Monday, April 19, 2010

In the Shadow of the Volcano

Part Two – The Big Island
After some cooler days on Oahu, the temperature spike of Kona was a welcome change. Picking up the rental, I made my way towards Captain Cook as per Reaper’s instructions. Right away there was a distinct difference between the two islands – first impression, especially down some of the lower roads, was of a rugged land, one that was still going through what seemed like growing pains and the associated adolescent rebellion and turmoil.

The stark presence of lava flows, a constant reminder of the power lurking close beneath the surface. Nature has its own stamp though, and various new growth can be seen fighting its way for a foot hold in amongst the rock.
I met up with Moku that afternoon and after a couple of beers, we headed up to launch. There we met some more of the Big Island crew – Gary, Scotty and Gordon. Due to earlier beers, I put off flying until the next day, and we watched the others launch and enjoy some great flights over the clubhouse and out towards the ocean. The next morning dawned bright with promise for some great flights. Moku was off for work and Bill showed up with a couple of tandems. He launched first and that left me alone on launch waiting for my window.

The launch is amazing, an immaculately manicured lawn of grand proportions facing straight into the thermals coming up from the valley. The only slight challenge could be the rather gentle grade that vanishes in the distance. When everything looked right, I took my turn. The run seemed to last forever – at least by Oahu standards. Then the glide, starting to feel a bit nervous as the glide path did not seem to be gaining me much distance between the ground. There are some bushes up in front, and I held my breath wondering how much clearance I would have, past that came the house and finally the power lines. I made it, phew, though now the glide out to the LZ – it sure looked long from my vantage point.

Soon though I hooked a thermal and that took care of the rest of my worries. The LZ though had not yet disclosed its secrets. It is large and clear of obstructions, but the surface is crushed lava. This makes for some very hot and poppy landings in the mid day sun. Nothing that a bit of getting used to can’t fix. We flew twice that day and spent the evening telling stories and reliving flights. Every day that I was on the Island found me in the air. Some days as many as four flights, others only one – though usually epic and requiring rest, food and something cold. Each day it just got better.

One of the best days was when we had a large contingent of the Big Island Soaring Association, with Moku, Bill, Scotty, Gary, Gene, Sammy, Charley, Peter and others all taking to the sky. The day was looking like there would be some great lift. With everyone in the sky, we set out to finding our thermals and seeing how high we could get.

Soon there were wings spread out throughout the sky, playing in the currents and coring into the clouds. It was a fantastic sight.

We played around for almost two hours before flying out towards Kealakekua Bay to float over the ocean spotting for whales and dolphins before finally setting up for a landing on the beach. The retrieve vehicle would then soon appear and we would head back up and do it all over again.

Every afternoon the clouds would build up behind launch, the Vog reminding us of who controlled the conditions we relied on for our fun. Have to admit, it was a bit intimidating at first as the dark clouds towered right behind launch. Though again, they proved to be relatively benign and actually added to the flying experience on the Island.

It was great to meet everyone and share the air. What a fantastic group of pilots. I look forward to when I can make the trek over the pacific and visit once again. Thanks for making this trip absolutely awesome.


Photo Gallery - Big Island


Anonymous said...

It was GREAT to meet and fly with you! Both articles were great reading and the picts were sweet. I look forward to flying with you on Oahu again, and hope to see you in the air above the BI.

Until then, have fun and fly safe!


Nick said...


Sorry I didn't get to meet you, but you tell a great paragliding story! Glad you had a great time.

Nick (AF Nick)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Louise, Great read and pics too.

Come back soon, but may be visiting you this summer.



Louise said...

Link through name above to the rest of the Big Island photos.

Thanks guys, it was awesome. Looking forward to the trip back. If you're on the mainland, let me know, just might be able to meet up for a flight.

Louise :)