I break two two-meter long bamboo sticks, spit into my hand and let’s go. In half an hour I’m sweaty like a dog, I’m cold, there are ice-tongues falling all around me and I’m falling with them. There is no place to build a tent and to walk down the hill wouldn’t be much better. 20 kilos on my back cuts down my mobility and changes my centre. I’m thinking over this whole situation, if I stay here, feet will be wet in the morning as I won’t manage to make fire in the snow. There’s no place to build a tent in the slope, it will be difficult to manage it till the morning. There’s no other choice than to fly down. No wind, steep and slippery hill, that will be something. Fortunately, we’d been trying such wise things the whole winter with Mišo in certain unnamed mountains, so I don’t hesitate and jump down between the rocks… and damn it, I made it! When I land in Diky Danda take off place in the evening, I have a small snow fight with a farmer. We laugh and enjoy the evening at a fireplace with his sons and some friends. I got a bowl of rice and some milk with flies in it. I didn’t make it to Korchon, but I can’t say I didn’t try. Tomorrow, off I go!
I wake up to a nice, though, not the most beautiful morning. When I think about it now backwards, I should have skipped Korchon and fly straight to the east from Sarangkot. Cloud base is much lower than the day before. The Green Wall summit is covered with clouds already at ten in the morning. No time to waste, I jump. Sore through the sky like birds of prey, chasing kilometres.
The cloud base goes up and down sometimes even 200m and so it happens that after a jump I reach another cloud, sometimes I have to fly around then. The visibility is still OK so it enables me and my camera to chase some of the beauties of this country.
Paths cut in the steep hillsides, thousands of noodle-like terraced rice fields many Buddhist sanctuaries.
I try to focus on the flight and it’s quite good, I’m up high, with quite a lot of speed following the weather development. Gradually, it’s becoming bad, clouds have grown, cumulus castellatus developed into congestus and near the town of Besisahar I’m under a real shower, black like prime minister’s soul. Hail and with full speed of my Aspen, it hurts quite a lot on my cheeks protected only by a balaclava.
So to summarise, I have to fly around it… I didn’t take pictures of the other dark thingies, as I want to have nice shots of Nepal and show them for you. I fly around it and as a reward I see pretty clouds above the lower mountains and significantly higher cloud base. I’m saving the situation almost from the ground, but with a bunch of feathered friends, it’s really awesome.
The kilometres are increasing and I’m not lazy anymore. I just jump below the clouds, full speed and enjoy everything until I reach the valley of the Salasunga Mountain, quite distinct seven-thousander. There it is, quite fat bun with hail, but the base looks tempting, cut like with a knife, but darker then plans of Rotchild about NWO. I can use it :D in 2500m I’m under it, full speed and climbing. Until it’s behind I manage to get wet and test the ears with speed. But it helped. The tachometer shows 130km, it could be enough for today, or?
New Nepalese distance record… considering the fact that I wanted to land after 30km because I was bored… not bad! :D (later in april overflown by Franchise...damm it, need to go there again!)
In gentle rain I soar over the valley, over me a huge haze of anvil shades a huge area. Well, never mind, I will soar this hill and then land. I’m trying to figure out where to land, north-east wind is not very weak, I have to land as high as possible and at the same time it has to be not very far from tomorrow’s take off spot.
I land on a filed at 1400m, of course, with the compulsory attendance of everyone in the view, not possible to pee after six hours :D , and of course none of them speaks English. I just pack my stuff and go up the hill while all the bystanders are wondering.
From my “house window” that easily travels with me, I see mountain 4000m high, you know, just like that, so I’m enjoying it, you don’t see it every day!
I wake up, outside it’s still gloomy, cook some dried food, look for water and then I march up the hill again, as high as I can to find a usable meadow.
I wait for an hour, maybe two, until I can go. Meanwhile I free the meadow of the bushes and weed that could get tangled in my Aspen. It’s 10:30 and… hop into the sky. This place is familiar to me, I know it from the last year’s Hikemalya, I named it the Ridge of Buddhist Sanctuaries. There are three sanctuaries on three kilometres with those little flags and the ridge is closed by a windy saddle which changes the nature of the mountains behind it. The ridges aren’t oriented to E-W anymore; they’re higher and south facing with wide valleys. It’s nice to fly here with the strong tail wind. My current wind is weak; moreover I’m chased by patches of mid-level clouds.
Nevertheless, the views are marvellous, breath-taking and enthralling, height above the ground I can look from perspectives that for millennia were granted to birds only.
Already the second part of the day is a struggle, I flew into a shade and damn low, I’m strungling for quite a long time, but my patience brings kilometres… the school kids ran out on the yard following me, they missed a class; men, whom I fly over the heads while shovelling the road don’t give a damn about the work, they’re just gaping… until I climb again into 3000m. I wave, they wave, I shout “Namaste”, they shout back, kids are shrieking.
give a damn about the work, they’re just gaping… until I climb again into 3000m. I wave, they wave, I shout “Namaste”, they shout back, kids are shrieking.
I’m flying above familiar terrain, I basically copy my line to Bimeshewar, kind of a town, with “multi-storey” buildings. From that spot I fly again to the unknown, and to be honest, I guess that no one else but me and John Silverster flew these places…
I make 20km more to the next valley, where I’m nailed down by a strong wind. While landing, I sore maybe 30m above ground from left to right a 100m long section, kids ditching the school, thinking that I’m about to land are chasing me. Well, they did like half marathon
I run double quick up the hill, it’s not that late though, nevertheless I need to get as high as possible, on the ridge at 2700m where it’s cold, real cold. I unpack the tent on the back yard of a family next to the road, daddy, 21 years, speaks a bit of English so I explain all sorts of things about flying and they, on the other hand, tell me something about the life here in Nepal. It freezes at night.
In the morning it’s still bloody cold. Quickly I pack my stuff and walk away, I have to find a place for the take off, this is too high and the valley is closed. The cloud base is barely at 100-200m above my head, but the views…! That mountain in the back can have around 6k and two summits…
It’s 37 km until the last spot on my offline map as the crows fly, and as the guy said yesterday evening, it’s possible to get to Kathmandu from there. The place’s called Okhaldhunga and that’s the farthest place he’s ever been to. Well, I’ll fly there and will see how it looks farther, and maybe I’ll fly farther. Woohoo, like a pioneer
I’m walking along a road where after few houses there’s nothing else, the road is getting lost in the jungle… so there I go. After few km I’m one ridge farther but I can’t see a suitable place for take off. I’m climbing the trees to get a better view. Finally, I realise that I took the longer way in vain and the four meadows are too closed or grown so I jump of the road embankment. Yes, there again, into the ocean of blue freedom, vast and never-ending. The place where I’m not just the eternal student, but actually, yes I am, I still can’t fly that well…I love this place as there is still something to discover and see… and where in good weather the kilometres are the question of just a few minutes, mountains are rarely obstacles too big and the joy can’t be compared!
Anyway, I have to focus; as such experience is not completely “for free”. You have to deserve the altitude, understand the wind and know the mountains… and yet, they can surprise. This time I’m in strong valley wind, it blows that strong that I have the feeling that the air is being stolen to China through Tibet.
I’m pushing against the wind, slowly but surely. Three ridges on the west side of the valley, jump over the valley, three on the east valley side and an hour is gone. It was tough.
After this crisis I’m rewarded by strong thermals, floating under the clouds with perfect views. I fly above the valley to Lukla and Namche and I’m strongly considering turning to that direction and like a boss catch the Dhaulaghiri expedition and we’ll fly with Mišo like two times that bigger bosses. But Mišo left his wing in Kathmandu so it would be pity… and I’m not that big pilot yet, I don’t have the permit to enter that area and my boots are not suited for that winter.
I pass the last spot of my offline map, but as it still looks pretty good, without forests and civilised, I fly on… bravely eastwards!
While jumping over the valley the sky gets dark, I will land soon, I have quite a lot of kilometres, around eighty. I’m approaching the third hour in the air, I’m hungry… but Aiolos makes the decision, I climb a cloud and sore the darkness in the strong wind… I see a town with concrete multi-storey buildings in front of me, that looks nice, there’ll be food for sure, I’ll recharge the batteries and will stay at a hotel. I’m landing under clearly expressed astonishment of people, goats, cows and sheep on the football pitch. I’m asking what kind of place it is. Bhojpur!
English speaking or rather understanding people were two times that surprised when I told them that I came here from Pokhara in two days. None of them has ever been there and those who have heard of it are trying to explain that it’s the second largest city in Nepal :D
Into the hotel, charge the batteries and download new maps… it’s not the ideal place for tomorrow’s take off, yet it’s quite close to the borders, today I’ve made another 100 km through the air.
Repairing my torn harness with skytex and right after the dawn I’m gone. Shallow hills surrounding the city were good enough for yesterday’s landing, but not for today’s take off. I’m struggling nice two hours across the city to find a place that can be used. It blows from west, clouds are low and those 5 km I walked disappear in haze… it won’t be worth a penny today. And so I drift over a shallow hill in zeroes, at last I grab one three-meter into the cloud but can’t see the ground! It’s just a dark-grey haze…I pass the valley and the valley wind pushes me down, soaring a bit but I decided to put an end to this torture.
I have flown maybe 25km more eastwards. It’s enough, I can’t see properly and this time I don’t really need to push my limits any further in a country I don’t really know.
My hike and fly and camp trip in Himalayas, thus HikeflyMAYA, approaches its end… only four days, yet interesting, full of unseen beauties and unexpected experiences. I tested a new release by Gradient Aspen6, improved the distance record by few kilometres, but mainly, I discovered new places, of course from the air.
It was great. Traditionally in the style of VENI VIDI (VOLANTIS) VICI (I came, I saw, (I flew) I won). The 330km journey I made in 4 days by flying took me 28 hours in terrestrial means of transport on my way back.
Thanks to all of you, who made it up here, I spent a beautiful blue sky afternoon with the keyboard… another article with travel tips and the remaining part of the trip will be added later in a separate article.
Thanks to all participating parties and sponsors: Zajo for great equipment against cold and dark, Skybean for the devices without which I would be lost in time and space and mainly Gradient for a superb wing, Aspen6, I probably fell for it