Twilight Paragliding in Castelo with Steve Barton and XCBrazil.

Day 1 with Steve Barton’s XCBrazil, Castelo bound.

The room at the Hotel Ibis is spartan but functional. As it is a transfer accommodation, I am not expecting much aside from it being comfortable and secure.

Hotel Ibis room.

The room includes the buffet breakfast that starts at 0630 hrs.

Hotel Ibis buffet.

0900 hrs the group gathers in the parking lot of the Vitoria Ibis. We are to be split across a pair of vehicles – a mini bus owned by Steve’s retrieve driver Diogo and Steve’s pickup. The trip to Castelo will take about 3 hours give or take, depending on how many speed trap cameras Steve manages to spot along the way. Speed limits here are draconian compared to back home and enforcement is via automated radar cameras – some well marked, some rather well hidden.

Noon – we pull into Castelo, a sleepy town of a few thousand (my guess anyways) and make quick time to the pousada we will be staying at, Lua y Sol. Lua y Sol has been a mainstay for Steve’s groups in the past – though it is starting to show it’s age. One can detect the hint of mold in the lower rooms of the main building (likely the result of the river next door flooding its banks during a particularly long rainy season), many of the fridges in the rooms do not work, and the hot water systems in the showers are a walking code violation (the water knobs are wrapped in electrical tape to reduce the likelihood of getting zapped while turning on or off the shower). Appears to be kind of the norm for anything shy of top end or internationally branded accommodation in rural Brazil (such as the pousada in Governador Valadares or the Ibis).

Update: the rooms in the upper level of the two story building are an order of magnitude better. If you are taking one of Steve’s tours that pass through Castelo, be sure to require one of the ‘honeymoon’ suites (as one of the lads, Ashley, put it). Steve will understand what you mean. It will cost an extra $40 or so a night but it is well worth it.

The bare minimum.

By 3 PM Steve, Dean and and few of their friends have arrived. It becomes apparent that the shear size of this group is going to put Steve’s logistical skills to the test – especially if Mr.Murphy pays a visit. In addition, some quick mental math of the group size vs bus seats leaves me curious as to how Steve will arrange the groups transfer to Governador Valadares.

Update: two of the late joiners ended up taking the overnight bus to GV and will join up with us in the morning on Day 5.

Dean briefing.

We go through the familiar XCBrazil powerpoint briefing, though flavoured for flying in Castelo. Sim cards and SPOTs are distributed to those that need them. The separate radio frequencies for flying and retrieve are posted along with a overview of the retrieve process.

Steve’s powerpoint briefing.

Now that everyone is on the same page with respect to comms, retrieves, and general flying in the area – time to make our way to the hill. The drive is along a dirt road of varying condition and the steepness of the hill proper made for a right struggle on the part of the van carrying its allotment of pilots. By the last half kilometer Steve had to run circuits with the pickup to ferry pilots to the launch. Mr.Murphy has officially arrived.

Up top everyone kits up and launches into the rather mild cycles. A quick familiarization flight before sunset to shake the cobwebs sort of thing.

Sunset flight.

Only the hill had a different idea. The sun set but the climbs didn’t dissipate. The entire valley lit up in the evening restitution (‘magic air’ in Canuck pilot lingo) with climbs exceeding 2 m/s at times.

Even as heavily loaded as I was – I had to search for small regions of ‘sink’ (weak lift for normally loaded wings). Pulling ears resulted in the same rolling oscillation as seen in Valle so they were let out sooner than liked.

Getting dark.

By this point head is on a swivel to make a count of wings nearby and keep track of where everyone is. Approaching the LZ, there are two wings below me and one above. I now navigate by the lights of the buildings and road, the lone tree in the LZ is barely visible in the growing darkness. I can also see the glowing screens of the varios of the two wings below and fall into a pattern above and behind them.

Setting up to land.

A very low and tight right hand pattern at tree top height, I set down in a run and kill the wing before it reaches the fence.


Day 1? Resounding success!

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