Monday, January 28, 2008

LOST (in translation)

Alexei (OTB Alex) posted on his local forum a detailed and colorful account of his recent accidental Hawaiian vol-biv adventure. Between my rusty Russian language skills and the wizards at Google translation tools, I put together this very rough translation.

Mini Cross Country with elements of Red Bull X-Alps

Yesterday, it all began like this: Jeff called me at lunch and said that it was going off at Kahana Bay (on the north shore of Oahu), and that five people were already in the air, and Alex and someone else had already gone downrange. And already having drunk a bottle of light beer, we headed out there.

I raised the wing, and after 20 minutes had gained 700 meters in the dynamic lift (the start is at 110 meters). I wanted to head for Kaneohe Bay along the mountain range located behind me, where the dynamic lift could reach up to 1000 meters in a given spot. And that route could easily amount to 5-7 km just to get started. I was well aware that turning up there, after coming downwind and reaching the leeside peak, I already would not be able to come back - the wind is a headwind, so I would be able to move only forward - towards Kaneohe Bay with a cross wind. Moreover, I knew that along this mountain range I would definitely encounter turbulence, since along one region of my route there would be a pair of substantial mountains upwind, around 500 to 600 meters high. There would be remnants of leeside rotor. Therefore, in my plans to cross the given area there was a simple decision - to gain in that place the maximum possible altitude, and skip over this unpleasant region. And I proceeded along the mountain range.

Instead of the planned 1000 meters in dynamic lift, it turned out I gained 1100 - which was already cloudbase. The ground was 300 meters from me. At such an altitude the turbulence from the windward two mountains, which I had so dreaded, was quite inoffensive. But here something happened that I never expected - the wind suddently strengthened. (Towards evening the upper wind on Oahu increases - from personal observation). It intensified so quickly and powerfully that I had no doubt that I would be blown behind the ridge. Just to be sure that I was not mistaken in my assessment of windstrength, I pressed full bar, pulled ears, and it became clear that the wind was truly strong, and the wing continued to move back.

Below me was a highland plateau. It was wide and maddeningly long. If I'd had another 500 meters in stock in addition to this evil wind, I would certainly have flown over and held on until Pearl City, or perhaps even to Pearl Harbor. But I didn't have it. Therefore, I would have to prepare for a landing on the plateau.

The entire plateau was covered with tropical jungle. This jungle consisted of palm trees, vines, and some kind of predatory trees with a 4cm layer of moss and some kind of strange root system. The roots can grow straight from the trunk. They branch from the trunk at a height of 2+ metres, and enter the ground at a distance of 5-8 meters from the trunk. By the way, one could pass beneath these trunks - the trunk hangs over the ground by the roots, and the roots very much resemble octopus legs. From some trees the roots grow straight from the branches. They hang vertically from a height of 3-10 meters and enter the soil. The grass - that's another story. Its height reaches 3+ meters. And it is so densely intertwined that to move to any side is impossible.

But coming in to land, that is, selecting the shorter of the trees, I was still arriving in happy ignorance of what awaited me. But no, excuse me, while still a child I read in some clever books that there are no monkeys, crocodiles or elephants in Hawaii. And they also already told me here that snakes have not slithered from the mainland. But what remains is plenty. A certain piquancy was injected into the present situation since I distinctly knew that in Hawaii there are scorpions.

Well, so here was the landing, the wing suddenly in 3 or more trees. Moreover, in the process of the landing my reserve was deployed; however, it became clear at once that it was highly appropriate - I used it to get down to the ground. I was lucky - the wing was not seriously caught in the treetops, and after half an hour I already had everything packed.

My GPS was still on the yacht. My radio was in Nakhodka. My cellphone was out of range. I urgently needed to let Alex or anyone know that I was OK. It took me about half an hour to get out of the small valley where I had landed. In this valley was the most pristine waterfall. There I sipped some water before my long trek.

Finally, a signal appeared, and on the phone a text message from Alex was already waiting for me: "Call me". And I immediately dialed the sender of the message. "Alex, I am totally okay. I will search through this jungle for an exit from the plateau. I will have to stay overnight. (It was already about 5 pm). To which Alexander replied, "If you had called a moment later we would have sent a helicopter. If everything is okay, get going along the cliff. There should be a hiking trail there. Just don't even think of coming down the cliff. Keep in touch."

The wind at that moment was becoming very strong. It was clearly approaching 15 meters per second (30 knots). But now I was not thinking about the wind, but about how to get myself out of here. Moving through the tropical forest was extremely difficult. My speed barely reached 500 meters per hour. My legs sometimes didn't reach the ground because they were stuck in the grass. And if they did reach it, I would simply stumble to the ground like poured out water. To move forward, I often fell on the 3 meter high grass to somehow crush it with my weight. I'd stand up to travel 30 cm further, and then do it again. Just like an icebreaker. (This plateau is located at an altitude of around 700 meters above sea level, and therefore almost all the clouds often hang above this spot, showering it with abundant rain. Therefore, the roar of waterfalls is audible here at every step, in every valley.)

In order to thoroughly understand what this place is like, you must scratch your arms, legs and face all over until they bleed, then dive into a pool of liquid mud, and then go to the sauna, so that through the blood and the mud, sweat will start to abundantly pour out. Yes, and in the sauna you should grab a TV to once again refresh your memory of "King Kong" or "Jurassic Park". Hollywood shot these films only 5 kilometers from the place where I sat.

Then darkness fell. I trampled down the grass as much as I could, pulled out my Edel Excel, spread out one half as a sort of mattress, and the other was turned into a surprisingly warm blanket for the whole night. After half an hour Alex called. He said that he had a plan for me to descend from the plateau to the lowlands. And tomorrow we would try to implement this plan, but for now, good night.

Then Fireman Dave phoned. (He is vice-president of the paraclub. A tremendous pilot, he performs acro and kitesurfs. He really likes to improvise in the air. Alex said about him that he gets away with everything because he is "very lucky". And once, when Dave and I went to fly somewhere in Honolulu (Tantalus), I said, "Dave, it's a bad idea for us to launch from here." To that Dave responded, "Oh man, just relax, I am the king of bad ideas." To Dave belongs one more quite meaningful speech, at the very beginning just as I was starting to fly on Oahu, on the day I was with Dave at the point of launch, at Makapuu. Here I stood, already strapped in, with helmet on and brakes in my hands, as I recalled that I forgot ask a very important question. "Dave, what kind of flight rules do you have here, are there any kind of restrictions?" You should hear his reply in the original wording, well, or at least read it: "Take it easy man, relax, there are no rules here, you are in the wild west now".)

After Dave, Cherry called from Beijing. She informed me that it was nighttime there, and -10 celsius, but Ching Dao beer was still for sale. Then I fell deeply asleep. I woke up at 2 am from the growling of wild boars not far away, that is, I slept for 7 hours.

The moon was bright as a lantern, a million stars were in the black sky, wisps of clouds rushed by, and somewhere far below, at the horizon, were the fiery lights of Pearl Harbor. And this whole picture was accompanied by the howls of wild winds, which blew at a speed of 20 meters per second.

To be neighbors any longer with the wild boars was decidedly unappealing to me. Gathering everything up took about 10 minutes. And I slipped away. At 3 am strong rain fell. But at 4 am, I accidentally stumbled upon a hiking trail in the dark, and this was truly good luck.

By 7 am, I had already descended to the lowlands. In the middle of these lowlands on north Oahu was a unique tiny inhabited spot, and a trail, which managed to grow into a dirt road that also led to it, but, for some reason, I strongly did not want to go towards that populated spot. The lights of the place were painfully posted in chessboard order, and they shone identically bright in a single color. Probably, this was a prison yard. (At that moment, I was thinking that to be in such a prison, you would probably have to be very well-connected. After all, it's not Siberia.) The road wound around the whole strange settlement of cottages, surrounded by barbed wire, and came out onto asphalt. It was only then that I was able to see the roadside marker, which said that before you is a settlement for soldiers. US Department of Defense.

After 30 minutes I found a bus stop, and by 12 noon I was already back on the yacht.


Berndt said...

Alex, This is classic! You should send it in to the USHPA Magazine.

rprice said...

Alex, well translated. Thank you for your efforts. OTB Alexi is indeed a very resourceful man, and writes a great narrative. Next time Fireman Dave gives me advice I shall certainly remember his response to OTB Alexi, that he (Fireman) is "the King of Bad Ideas".

Alex said...

Thanks guys, but google translate did all the heavy lifting, and I just smoothed out the rough parts. I know there are still some mistakes - Alexei just helped me correct one he noticed in the last paragraph, where I mistook the Russian word "zona" for military zone, but it actually refers to a prison yard. And in the same paragraph, I mistook "blatnoi" for criminal when it really means well-connected. I've fixed those problems now, but if anyone notices any more I'm happy to correct them.

OTB Alex said...

I read your story twice. I am really impressed. I think , You definetly have to think about changing the work , becourse your skills and knowledge of russian language are 100% perfect . Discribe something in native language is very easy - like a good beer after hard day , but You spent a lot of knowledges , intelect and time for writing such very good story. Thank you a lot.

czech peter said...

Aleks and Alex, nice work dudes, fun reading ;)

Bob said...

Bob said....
Jeez Alex, how could you mistake "blatnoi" for criminal. As if.
I read the article out loud in my best Russian accent and that really brought the whole adventure to life for me. You did a great job on the translation, no matter how humble you want to be. And hat's off to Russian Alexi for a great article and adventure. I'm looking forward to meeting him and getting more details.

Nick said...

Wonderful article Alex and Alex. I too think it'll make a good read for the USHPA mag. I wonder how the air felt after the OTB point?

If he would have tamed a wild boar and rode it out of the jungle I would be really impressed. Well, I'm impressed none the less.


Raimar said...

cool! very cool!!!

Alex said...

I just revised my translation with a bit more attention - a guy on Alexei's forum had noted that here and there some word meanings had been garbled. Hopefully it's a bit more accurate now, and it was a good exercise for me in any case.

Gravity said...

Whats even more impressive was the post trauma story over whiskey on the boat where OTB Alex described how he had to fall on the 2-3 meter grass to move forward inches at a time for hours and hours until he happened on the trail.

Frank - you made a wise choice on getting a lift out!

Alex, you have to submit this to USHPA. If not for the great read, it will educate those who visit here about just how easy it is to get blown-over-the-back. DANGER!


Deutsch Marc said...

Nice story Alex... Coincidentally I was watching Jurassic Park III (two got lost with their tandem paraglider in the jungle) while I was reading the blog. Gave me the right background feeling ;-)

Alex said...

Hi Marc, nice to hear from you. We met the pilots who did the PG stunts for JP III before they headed over to Kauai for filming. Too bad the filmmakers distorted the PG depiction so badly in that film. Probably the most mainstream film to have PG depiction at all so far.