So just back from whats felt like a whirlwind trip around Colombia with 12 pilots, two local Colombian pilots as guides, a van racing driver retrieve and some Hunt and kill Mosquitos!
We were met by Jaime, one of our guides at Cali airport, sank some local beers while the group arrived and decamped for two days in Piedechinche. Its was an ideal first stop, some easy flying for a group mostly based in the Uk over winter, some weekend flying with the local pilots, a quick feel of the air....all very nice, not to high maybe a 1,000 above a 3,000 ft range and a bit of practise thermalling and orientation for all and a cheeky 10/15k Xc for Joe, Stuart, Akis and myself back to the pool at our hotel. The next day wasn´t as good, harder work but with a more overcast sky but it gave time for two late arrival gliders and Lee to show up with Lucho our main guide.
From there we headed to the now ever popular Roldanillo, and base of next years super final. It´s fame is due in part to our Guides efforts, Lucho Jimenez has devoted a lot of time to bringing pilots around the world to Colombia to demonstrate how safe it is and how much fun flying you can have on an average day in Colombia. I promise you he´s done a top job, we flew there for four days staying again in an outlying farm surrounded by fruit trees and swimming pools. We made flights averaging 2 - 4 hrs everyday, clocking up a minimum of 30 - 70 k in a mixture of interetesing routes. Its a fantastic place, easy launch, even has a couple of keen local lads prepared to carry your glider up the short 100 mtr ramp for 30 pence...
The great thing about Roldanillo was although we took off from around 4,000ft in the mountain the Cauca valley in front was pure flatland flying. Big S ing rivers with irrigated sugarcane or flooded hinterland punctuated by big brown fields, occasional smoke stacks, low save thermalls from 60 ft to 6,000ft or keep to the mountains and keep out of cloud - what a playground!
Following four great days of Roldanillo we headed to Anserma Neuvo just 50k´s down the road, Lucho had offered up a bottle of Rum as a prize for flying there and Lily in theory should have picked up the prize, both Lee and myself flew a little further down the valley Lee winning the day with 60 k under his belt. We spent 4 glorious days there, i say glorious as we had an outstanding farm complex to stay in with infinity pools, hot showers, and wicked evening Bbqing with the Lucho and Jaime, with launch on our doorstep. The views as we were getting used to were breathtaking.
Lucho had scheduled in a day off from flying so we could take up some Colombia's other sights, the night arriving at our new digs was wet so we stopped at some Volcanic hot baths and drunk rum cocktails in the rain before horse riding the next day....more rum and the local brew of Agua Diente...An anise white spirit which seem to always come in handy half bottles which conveniently fit in the saddle bag. Our fears of horse riding were dealt with swiftly and early on, you got your horse swigged your agua diente and rode on for 3 hrs through lush fields and coffee and plantain harvest. Lunch at Luchos coffee farm, a sobering swim , then back on the horse and back down the valley for a pointless search for Mark´s rubbish Otterbox protected but thoroughly lost Iphone ! More rum anybody...!
Following our day off, we needed more flying so a journey on to Damasco, a sweet mountain village of colorfully painted houses and one bar. Our flight from near there the next day above the town of La Pintado was quite gobsmackingly beautiful. The mix of green, lush , rain forest styled mountains, snaking rivers, a multitude of glorious looking valleys was truly quite heady a site. We landed an hour or so...”1hr55” Nick Putnam brimmed when he´d landed with us on the banks nr the river. We left Nick dishing out packing orders in English to local kids, keen to oblige and foraged for beers nearby while our retrieve bus caught us up. Most flying days finished with a huge lunch in town square, drinking down stacks of fresh fruit juices and cold beers, Colombian steaks and ribs. Breakfast was provided by the hotel owners or if none were found Jaime and Lucho made good scrambled eggs.
Our last days were based near Santa Fe De Antioquia, a beautiful old colonial town, we flew two more sites near there for our last days before heading to Medellin to catch our return flights home, all in one piece, a lot of personal flying bests, some inspired flying by the likes of Lily and Joe and Jenny, Brian and Richard. Winners of the the obscure landing out prizes went of course to the Stuart Levens but he´s got a new contender in Mark Wynstanley.
The emphasis of the trip was on Xc and even Lucho was impressed by our enthusiasm. Our thanks must go to the great piloting and guiding skills of Lucho and Jaime for helping us round everyone up and off and showing us a great clean time over two weeks in Colombia. We loved it and will surely be back for more!
FlySpain regualrly run long haul holidays abrad over January each year, to get your name doen for one of the limited places it´s best to get your name down as soon as you can. From February to December we run thermalling and Xc weeks for new flying recruits to enthusiastic Xc hounds see our diary for available dates.