Non-Practice Day in Laragne, France.

A 4 AM start here in Marseille.

Everything has to fall into place travel wise if I am to have any chance of making registration and the mandatory pilots meeting at 0930 in Laragne.

0615 – Hotel Shuttle

After a quick breakfast, the hotel shuttle drops me off at the bus stop in front of the airport. The MRS-Aix shuttle runs on the hour and the half and takes 30 minutes to arrive at its terminus near the Aix regional rail station (not to be confused with the TGV station).

0625 -MRS bus loop

The driver returns from his smoke break. I motion to my glider bag and the open compartment then query, ‘le sac, ici?’

A grunt and a nod.

Boarding, I ask, ‘Tu vas aux Aix centre ville, gare routiere?’

A grunt and a nod.

Lightened by 8.20 euro, off to the Aix bus station.

Much like LHR Terminal 1, the bus remains devoid of life for the entire trip aside from the driver and myself. Possibly an omen?

0655 – Aix Centre Ville

Arriving in Aix, I disembark and ask, ‘Ou est la gare SNCF?’

The driver motions up the road and states, ‘La. Gauche.’

Despite being loaded down with 70 pounds of kit, I make good time heading up the road. Spotting a road bridge crossing over tracks to my left, I walk onto it and notice the station. I enter the small single room waiting area with a few minutes to spare. It is 0705 and the monitor above shows my train, 17400 – Briancon departing at 0712.

The train arrives, I ‘composte la billet’ using the yellow pedestal mounted machines flanking either side of the entrance to the platform, and board.

The train as you can guess is near empty (not many folk travelling into rural France at this hour on a weekend) and becomes more so as we pass through station after station. The decreasing levels of graffiti on buildings near the tracks catch my attention as we head further north, as does the general degree of disrepair. By Sisteron, the towns begin to resemble what I remember from my time in Doussard last year.

0845 – Laragne.

Disembarking, I begin a quick march to Camping Monteglin. Having ‘walked’ the route in Google Street View before leaving Vancouver helps immensely as no time is wasted with wrong turns.

0900 – Camping Monteglin

Checked in and gear dropped off in the room.

I head back down to the comp registration table and fill out the pre-requisite forms.

I receive my competitor id, the standard issue t-shirt, and ‘goodie bag’.

GPS is then loaded up with waypoints. All told, the entire process takes less than five minutes – certainly a vote in favour of ‘late’ registration.

Returning to the room, I reconfigure the kit for flying.

0930 – the Main Tent.

Several familiar faces from last years trip to Annecy plus Alex from back home. The organizers gather up the herd of cats and begins the standard pre-comp briefing. In summary, “don’t be an idiot”.

1030 – the Shuttles

The mass makes its way to the buses to head up to the Chabre launch for the practice task. The drive is rather pleasant, being paved almost the entire way, but long. A short hike reveals a long ridge line with enough room for the entire comp cohort to layout.

This would be wonderful aside from the fact that the windsocks are in full on salmon swimming upstream mode. A lone Ozone Mantra launches, eventually climbs above launch and gets parked.

1200 – Task briefing.

Long story, short – task is a no go. Folk are free to free fly. I get a ride down and word afterwards is that one of the Swedes didn’t realize his wing had a pair of line twists, pulls up, gets lifted, stalls the wing, gets dropped and breaks a rib or two. The comp ends for him even before it starts. Another case of air horniness vs. proper pre-flight.

1700 – the Main Tent

A meat and cheese social is put on for the competitors. I decide to try out the GoPro + Gorilla grip with some time lapse – will be great to see how it turns out.

The forecast for tomorrow does not look promising – storms expected.


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