Sunday, March 1, 2009

Paragliding from Carlo Sandblow...

On the recommendation of fellow travelers, I stopped at Rainbow Beach, a small town of several hundred residents, which sits at the base of a steep sand ridge at the edge of the ocean. It is surrounded by the Great Sandy National Park which boasts miles of pristine sand beaches with rustic camping….

In the mornings, I’ve been bobbing in 80-degree waves – I even bought a “boogie board,’ (and trendy board shorts, of course,) which, I realize, may give the impression I’m turning to a ‘rip curl’ lifestyle; so, I’ll disclose the foam board’s true function which is to prevent me from getting ‘tumbled and polished’ in the surf! – And in the late afternoons, I walk the beach in search of a fortune in long-lost, sunken treasure; which I imagine to be washed ashore with the very next wave.


Ray (70+ years old) sits in his harness after taking off.

I noticed, (you’d have to be more than near-sighted not to,) a half-dozen, colorful paragliders soaring atop the steady, on-shore breezes that collide with the steep sandy ridges of the peninsula. The owner of the local BP Petrol station scrawled a crude map directing me to the Carlo Sandblow (a vast sand 'desert' atop one of the cliffs) where the gliders launch from; I was curious to see them up close.


John, preparing to launch his glider.

I’m sure it’s no great surprise to learn I spent the afternoon ‘talking thermals’ with the pilots on the dunes and even managed to hitch a ride, or should I say, “hitch a glide” back to town with Jean-Luc, the local paragliding guru/instructor in his tandem glider. I sat nestled in a cozy, nylon ruck-sack (harness), for a half-hour flight of cruising the ridgeline with the eagles. The experience was at once, serene and surreal – like soaring in a sailplane, but without the plane!


Jean-Luc and me.


Carlo Sandblow, the launch site (and usual landing spot) is visible atop the ridge ahead of us.

Jean-Luc pointed out the remnants of a wooden shipwreck of long ago as well as a group of large manta rays clearly visible, feeding on the sand bar directly below us. We talked about the rising sea level, global warming and climate change, the Obama presidency and how to read the winds; in a manner as laid-back as conversing over a cold VB Bitter (local beer) at the Surf Club. The rousing flight culminated with a flawless touchdown amid an audience of sunbathers on the town’s public beach!

See more pics at: http://picasaweb.google.com/jeffreythib/RainbowBeach

2 comments:

Martin said...

Jeff, I sooooo!! envy you. Paragliding no less!! This sounds like so much fun. I hope you think of me when you do this kind of aerial stuff!!!! Pep

JPT said...

http://picasaweb.google.com/jeffreythib/RainbowBeach

Yes, Dad... I was thinking of the sailplane ride we took last summer. Paragliding is so much fun. I'm heading to Noosa for the weekend, but I'm tempted to come back to Rainbow Beach (1.5 hrs. drive) next week and take a couple of lessons with Jean-Luc. You actually get to solo on the first day... but just in the sandblow. Or as Jean puts it, "In the safety of the 'nest'!" It's 10 lessons to a license and there are great flying spots all over the US. Utah has some spectacular rides as does California. Anywhere with mountains and thermals or ridge-effect winds. We'll see. I'd like to try one lesson to see if I can get it off the ground!
Take it easy, Dad. Love you.
JP
By the way, there are a couple more pics of the sandblow at the link above. (copy and paste in your browser)