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Team Rich and Conan blog

Published on
02 June 2022


Here is my first blog post.

Hola, Bonjour, G’day from Arbas. I arrived in Bilbao a week ago, after
spending 26 hours on planes and in airports. My first job was trying to
drive a manual vehicle on the other side of the road with very little
sleep. I’d say this has been the most challenging task of the trip so far.
I had to get from the airport to the hotel with no mobile reception. After
driving around in circles, and being beeped at by a few cars and trucks, I
finally made it and checked in and had a few tasks to tick off before I
could leave Bilbao. The most important job was finding a Movistar sim card.
Little did I know there was a shortage and I would spend a full day walking
from store to store. Good training, I guess. The rest of the time in Bilbao
was spent buying food supplies and camping gear.

After spending three nights in Bilbao it was time to do some route
research. My plan was fluid,; I would go from turnpoint to turnpoint
following the good weather. The first stop was La Rhune. Unfortunately,
launch was covered with clouds and I couldn’t see anything. I took a photo
of the white-out and spent the rest of the day driving to Accous. What a
beautiful site! I was lucky enough to run into Benjamin Lacoste, a local
instructor who offered some advice on flying to the next turn point. That
same evening I met team Catalina (Jordi Vilalta & Albert Cantenys). They
were traveling with the Spanish paragliding legend Xevi Bonet and Albert’s
brother Marc. They took me under their wing, so to speak, and we did some
training together. Xevi flew a very impressive line south of Accous and
showed us what was possible on a challenging day with wind and low base.
After camping up high for two nights, in my new pop-up tent, I moved on and
drove into Spain and spotted the third turnpoint of Pena Montanesa – a
mammoth chocolate cake mountain. I hope I don’t have to walk up that one. I
was struck by how different the Southern, Spanish side of the Pyrenees is
from the north. The Northern Pyrenees is fluorescent green from all the
rain, with low base and humidity while the south side of the main divide is
brown and, dry with higher bases.

After an evening staying at a campground near Peña Montañesa, I drove back
into France and hiked up and flew St Lary Soulan. A local tandem pilot
warned me of landing in the valley. After testing out his theory, I can
attest that this is indeed not a wise idea. I landed backward in horribly
turbulent conditions,; lesson learned. My new Skywalk X-Alps 5 behaved
itself well, staying open despite the strong, rough air. I learned today
that being low in some (maybe most) of the valleys after 1230 is to be
avoided at all costs. The better option is to soar a windward ridge and
land up high. Understanding the valley systems in the Pyrenees is a very
challenging proposition for someone living in a predominantly flat country.

After my backward landing, I packed my wing with my tail between my legs
and drove to Arbas, the fourth turnpoint. Arbas is a small town with
friendly people. The terrain reminds me most of flying in the Australian
alpine region, and the free camping with cheap beer means it will be a very
difficult place to leave.

Where to now? Watch this space.

A big thanks to those friends, family, and supporters who have kindly
donated to the Team Australia Gofundme campaign. If you wish to support us,
you can find out more info here –

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