Adventure: Bulwer Paragliding Trip Report
This was my first away from Cape Town paragliding trip in the spectacular Bulwer in Kwazulu Natal.
A good eleven of us set up over the Easter Weekend to go and fly the big open skies of this magnificent little paraglider’s play park. Most of us were fairly young pilots and for some it was their first real flying – so a lot of chickens in the coop!
We arrived on a Thursday late in the afternoon after a long trip from Cape Town. Tired we were all ready to quickly unpack and grab the first beer. Just as I was a about to have my first beer, our instructor and tour group leader announced that the qualified pilots can quickly go and have a look at the site and have a quick flight conditions permitting. We arrived on top of the main flying site which lies just behind out very rustic cottages to find that the wind was very strong. Not knowing anything about the site our instructor told us to kit up and fly away! We were all astonished – the wind was clearly too strong! Not knowing anything about flying at altitude we were surprised to find that take-off was easy. Being at altitude means that the air in thinner and that you can actually fly in much stronger wind conditions! That first flight of ours was a truly spectacular one.
There were many fantastic flights to be had in the week that followed. Some stood out as highlights.
The first must be my brave attempt to fly to the Nip Inn – the only true authentic little bar in the areas. It involves flying a bit blind over a mountain peak heading towards the pub. We checked out the locale and the plan ahead of time – so I knew where to go. However, the first time you cross over the peak with pine tree lined mountains and some very serious power cables you definitely pucker up. I decided late one afternoon to make the run for the pub, ignoring my instructor on the radio to make a landing. I just made a bee line for where I knew I would find a couple of cold ones.
Just before making the turn towards the pub, I saw two other pilots following me! They were students, and upon seeing what my plan was, our instructor told them to just follow me. As if I knew where to go! I managed to get over the mountain peak, clear the power lines and landed very neatly a 100m or so away from the pubs entrance. A fantastic achievement given my skill level. The other two pilots were not quite as lucky. Both of them got unnerved by the power lines and decided to land before the power lines. They both fortunately landed safely, but unfortunately managed to get themselves lodged into the very nasty brambles that cover vast patches in the area. I took us an hour to dislodge one of their gliders from such a patch.
The other highlight for me was a flight which was the topic of the video of the trip below. I was just having the time of my life and I managed to get several very strong thermals to play in. One took me to great heights. I managed to climb in one of them up to 2525m – a proper height by any standard. The views of the Bulwer valley were truly astonishing and it is a highlight of my flying career so far.
All in all, Bulwer was an amazing flying experience and a spot which I will definitely visit again.
Jump to the video of our trip.
Here are some pictures of our trip:
Here’s a short video of one of my flights: