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Hinterlands Drifter Tour 2012
Finally, the write-UP, photos and hang gliding video below:
(I suggest using the slide-show feature when viewing the photos. -Awesome.)
I'm finally catching my breath and have a chance to blog the Australian flying adventure that we hosted this past October, the Hinterlands Drifter Tour. It was our second tour that we've done, growing from 6 pilots (8 total including crew) previously, to 13 pilots (18 including crew) on this event. The HDT was a rally style road/air trip from the Gold Coast Hinterlands down into NSW, and then finally home to our free-flight paradise at Stanwell Park.
WE ALL got to see and fly some new Australian scenery and hang gliding sites.
Sunday night: Most of the pilots arrived like rock stars, flying into the Gold Coast Airport, and then meeting at the airport bar, to get picked up and delivered to our kick-off party on Mt Tamborine, QLD that had a mean curry cooked up by Luke, who was also flying the tour.
Monday: Winds were PUMPING in from the SSE. Everyone had soaring flights at Beechmont, QLD, home of Jonny Durand (and his longest foot launch flight in the world of just over 500kms)! Rob, the newest pilot of the bunch, must have been up for a few hours and finally landed towards the end of the day. He said that he doubled his overall airtime on that flight.
Tuesday: More soaring and some XC's from Beechmont: While waiting on the wind, Jonny Durand came out to give us a hand and contribute to my workshop about thermaling and XC flying. Luke had a milestone flight of his life, finally "cutting the umbilical cord" and heading over the back (downwind), leaving the local landing zone far behind with no return. He and Steve flew about 65 km's, in their new Moyes Litespeed hang gliders. Meeting later back at the pub, he walked straight in and said, "Curt, I never want to fly my Sting again". Within an hour we had a three way love triangle: Luke now sold his sweet flying Sting154 to Mark, who then rented his own Sting168 to Adam. Everyone was stoked: Luke was cashed up, and the Sting pilots were now happily flying the correct sized gliders for their weights. I knew their could be a bro-mance on the trip, but wouldn't have imagined it developing by Day 2!
Wednesday: Killarney East, Steve flew....but shouldn't have! We had an awesome drive into the Border Ranges National Park, but got denied as the strong coastal winds became nil (!) at the flat sloped launch of Killarney East. Steve couldn't help himself and must have been starting to get a "ground rash"....well, he pulled it off, but sure didn't entice any others, just barely clearing the tree tops off of launch. The rest of us decided not to fly and thereby "living to fly another day"! We packed up our hang gliders and had a beer together, after all, this was also a holiday for us.
Wednesday night: Now, we were at a fork in the road, and I couldn't get my head around it easily....You see, the next day's forecast had painted light winds that were over the back (wrong way!) at the best/only option that the Killarney could offer, the Killarney North launch/flying site. We could have mobilised in the morning to Manilla (600 km away), but it would be a bunch of driving and we'd be giving up our shot to fly Killarney. Contemplating with Dave...."Let's give Killarney another go, Curt. If we get to fly this place, the scenery will be spectacular and will become a milestone of the tour". Dave was right. The spirit of the HDT is exploring new sites, and it was worth a try.
Thursday: We "re-pioneer" Killarney North site for hang gliders..... The local paragliding club said that this classic flying site had not seen a hang glider for over a decade! Needing to resurrect the site, was a bit of trimming and landscaping. Some of the crew arrived on launch early to do clear a few trees out, and smooth out the takeoff area. The wind was blowing down the mountain. Low and behold, the thermal cycles soon pushed the winds up the slope, the wedgies circled out front, and all of the crew got off of the mountain, some twice. At one stage there were a 3 small gaggles working at different points to climb out of the valley. Adam and Big Fred were turning tight together, getting up from low on the far side of the steep valley. "Chop" was one of the last to run off the mountain, and flew straight into an elevator that took him to 7 or 8000 feet high. Luke flew back to the campsite. A couple of others, Howie and Vancho, went for second flight. Half of the adventure was the 4WD trip up and down the mountain.
Friday: An afternoon flight at the hang gliding mecca of Manilla, NSW, just north of Tamworth.... Dave went for a test flight in the 25 knot winds, and reported that the air was rough as guts. It got me thinking, once again: I wasn't paying him enough! Not much later, the wind went to "manageable" for everyone, and then even to "light and variable" at sunset! The last man standing on launch: Chop sweated it out on take-off (thinking about the nil wind landing that was waiting for him 900 feet below), and was determined to get the monkey off of his back. He finally launched, had an extended sled ride and....NAILED his landing in his newish Moyes LitespeedS! We all checked in that night at the local Royal Hotel in Manilla, where any pilot becomes part of their family, if they already aren't. We all had a sense of accomplishment and were happy to be enjoying some pure social time, with all of the flying, planning and organising of the trip now behind us.
Saturday: We pull it together (just), with plenty of caffeine, to get on the road early to make it back to our home sites for lunchtime.
Everyone returned without a scratch. We had a broad range of pilots (skill levels) on the trip, all of which had the chance push their own comfort levels, but under the professional guidance of our team. That's what I'm talking about.
Massive thanks to.....
- the group of pilots that signed up for this flying adventure: Chop, Nathan, Mick, Howie, Steve, Luke, Mark, Fred, Vancho, Paul, Justin, Adam, and Rob.
- to my teammate, Dave May, for his in-air assistance and expertise on the trip. I'm proud that another Warren Windsports clinic/tour has had a high-level of support and instruction for the pilots to tap into.
- Shannon for the awesome 4WD retrieve driving, and being the character that every adventure needs for some good stories
- Mick and Luke for help shuttling people/gear at different stages during the rally
- Lisa for her "wind tech-ing", and radio assistance in the landing paddocks along the way
- Matt Loft, who I suckered into driving for us, while he was on the job of capturing these wonderful photos & video footage, as well as recently editing this 5 minute video below. Enjoy!