My skydive blog

An online skydiving logbook

December 27, 2009


What we did on our christmas trip to New York

  • fr 18/12
- arrival @ JFK in the evening
- taxi to our B&B in Brooklyn (akwaaba, check it out, it's good)
- soulfood in neighbourhood restaurant & sleep
  • sa 19/12
- lazy morning, great breakfast
- walk into Manhattan over Brooklyn Bridge
- check out the Xmas decoration at macy's
- basketbal game @ Madison Square
- dinner @ a small, really nice italian restaurant around the corner
  • su 20/12
- another lazy morning, another great breakfast
- winter-walk in Brooklyn (some 20 inches of snow during the night)
- change to our next hotel just off times square
- visit the Bronx museum (graffiti, hiphop, all kinds of pimped stuff)
- walk in greenwich village
- Irish pub & grub (and then some more pub)
  • mo 21/12
- top of the rock
- grand central station
- Xmas market & skating @Bryant park
- queing for theatre tickets we didn't get
- dinner at a very small (and very good) Thai restaurant
- Times square at night
  • tu 22/12
- museum of natural history
- walk in Central Park (snow! lovely! dinner at the boathouse!)
- shopping
- night tour in a double deck bus
- pub crawl
  • wed 23/12
- madame Tussaud
- back to JFK (a traffic jam in a limo is still a traffic jam)

August 29, 2009

Breda Ballon Fiesta

I had a great day saturday.

First a few jumps in the morning, and in the afternoon we left for the hot air balloon festival in Breda. It took our Caravan about half an hour to fly to Breda. We had to spot 'manually' because the coordinates in our GPS didn't match what we saw (= were wrong). There was quiet a bit of wind (some 10 to 15 knots, my estimate) but some oldtimers on the load worked it out perfectly: 3 runs, everybody landed in.

Late afternoon, the wind calmed down, and te balloons could go up. And we could make a balloon jump. A few balloonists started calculating with windspeeds, altitudes and directions. Checking google maps on their i-phones, and off we went. To some field about 15 km upwind. We unloaded our balloon, and 15 minutes later, we were airborne: 4 skydivers, 6 'regular' passengers and 2 crew. Imagine our surprise (and admiration) when their calculations proofed spot on: we were heading straight towards the festival terrain. We were going to jump 2 by 2. I was in the first 'run'. Altitude around 4000 ft, the balloonist gives the go, we climb on the basket. Ready set go. What an incredible feeling. The quiet, silence, and then the speed (and the wind) starting, getting louder. The forward speed building up (the track gaining effect). Whooaw. I never made a basejump, but I can sure see that this is addictive.

There were still a few balloons taking off or getting ready to take off when I came in to land. You really can not judge the vertical or horizontal speed of a balloon underneath you, so that was a bit tricky. But hey, a balloon fly-by with all the passengers waving at you, that's great, no? I gave a bit of show on landing, and I got quiet a big applause for it.

Free food and drinks for the rest of the evening. Thx everybody for a great experience!

This (plus many other) pictures were made by Lars Scheve, official photographer of the event.

June 22, 2009

Back to skydiving

When I arrive at the DZ, I am immediately introduced to a rather long and skinny student for a level 2. "He's a slow faller." I could have guessed that one :-). I team up with Philip for the day.

Exit is OK, but following that, there's nobody home. Knees lower than pelvis, heels on his bottom, no reaction to signs or anything. After about 20 sec, we manage to wake him up. He starts his practice pulls, better body position now, he checks altitude and pulls. At 7000 feet. ??? Under canopy, he doesn't react to the radio. We go to plan B, but he doesn't react to the T either. He lands cross-wind, flares late, doesn't hurt himself. On debrief, I mention the word 'awareness'.

Let's try again. Again a good exit. We agreed that it is up to him to take the dive into his own hands. So we wait. It takes him about 15 sec, but there he comes. We can almost see him wake up. Arch, pressure on his legs, GASP, practice pulls. He's there now. Philip releases, but he stiffens up, starts turning. I don't think he notices, he doesn't try to correct. He pulls at the correct altitude this time :-). Again under canopy, he doesn't listen to any instructions, but he flies and lands OK.

A quick level 1 in between. English speaking guy with an Eastern-European accent. Very heads up, nice jump! But than... My canopy just doesn't want to open. I have to work for almost 1500 ft to bring it from a streamer to an open canopy. Pffff.... Lucky this was an AFF jump and I pulled at 4000. Otherwise that would have been a reserve ride. And it isn't over yet. On landing, I fuck up. I don't know what happened, what I did wrong, but a fraction before I am down, I realize that it is not going to work. I make quite a bit of dust and a really very good PLF. I don't hurt myself one little bit (I am not talking about ego here:-)). Reflexes and technique are still OK. But WTF happened?

Third jump of the day with our student. A real level 3 this time. And it's a good one. He starts of by forgetting a practice pull, but after that, he's fine. He is working, trying, his legs are flapping, he can't stop turning, but hey, that's what student jumps are for, no? Under canopy, he comes downwind too early and too far. But he realizes just in time what's going on, turns into the wind, and stays like that for the rest of his descent. He clears the buildings by almost 100 meters. To reassert myself, I go for a precision landing. I miss the target by less than 50 cm :-)

Finally another level 1 to end the day. On exit, I am floating. Check-in, check-out, out, in, OUT, ooh shit, what's this???? Halfway through our salto, he starts arching, and what a difference that makes!!! We finish our flip and we're in business again. First thing we do, Philip and I both look at each other over his back: his smile is at least as big as mine. Very good and uneventful jump from there on.

The airfield closes at 8 pm, and sunset is only at 10 pm. So next are 2 hours of beer and sunshine. Hmmmm...

May 26, 2009


It has now been raining for almost 40 hours here. And not just a slight drizzle, no: it has been pouring all the time. Roads are blocked because of landslides. Bridges are destroyed. This morning, the whole city had no electricity for about 4 hours. Television is showing (live!) how houses are washed away by flooding rivers.

The government has issued a warning that all travel in the country is forbidden for the moment and that people living near to rivers should evacuate and look for a safer place. They also urged people not to rush to rivers and bridges to watch the spectacle. Now, this idea immediately appealed to me, and I went down to the bridge over the Wang Chu (river) downtown. Great spectacle! The river was big and wild, carrying trees and lots of debris. I even saw a piece of a bridge and an electricity pole passing by.

There were also a few soldiers there, trying to get the people to move on, not to linger on the bridge. Without too much success.

Apart from all of this, Tuesday is Bhutan's national Dry Day. And this means what you might fear it means: all bars are closed on Tuesday. What a horrible idea!!! Luckily Bhutan's black economy is in a very good health :-)

I had a shave and a haircut today, I bought my souvenirs, in short: I'm done here. I hope this rain stops some time soon, so that we can get to the airport (some 50 km from here). And if we manage to get there, I hope they reopen it by then. Well, Inch Allah - oops sorry, wrong religion. Should be something like "If Buddha will allow it".

May 25, 2009

After the trek

Well, I don't know what to say. I don't know how to describe this. I'll just fire away some bulletpoints/highlights.

- In 15 days, we walked about 200 km, climbed (and descended again) about 7000 meters.
- camping at Jomolhari basecamp, at the foot of a 2000 meter near-vertical snow wall.
- on a clear night, the snowcapped mountains radiating in the moonlight, while at the same time the fog in the valley beneath us, bounces that same moonlight back up: one of the most strange and beautiful, almost magic, sights I ever saw.
- crossing a 5000 meter pass, and seeing 7000 meter mountains where ever you look.
- white eagles floating in the air above your head.
- the people living in this remote area, where the nearest road is at least 3 days marching away. This is what the middle ages must have been like.
- meeting children who never saw television.
- negotiating with the governor of the region (in his kitchen!) whether we are allowed to camp in this village.
- our coock and our guide fighting (literally, I am talking physical violence here).
- HIV prevention slogans painted on the rocks in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea where these villagers are supposed to get the condoms they are advised to use.
- penises everywhere: wooden penises hanging on the roofs, painted penises on the walls, our driver's key-ring, ...
- drinking butter-tea with the locals (an acquired taste, as they say).
- ...

But the main thing is probably this country as a whole: this unique mix of century-old traditions with modern technology. This oh-so-friendly people, proud of their country, aware of its uniqueness, eager to show you, to "let you in". It is truely unlike anything I have ever seen, anywhere I have ever been.

I am in Thimpu now, the capital of this unique country. It took us 6 hours to drive the 120 km from the trek's endpoint. Including a very surreal traffic jam on a mountain pass, because of a truck-accident that completely blocked the road for a few hours. I just escaped from our anonymous posh hotel to have dinner in a local restaurant (the hotel restaurant didn't look at all appealing).

I already spotted a few promising bars while I was looking for this cybercafe :-)

May 8, 2009

A day in Bhutan

Today, as a warming-up for our coming trek, we hiked to a monastery high up in the mountains. A little over 3000 meter. Beautiful walk. On the halfway point was a watermill, that powered an immense prayer wheel. It was very skilfully built, they obviously know about engineering here, only they use it for purposes we wouldn't even think of. If you want a full description of the monastery, read Michael Palin,s 'Himalaya', the chapter about his visit to the Buthan - Tiger's Nest. He,s better then I am at telling things like this.

After this , my travel companion went to the hotel for a siesta, while I went to the Buthan National Museum. This museum had a scale model of the hotel where I'm staying, and a whole floor dedicated to stamps: did you know that the Bhutanese gouvernement issued a series of stamps on Donald Duck in 1982 :-)? Apart from the countless Buddhas, the main showpiece of the museum is an exact replica of the Buthanese democratic constitution that they accepted in 2008. Maybe we take too much for granted in our Western lives.

The museum closed at 5 PM, and we (guide & me) were running a bit late. By the end of our visit, the whole crew was walking behind me, and each time I left a room, they closed it up immediately behind my back. We ended up giving two of the wards a ride home back into the town.

After that, my guide & I went for a beer in a local bar again, and it got to us. When might say we ended this day a little drunk.

Next 15 days are on trek, through no-internet, no-mobile-phone, no-electricity (!)country. So it will be a while before you here from me again.

Zen (and beer of course).

May 7, 2009


I am on a non-skydiving holiday for the rest of this month, so I'll temporarily abuse this blog to write about my travels and trekking in the Himalaya, in the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan.

Tuesday morning, there was an early flight Brussels-Amsterdam, and then on to Delhi. I had a 3-seat row all to myself, so the long flight wasn't too awesome. Late night arrival, taxi, hotel, sleep, early start, and on to Kathmandu.

There, I stayed in Dwarika's Hotel. Apart from being a very nice and chique hotel, this is also a rather unique place. It is a modern hotel, it has everything a modern 5-star hotel must have, but it is built completely by traditional craftsmen, in the traditional Nepali style, using 'real' materials. And unlike other places and buildings that mix traditional style and nowadays comfort, this one doesn't feel fake. It's authentic, and a very beautiful place and nice hotel.

I only stayed in Kathmandu for one day, so all I have is a first impression: dirty, noisy, busy. Did I say dirty already? But it nevertheless has charm. All the drivers are using their horns all the time (did I say noisy?), but they don't get nervous or angry. They just drive like very quiet and very relaxed complete madmen. They even continue to honk at each other while they are all standing still before a traffic light. And besides, having a few beers and dining at sunset on a roof terras... I could get used to this, you know.

Next day, that's today, an early start again. Wake-up call at 5, breakfast brought up by 5.30, off to the airport by 6. Strange thing was, my wake-up call came early, next my breakfast came early, and my airport transfer also came early. Only then did the penny drop: I was still a timezone behind in my travels :-)

On the flight to Buthan, Paro airport, we had great views of the Himalaya. First time ever I saw Everest and all those other famous giants. And then there is the approach to Paro airport. Spectacular. Very spectacular! Slaloming through the steep valleys. It's like those crazy wingsuiting RedBull guys, but with an Airbus! At Paro airport, the traffic control tower is built in a traditional pagode (!).

At the airport, I met my trekking companion (an Englishman) and our trekking guide (a Bhutanese). My companion started off by telling a story about everything that went wrong on his trip from London to Bhutan, and by mentioning a few complaints he would certainly make in the after-tour evaluation form. Well, he had a harsh trip, and he was very tired. Maybe he is a good natured optimist after all :-).

I spent the rest of the day hanging around in our hotel, getting myself a SIM card that works over here, and visiting a very big and beautiful dzong (=fort). Not so much visiting, but more wandering around in it, and being impressed by it. Tomorrow I'll take an official tour of that same dzong. I wonder if my own story and the guide's story will match?

No skydiving, but I'm still going to end the day with a beer...