Afternoon took us to Palo Buque again, and it was a bit stronger than the other days. Little did I know I'd get a bit more excitement than anticipated... We drove out to the desert as was our usual routine, and got to Palo Buque and conditions were strong, and the skies were pretty clear. Lots of energy coming off the ground. We pulled into our usual spot which was away from the beginning edge of the ridge and at the point where the little hill meets the main ridge line.
We were told it may be better to go way lower down where the winds would be a bit lighter than coming to the base of the "little hill" to kite. I practiced and drilled on kiting, as did others, and there were more than a couple of body drags that went on.
Christine whom I have dubbed "Helium Girl" for her propensity to massively sky out at Alto Hospicio every morning, was kiting further back and behind me. A particularly strong cycle came through and I had my wing down and was doing my best to keep it from taking me for a ride, when I hear a wing rustling behind me. Whilst holding my wing down, I see Christine being dragged while laying on her side calmy kiting her wing while she went sliding by for another 40-50ft before Jorge caught up and helped her get up.
We all had a good laugh about it and we're told it's good not to panic. It's only sand, and at some point there'll be a lull in the cycle, or you'll have an opportunity to correct things. All turned out well so...whew!
There were quite a few wings in the air all over the hill and way way WAY up gliding around. It's deceptive though. You'd think conditions were good until you get to see the wings and realize they are all small acro wings out there. Guys top landing and doing all sorts of shenanigans and playing along the ridge. Most of us just kited and waited for things to slow down a bit.
At Palo Buque as the day draws on, the clouds will begin to pull in and things will mellow out a bit. This is usually around 6pm or so and today was a bit of an exception. Things seemed to mellow, and a few of the more advanced pilots kited up and launched. I decided to give it a go, and by the time I'd gotten my wing about 1/2 way up, I realized it was pretty strong.
Jorge was nearby and told me it may be better to bring the wing lower on the hill, but I wanted to wait for a lull (it was hard work kiting it up that far!). Things just weren't getting that much better, so we talked about it a bit, and decided I'd try and get the wing up and go out and forward to land out.
This is where things got exciting. I got the wing up with a lot of energy, turned and looked up and my left tip had a nice juicy cravat in it. It was strong and was oscilating a bit from a combination of strong wind and looking at the cravat and trying to play with it by tweaking the brakes (too much)....Jorge told me to fly out straight to land. The wing seemed OK but with the strong wind every time I felt the wing pull to the left, I pumped the right brake (bad! I should have just kept my weight on the right side and flew it out) Was told putting brake on the right with a cravat on the left puts the wing closer to stall...all while this is happening my radio goes out. Instructors are trying to talk to me from the ground, but I couldn't hear them...yeeesh.
It was a bit more exciting than I was hoping for, but I managed to safely land the wing without incident and Jorge debriefed me on what I needed to do and reminded me that that tweaking the stabilo line may have gotten things corrected easily. I was a bit bummed by the whole thing, but will mark this down as a lesson in handling cravats and try to do better next time.
The cerveza afterwards tasted particularly good. I'm very thankful for having 4 instructors (Luis, Todd, Jorge, Ken) there to encourage, teach, and help debrief us to improve our skills. All 4 bring different skills teaching styles to the table, and all of them are great to learn from. All the pilots on this part of the trip have been really fun to fly with as well...a wide and varied group of people all very unique and we all share the bond of free flight...
Overall, another great day in Iquique!