Don't worry Ma, I wore a helmet

Date: Sun, 22 Oct 2000

On second thought, Mum maybe you should just skip this one.

There we were in Christchurch with beautiful weather so of course the plane broke down. Fortunately I had a Clever Plan! I happened to know that one of the primo beginner sites for paragliding is just out of town and some friends have been to one of the schools in previous years, so as soon as we got the word on the flight cancellation a couple of us got on the bus to Sumner. Worked out we got two good days in with astoundingly good conditions so after some ground work we were flying on our own (always in radio contact with the instructor though). Dang it was amazing! Paragliders are the really simple fabric wings that look like big kites, they're very stable and predictable and have some basic rules for handling. So with good conditions, we weren't doing the fancy moves that experienced pilots can do, but we were jumping off a really big hill and taking our time getting to the bottom. Unfortunately they didn't have an extra-small wing so I had to carry ballast, in the form of a bag of water hanging from my seat. So when everybody else could do a graceful walk forward - lean into the lines - wing goes up - run a few steps - fly! my launch was more of a waddle. It all worked though and then I was soaring through a beautiful green valley looking out to sea with the snow-covered Southern Alps just visible in the distance. No engine noise, no controls except for two steering lines. I got to do this a whole bunch of times and then go back to the hotel and go to sleep. Woke up at 3am to find out our flight was cancelled again, slept until breakfast and did it all again. Then they got the part for our airplane so we had to leave.

The flight to McMurdo on the Air National Guard C-141 is not your standard commercial flight. We all have to wear our bunny boots, wind pants and parkas, and then we sit all jammed together on nylon bench seats for 5 1/2 hours. I don't need to talk about that too much.

McMurdo is too much fun, I know a whole bunch of people here whom I worked with last year so there have been a lot of catch-up conversations. Everybody's been off doing different things in the off-season, except for the few leftover winter people who all have a slightly odd look about their eyes. I haven't had a whole lot of sleep. We're scheduled for an early flight to Pole tomorrow so I'm going to turn in now.

Good night,


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