Greetings Gringos, Amigos and FELLOW AIR HEADS ,
1/1/05 Well it certainly is getting interesting. Had five flights in the last three days. The drill goes like that, at nine o clock in the morning we meet in the parking lot and meet Chip a veteran hang glider pilot and drive his Jimmy up to Yelapa Tapa, elevation 2300ft, 700m. Yes, one can actually drive to Yelapa ,over the mountains from Vallarta, three and a half away, and the high point over the hills is the morning launch site . Luckily not enough people do the journey and it´s only usually people with a mission like hang glider Chip- People have been getting an up to two hour flight there. I had about half hour there , still learning the local conditions. The thermals are really light in the morning but pick up by noon. Often the wind comes high from the east so later launching becomes tricky.
In the afternoons we meet at 1 pm in front of Alan´s house. Alan is a paraglide pilot who broke his femur doing an ´`advanced acrobatic maneuver´´, or so he called it. Alan still paraglides and hikes the afternoon launch site on his crutches, while he hires a porter to carry his glider. When we hike, Chris usually has a tandem passenger, up 600ft vertical to the lower launch site. Also found a digital camera so will have some footage for the AIR HEADS trailer available from here and it´s pretty exotic flying above the jungle, bay and beach. Did a pretty good segment with myself and local Chris and his air yoga attitude. Hope we can start on a trailer with all the cool stuff we have from all over the world upon return. Also hope to have some nice stills for SKY paraggliders.
This is the dry season and the thermalling gets best later in spring , but if I can reach an hour flight off there, I´ll be stoked. It`s still pretty intimidating, with all those palm trees, varying winds, and all. Afternoons are different with ridge soaring which can last three hours and again I have to progress to that.
Below I leave you to a link of a few nice Yelapa pictures by Mike Miller from Whistler. The home page is where I´m staying under my Mango tree at Casa Iguana. It´s awesome . http://www.palapainyelapa.com
Probably the nicest thing at Yelapa is the great vibe and so many things to do if you come with a family. The beach is beautiful, so we drink jugos in between flights while landing here. Often many paraglide sites are para friendly only , yet Yelapa has so much going for it. If you come with a family, or a partner that does not fly, there’s fishing, swimming, hiking fresh waterfalls up river, riding ponies, great snorkeling, and always a good disco at the Yacht Club or The Barracuda Bar on the beach. The population of the town is about 2000 people. The last time I was here was 15 years ago. Not much has changed except electricity was added and the streets were paved with lovely cobblestones.
Paragliding has been a well kept secret here but already flyers are discovering the place. I flew with a lovely Swedish girl and Favio from Guadalajara just the other day. The local instructor Chris, is also awesome so it’s a great place to learn, take a tandem flight or just brush up on your skills. Chris spends part of the year in the bush of northern BC and eight months or so in Yelapa each year.
I’ve certainly had my adventures. I did miss a few perfect beach landings and ended up getting my glider wet in the lagoon , but luckily it’s fresh water so it dries without any damage to the wing. My takeoff skills are still a little off as well, so I certainly appreciate any advice from Chris. You can check out some photos here below and keep tabs on our continuing adventures with AIR HEADS on www.explorex.net .
As far as a place to stay, just contact Brad off his home page. No matter what level of accommodation suits your wallet , Brad can cater to your needs. From rustic camping , with or without kitchen access, to five star jungle recluse, it’s all here…
EPILOG: MORE YELAPA FLYING UPDATES
As my stay in Yelapa continued I wanted to update everyone on more flying details. Throughout my stay in Yelapa I also discovered more and more visiting paragliders converging on the place. For example a few days into my stay I had the pleasure to meet Fabio Blancarte, an incredible pilot from Guadalajara who showed up with two beautiful women pilots, one from Sweden and another one from Virginia.
Then, there was the visiting pilot from Wyoming who had never done a forward launch. I guess he was not used to such nice and easy conditions. While reverse launches are common in stronger turbulent air, the nice thing about Yelapa is the gentle breeze coming up the mountain hardly ever demands anything apart from a forward launch stance.
One day while on the beach, yet another flyer came out of the sky. This time he missed the beach landing and splatted in the middle of the lagoon. I chuckled a bit, but also remembered my first landing was also in the water until I got used to doing a better approach which comes with experience, knowing the winds and making it all click. This flyer turned out to know other kindred flying spirits. He was Jim Ongena from Ottawa. Jim has been flying for years. He is from the older school of paragliders and we share a lot of things in common, including a few mishaps and broken bones from early days of flying when pilot error and older technology made for some bad judgments and technical failures. Jim and I talked about many things and have many friends in common. After all, Yelapa means "The Meeting Place" and it sure made sense to me now.
The other great bonus at flying in Yelapa is that it really is a paradise as far as toning your skills, whether you may be a beginner, intermediate or expert. The two very different launch sites present a myriad of great and varied conditions for every level of ability. As the season progresses, so do the flying conditions, or so I am told. It was not until spring in April when Mike Miller from Whistler made his epic flight north and landed at another beach en route to Vallarta, after catching one of those big spring thermals. Mike is our Whistler wild man, an exceptional pilot who also flew from Pemberton, high above Whistler, landing in Squamish the following day. He did get stuck overnight, however, having to bivi on the flanks of Mt Garibaldi, as it got dark on route.
I also wanted to stress that both Chris and Aldo are exceptional and safe pilots. They do tandems almost every day. When one takes other peoples lives into their hands with such grace and ease, they really must know what they are doing very well. I took a tandem flight myself with Aldo so I could film a segment for AIR HEADS, a documentary we are developing about paragliding, see www.explorex.net under EXPEDITIONS AND PROJECTS,It is a fine project which is highly character driven , and with which we hope to take the sport from cult obscurity into mainstream theatres and television networks. When I originally came to Yelapa I came just to rest and fly and never brought a camera. Thanks to Chris and his kindness, as he loaned me his video camera, we managed to get some incredible footage. Also, Chris gave me an hour or so of his own video material, which we have towards making of a great Yelapa segment. When you fly at Yelapa you also have the luxury of flying with some very experienced instructors who know the area and can teach you many skills. I certainly learned a lot of things in order to improve my own " old school " launch techniques, which tend to scare a few onlookers sometimes. I must admit that I tend to dive into my seat a little too early sometimes before there is sufficient pressure on the chute. Both Chris and Aldo drilled me hard on this for my own good as did Chip, the veteran hang glider pilot we were driving to Yelapa Tapa with every morning. All in all, I just must say that Yelapa is destined to become a world-class paraglide destination, which still is a hidden gem to many air heads. I'm sure this will change, but hopefully not too fast so we can all enjoy the wonderfully special, serenity of the place.
My serenity was broken only twice. We were flying off the lower launch and a helicopter approached us on two different days. It turned out that some Mexican actor decided to make his entrance to Yelapa with the noisy beast. Furthermore to having the noisy critter around, the machine began circling us in the air much to close for comfort. Choppers mean jitters for us paragliders and the wind caused by their rotor blades can collapse our wings and send us to our death. The pilot should have known better, yet he circled us like a predatory bird, perhaps getting good angles for pictures by his passengers, that I do not know and still fail to understand why. Then after we landed, on two separate days he touched down immediately afterwards, making us jump on our wings, so they would not be kited into oblivion. I gave the pilot well-deserved Royal s&# about that, as well as the actor. They really should have known better. To make matters worse, the chopper kept his engine running for at least half an hour waiting for the actor who took his jolly time making his departure. I am sure there were many complaints from Yelapa residents after the incident and it probably will never happen again.
And so after 15 or so flights and two wonderful weeks of staying with Brad and his family at Casa Iguana, my stay in Yelapa was coming to a closure. I flew 11 out of 14 days, taking one day off to buy video tape stock and change more $$ in Vallarta. Otherwise it was just steady flying every day. I took another day off to hike to the second " Cathedral " waterfall and was amazed at just how beautiful the place was. I expected haciendas, fences and horse poo, but instead was pleasantly surprised to find such a "spic and span" clean location. It would make an incredible and very romantic camping and swimming location, perhaps on my next visit with someone special. I'm now already plotting a one week " Peter Peru " adventure filming workshop with Brad in Yelapa, sometime next year, so just stay tuned to www.palapainyelapa.com as well as www.explorex.net
Hasta La Vista fellow AIR HEADS!
Peter (Peru) Chrzanowski