Friday, October 30, 2009

La Escuela Abbrogado

This morning we all walked over to the school that Jeff has been raising funds for. We had various supplies to donate - DVDs, workbooks, markers, etc. We arrived just in time for recess and had a blast playing with the kids for a while.

The school was started by a Floridian who came down quite a few years ago. It's been open for about two years and they've got about 50 kids at this point. They're hoping to build two more classrooms soon and will have kindergarden through eighth grade eventually. The school is taught in English - they don't just teach an English class each day, all of the classes are taught in English. The teachers are from various places, one from Alaska, one from Manchester, UK and a few local teachers.

The kids were great fun and enjoyed having a bunch of us running around acting like children...well, what's new.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

OB's Landing Today

...published with his permission (encouragement in fact ;-)

First Flights

Once again yet another perfect day in Canoa. Everyone was so keen to get up to launch many new people that haven't flown here. We had a fair bit more wind than normal, so many of us opted for the lower launch which they say is nicer in strong wind - wonder why we have never used it before. Even at the lower launch, conditions were iffy at first. Everyone got off the hill fine and the new boys raced around all day until the sun started getting low and we all landed in front of our new resort. We're all sitting around having dinner, everyone on a giant high. If only Carlos was here, I'd be in heaven ;-)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Finally in Canoa

We made our looooooong way to Canoa today after the press conference at the Olympic Center in Guayaquil. The conference was smaller than last year, but the main Ecuador television station was there. Speaking of which, we were on the morning news again this morning. That makes three times in four days. I haven't seen any of the broadcasts, but those who have seen them say they looked pretty cool. The news people are coming here to Canoa as well, so there will be even more coverage.

Yesterday's flight was fantastic! Definitely the best conditions I've seen in four years of flying Guayaquil. Clear blue sky dotted with small cumulous and 5-800fpm lift all day. We all made cloudbase over the mountain, but only four (Kraig, Alex, Dustin and Davis) were brave enough to dive over the back to go for the record. The organizers put up $500 for the first to break Raul's 40km Ecuadorian distance record. In the end Kraig and Dustin blew it away, more than doubling it with 81km - they'll split the prize money. The rest of us were happy cruising around the mountain with a better than normal view of the city and surrounding areas.

Our new hotel in Canoa is amazing. Right on the beach again with a cool breeze, a lovely pool and the sand and surf right here. It's hard to tell in the darkness, but Raul says the landing area here is even bigger and we're within a very short walk of town. Everyone was happy to be out of the cars after 8 hours of driving to get here. They're building a new highway here, but little of it is finished and we were on bumpy dirt roads for much of the drive. But either way, it's great to be back at the beach and everyone is excited to get up on that ridge tomorrow! Two practice days and the comp runs Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Father Frank's Mission

After last year's trip here, Jeff O'Brien was particularly touched by the poverty that surrounds the city of Guayaquil as well as the outlying areas between here and Canoa. He decided that before coming back again this year he would raise some money from the US flying community and try to help out, even if just in a small way. He and Ricker Goldsborough (a new comp pilot that just came onto the scene at Santa Cruz Flats) worked to gather several thousand dollars and connect with the right people down here to put it to good use. With the help of Gry (the great Norwegian girl we met here last year and then traveled to Peru with), he hooked up with Father Frank who runs a mission in one of the larger slums on the edge of the city.

Today we went with Father Frank to see the mission and all that he does there. He comes originally from Manchester, UK and has worked here in Ecuador as a missionary since 1975. He operates a mission that consists of a school, day care center and medical clinic. He gave us the grand tour just as the kids were letting out of classes. They were energetic and incredibly friendly. We played with them on the playground and took heaps of pictures - they seemed to love that. After the tour and some chat about how he got started here and how everything works, he took us for a tour of the slum that the mission benefits. Father Frank told us that the sick people tend to not want to go out of their homes to visit a doctor, so the nurses in the mission make rounds through the community checking on people and seeing if anyone needs medical attention. The money that was raised will go to supply medicines to this community through Father Frank and the nurses.

So many parts of the slum were difficult to see - heartbreaking to say the least. But everyone smiled warmly at us and made conversation that we enjoyed despite our limited Spanish. Jeff and Ricker hope to make this an ongoing effort to help supply the $500/month needed for medical supplies. We finished the day with lunch at McDonalds with Father Frank and his nurses and a few staff members. He was incredibly appreciative of our small effort and thanked us for coming out to see all he does here.

This isn't a bed of grass beneath the stilted houses. It's moss and trash growing on the surface of the filthy water. The houses are built on stilts because the river is tidal and the government hasn't yet finished filling in this marshy area.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'm Famous! ;-)

All of the media attention we get down here is quite entertaining. On the first day, all of the television stations were there filming our every move. Quite a few out today as well. I've done twice as many interviews as flights so far and it's a funny thing. I kind of feel like a fraud thinking "I wonder when they're going to realize that we're just a bunch of stupid hang glider pilots??"

We've made the national news the last two nights, but we never seem to be in early enough to actually watch. Raul will get copies of the TV news reports so we can all see how silly we must look. Anyway, it's great fun to feel like a rock star for a few days ;-)

Guayaquil Day 1

After a quick job unpacking our gliders on Eduardo's front lawn, we rushed out to the newest hang gliding site in Guayaquil. This one on the edge of town very near the launch we flew the first time here several years ago. Raul and the Guayaquil pilots have bulldozed a road right up the side of the hill and cleared a beautiful launch about 1200 feet above the landing paddock.

Some guys wanted to tow up and others preferred to take off from the nice new launch above. It was a giant party scene below, with all of the Ecuadorian TV stations filming, lots of interviews and more spectators than I've ever seen at a hang gliding event. It's amazing what Raul does here and I cannot understand why we can't get this kind of attention at home.

Excellent day and we're hoping for more of the same today! The sun is shining (which is unusual here - it is normally quite overcast) and we're heading back out there in a while.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Despite more than a little bit of stress getting 12 gliders on one airplane, we made it safely with everything in one piece to Guayaquil last night. Just like last year, we walked out of customs to be greeted with more fanfair than most hang glider pilots outside of Brasil ever get.

Today is unpacking and press day and Raul is already cracking the whip with a briefing at 8:30. This is a fun place to learn to just go with the flow - as there are no other options. None of us really knows what the plan is for the next 12 days. We'll just find out as it is happening. Es paseo, as Mike would say ;-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bound for South America, a world away from here

Once again, on Friday morning I'm headed down to Ecuador for my favorite competition of the year - the Canoa Open. As always, Raul has corralled some fantastic sponsors and I'm sure it's going be another great year! This time we have heaps of Americans coming down - 10 of us will be on the same flight from Miami. It's going to be interesting to see how those baggage handlers deal with 12 gliders on one airplane.

Like last year, we'll have several days of flying and doing some fun media stuff in Guayaquil before the long drive to Canoa for the race. I don't know if we're having a full blown press conference like last year, but we'll see. Either way, it will be an amazing time like every year and I can't wait to get there!!

Here are some pictures from last year.