Monday, March 24, 2014

Learning to take things slowly

Now that I'm back in the States with two bum feet, I'm learning to take things slowly. Really slowly. Slower than a turtle. Like snail-speed.

I have a walker, which would make you think I can walk. But really, I'm just alternating between standing on my less-broken foot and lifting myself into air with both arms like I'm a gymnast and the walker is my parallel bars. This is slow business. It takes about 5 minutes to get up from the couch and walk to the bathroom, which means I am putting my planner skills to work. It also necessitated the fast fabrication of a pannier for the side of the walker so I can tote along my iPad, ice pack and other essentials, as I have no free hands to carry things. I was even contemplating getting a cup holder for the walker, but have upgraded to a (slightly) faster means of transportation.

A wheelchair! What an ingenious invention. I can roll myself down the hallway at roughly 5x the speed of me in the walker, all the while bashing into walls, getting stuck between furniture and learning that the turning radius on the wheelchair is not quite good enough to turn from the hallway into the bathroom. So, I'm still using the walker for the proverbial last mile of my primary commute. Yes, I am multimodal with two broken feet.

All this adds up to stronger arms, more foresight and a slower paced life.
The one exception was earlier today when Josh took me to Spring Lake for a "walk". While he walked, and occasionally jogged, he pushed me along the smoothly paved trail. It was a delight! On the downhill runs, I put my arms in the air and pretended it was a roller coaster. As we zoomed around the curves, I maderace car noises. And at the exercise rings, I did a pull up on the lowest set of bars, lifting myself out of the wheelchair.
I can't run like that guy on the trail, but I can do a pull-up all by myself!

Just because I move slowly, doesn't mean I can't have fun!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A series of mostly positive events (broken feet, part 2)

The saga continues...

After crash landing into a rocky berm in Thailand and the surprise of very painful feet, my paragliding friends circling above me came on the radio and asked about my status. For the first time ever I reported, "I've landed hard and my feet really hurt. I need help." Oh, how I would have loved to give my normal report: "This is Michelle. I've landed safe and sound. Cheers!"

But my call for help put my friends into action. One volunteered to land in a safe place near me. My hubby opted to land in the main LZ and fetch the retrieve truck parked there, while calling another friend to bring the truck down from launch. A couple others requested the a-okay to keep flying and it was delightful to know that they could still fly and I hadn't ruined everyone's day. I was relieved that everyone seemed to know what to do.

It took a few minutes for my friends to get to me. In the meantime, I hollered at the local guys to not move me or take off my shoes, which although they couldn't understand my English was assertive enough to get them to stop "helping" me. And I drank all the water in my hydration system. I also called to Josh over the radio, asking him to talk to me because I was in a lot of pain and didn't want to go into shock. He obliged, like a good hubby.

Once my friends got to me, they set to work with great precision carefully extracting my wing and harness from me, cooling me down by pouring lukewarm water on my chest and face, removing my gloves and eventually my helmet when we were certain that my neck was okay, and doing a full body pressure exam to see what hurt and what did not (luckily, just my feet and ankles).

All was going really well until the local ambulance arrived, having been called by an onlooker, and proceeded to try to make me do all the things I knew they shouldn't.... Like trying to take off the tennies that were keeping my swelling feet from exploding, repositioning my head, and trying to make me lie flat with my legs not elevated. Luckily I didn't go into total shock and my wilderness first aid training proved helpful, giving me the courage to yell at the guys until they stopped doing the things I knew they shouldn't. At one point I even sat up and slapped an EMT's hand away when he tried to unlace my shoe -- something the doctor I saw in Hua Hin was glad I'd done.

Eventually, the EMTs put me on a back board, and with my friends' assistance, carried me to the ambulance over rockier terrain than I had remembered flying over. Josh joined me in the ambulance, where the medics seemed to forget their training and didn't take my vitals or help us get my feet elevated. Things were just as unimpressive when we got to the local hospital. So Graham came to get us in the truck (after swopping it for the other truck which had gotten a flat tire). Josh wheeled me out of the ER on a stretcher and then gently placed me in the backseat of the truck, legs elevated, an ice chest under my head as a cushion, and an ice pack on my foot -- courtesy of a quick-thinking friend who'd bought ice and Advil for me from 7-11.

Can I just say how amazing it is to have a husband who is calm and collected in tough situations and strong enough to lift me in his arms like a baby! And having awesome flying friends who land early to lend a hand, get you pain meds from the 7-11 and rearrange their afternoon to drive you to the ER an hour away! I owe all these great people a debt of gratitude, although I hope to never have the opportunity to repay the favor in kind as I don't want to see any of them getting hurt. Perhaps there will be some pie-baking in my future.

Once I was loaded up in the truck, we set off for Hua Hin, about an hour's drive to the north. With two Advil as my only pain relievers, I sounded like a whimpering dog crossed with a pregnant woman in labor. Josh even held my hand during the tough spells. And, genius that he is, lent me his iPhone with earplugs so I could listen to a podcast (yay, RadioLab!) to keep me distracted during the somewhat rough ride. (Yet another reason why potholes should be filled!)

With the sage advice of a kitesurfing friend, the boys took me to Bangkok Hospital in Hua Hin, a private hospital with lots of English-speaking doctors and nurses who are good at what they do. As soon as we rolled up outside the ER, the medics were there with a stretcher... Just like in Grey's Anatomy, minus the rain. Again, Josh lifted me like a baby from the truck and onto the stretcher. (Serious workout for him today.) They wheeled me into the ER, getting my vitals, asking me about the crash and just generally showing me they cared and would help me.

Legs elevated in room 504. Robot foot on the left, Elephant foot on the right.

The rest is sort of the blur, so here are the random tidbits I remember:

  • The peach privacy curtain that went around my ER "room" was so solid-looking that I failed to realize other patients were lurking on the other side, prompting Josh to shush me several times -- although never when I was wailing in pain.
  • The nurses gave me an injection port and started giving me IV pain meds right off the bat. So thankful for that!
  • The X-ray techs were super efficient, taking about a dozen X-rays in less than ten minutes, including 3-4 angles of each foot, my knees and legs, my pelvis and my lower to mid-back. And they were gentle with my feet which were unwrapped and swelling by the minute.
  • Less than an hour after the X-rays were taken, the doctor (an older wise looking gentleman) gave me the diagnosis, wrapped my left foot in a soft cast, and started talking about next steps (surgery on both feet, preferably in about 10 days when the swelling had gone down, and also the possibility of being inpatient that night).
  • The doctor also warned me that the pain would be getting worse as the swelling would increase over the next 24-48 hrs. As the pain had been steadily increasing despite the provision of pain meds, I opted to stay so that they could keep me drugged up on morphine and keep my pain hovering around a 3-4 instead of rocketing back to a 10+ on the 1-10 scale of pain.
  • At one point, the pain got so bad that I was crying, writhing, whimpering and hyperventilating. (Who knew writhing is a real thing?) It feel like hours, but probably it was just a few minutes before the nurses arrived with a heavier dose of pain meds prescribed by the doctor. Meanwhile, Josh kept coaching me to relax my muscles and breathe deep.
  • In Thailand, they use metric so I got to figure out my height in centimeters and weigh in kilograms. A good distraction from my achy feet.
  • The inpatient room I was in had TV with a few English channels, including one with a Grey's Anatomy marathon on (so fitting). It also had a lovely bathroom, a mini kitchenette, a chair, a couch, a dining table with two chairs and a painting of a boat on the ocean.
  • On the door to radiology was a graphic of two kids playing soccer with the standard red circle with a slash through it, communicating what I believe to be: "no rough housing around people with broken bones." I wanted to take a photo but was camera-less.
  • Josh stayed over night with me and we both slept little. Every hour it seemed I had to pee (bedpans suck) or it was time for my next dose of pain meds.
  • Once I thought I'd be proactive and ask the nurse giving me the pain meds to also give me the bedpan. After dosing me and setting me on the pan, she left and did not come back. After a few minutes of awkwardly holding myself up, I had to ask Josh to remove the bedpan -- hopefully for the first and last time. Also, for all you who have never experience the pure delight of using a bedpan, let me just say that is really unnatural to pee lying down.
  • They set me up with a Physical Therapy consult and I got to try walking between two bars, using a walker and hobbling on crutches. Let's just say that all my aerial circus classes paid off as I actually have some upper body strength. Still, I don't have the balance to use crutches, so an old lady walker is what I got -- paired with an inflatable walking boot for my less broken foot (which Josh calls the robot foot, as opposed to my other, swollen, elephant foot.)
  • Mid-day on Monday, they switched me over to a narcotic patch which is good for 3 days and worked quite well. I also started using the walker to go to the loo and soon got impatient about being inpatient. I wanted to leave but my doctor was no where to be found.
  • Eventually Josh pestered the nurses and I rang the call button enough times that the doctor appeared and we set to work getting me released.
  • The total bill (which we'll submit to insurance for reimbursement) was less than $2,000 USD! An amazing price for high quality care, all the X-rays, pain meds (including meds to go), walker, boot, soft cast on my bad foot, PT consult, doctors time, overnight stay, meals, etc. I wish good health care was this affordable in the States.

As all these things were going down at the hospital, Josh and I had to make some decisions quickly.

> Where would I go to see a doctor in the States and recuperate? We had sold our house and most everyone we know has lots of stairs in their homes, plus who could we impose on with such short notice and who might actually be happy to have us there for a few weeks? We asked my folks and they agreed. Next destination: California.

> Would Josh come with me and postpone his work engagements in the Republic of Georgia and South Africa planned for the next week? Or should he just go and get home to me before the surgery? After talking with his boss, we decided on the latter option. Josh would fly to Georgia, while I flew to CA.

> Josh found me a great ticket on United Airlines to San Francisco via Japan, with first class seating and wheelchair assistance. All paid for with miles. My first flight in first class!

> And I found a couple orthopedic doctors who do foot/ankle surgery near where my folks' live and are covered by my WA State insurance -- with my first appointment booked for the day after I arrive in CA.


With these things accomplished, all that was left was to get me back to rental house in Pak Nam Pran, again in the back of a friend's car. The next two days passed pretty quickly, between naps, potty breaks and takeout meals from my favorite local spots. Josh even showered me, so I would be sparkling clean for the adventure to CA. More about that in the next post: Flying the Friendly Skies with Broken Feet.


An unfortunate series of events (or "how I broke my feet")

Many have asked about what happened and how I came to have two broken feet. Here is a recap of the unfortunate series of events leading up to the hard landing which broke bones in both my feet. I've called out some of the mistakes that I see; feel free to add your insights by posting comments below. Although I would love to pretend this accident never happened, I want to make sure that as many people have an opportunity to learn from my mistakes as possible. So here goes:

On Sunday, 3/16 I was awoken at 7am and informed that the flying conditions today were some of the best yet and that the group was getting ready to go fly. Even though I had planned on a rest day, complete with a massage with the best masseuse in Pak Nam Pran and then cooking classes from a local friend and restauranteur, and even though I was quite tired, I decided to get up and go flying. I was excited about the possibility of beating my personal record that day by flying 50k.

  • Mistake #1. Letting my enthusiasm about the possibility to beating my personal record get in the way of properly assessing my readiness to fly on that day.

It took me a little longer than usual to round up my stuff and I had to go back into the house at least once to get something I'd forgotten. Still, when we got to launch, I realized I didn't have my tennis shoes, just the flip flops I was wearing. Another woman in our group lent me her Chaco sandals to wear for the first flight as she had remembered her tennies and would be going tandem as a passenger.

  • Mistake #2. Not recognizing the sign that forgetting to bring my shoes meant that I wasn't on top of my game and choosing to still fly anyway.
  • Mistake #3. Allowing myself to fly in sandals!

I was impatient on launch, launched too early and ended up landing in the LZ. For the second flight, The woman let me wear her tennies as she wasn't feeling up to a second flight. I still wasn't feeling great and was actually thinking of not flying, but one pilot was already off XC and two more were finding lovely looking thermals over launch. So I decided to have another go.

  • Mistake #4. Not recognizing that I shouldn't fly when I feel impatient.
  • Mistake #5. Again letting the excitement of going XC outweigh my assessment of how I was really feeling -- too tired and out of it to fly safely.

Once aloft I found some lift, but it was intermittent. The wind direction was east, whereas all the other days I'd flown this site it had been southwest. Still, I was feeling positive about getting to cloudbase and in my confidence I let myself make a 360 turn in a thermal low over the ridge, instead of sticking with my normal figure eights. When I turned back into the hill, I fell out of lift into sink and found myself behind and slightly below the ridge. I was annoyed with myself for having taken that risk and knew that my safest option was to turn west and head into the next valley, out and away from the rotor.

  • Mistake #6. Insufficient ground clearance for making a 360 turn into wind.

I was still hoping to find lift and go XC, but I kept on hitting sink and instead found myself distracted by a bush fire on the ground and forgot all about the rotor, just concentrating on finding a nice place to land. And I didn't see any really good options. The one I choose was a little rocky looking but clear of crops and near the road (unfortunately east of the highway so totally in rotor). I judged the wind direction by looking at the smoke coming off the fire and it was very clearly south. So I set up for a south approach doing s-turns. Then when I was on final glide, the wind direction switched, I overflew where I wanted to land and it was all rocky berms beyond, which I had failed to notice when picking this LZ.

  • Mistake #7. Choosing a rocky field over a planted field.
  • Mistake #8. Forgetting to account for rotor when selecting my LZ.
  • Mistake #9. Failing to check my chosen LZ for hazards in the case of overshooting or under shooting my spot, and come up with a plan B option.

I was mostly out of my harness, but not quite enough to be in running position. I hit the upward-slopping side of a rocky berm about a foot from the top and couldn't run it out as my glider was now downwind and moving too quickly. So I stuck the landing with both feet and then tumbled over like a kid doing a somersault. Both of my feet hurt like hell and my legs had folded up under me so I just lay there, breathing and then radioed everyone to say I had landed and my feet hurt and I needed help.

  • Mistake #10. Not doing a PLF (parachute landing fall) and not being truly ready to run it out.


So there you have it! The series of mistakes that combined to result in a hard landing and broken bones in both my feet:

  • Right foot: fractured the heads of the metatarsals for my pointer and middle toe.
  • Left foot: fractured my heel, breaking it cleanly in half along the diagonal, plus swelling of the soft tissue in my foot, ankle and calf.
My lovely feet shortly after arriving in the ER in Hua Hin. Notice how the right foot is significantly larger than the left? This is nothing compared to how big it gets later....

Here's where the story takes a turn for the better, with a series of mostly positive events that result in my gratitude for all the friends, family, medical providers and airline attendants who helped me during the first few days after the accident. More about that in the next post,


Saturday, March 8, 2014


This trip has been a series of many firsts. I thought you might be interested to read about a few of them, in list form of course...


Thailand Firsts:

  • First time riding a scooter.
  • First time crashing a scooter.
  • First time getting back on said scooter after crashing it.
  • First time having a puppy try to ride on my scooter.
  • First time hearing a cat in heat. (What an awful sound.)
  • First time seeing an un-neutered dog.
  • First time flushing the toilet with a bucket of water.
  • First time using a bidet to wash sand off my feet.
  • First time being excited to see soap AND paper towels in a loo.
  • First time landing in a pineapple field.
  • First time riding on the back of a motorcycle. (And with a stranger while carrying my paraglider, no less!)
  • First time riding in a side car of a motorcycle.
  • First time receiving a just-harvested pineapple from a stranger.
  • First time pantomiming a golf swing.
  • First time kitesurfing.
  • First time flying over a Queen's palace.
  • First time wading in water up to my shoulders while fully dressed in cotton clothing.
  • First time getting towed behind a boat in the ocean.
  • First time cooking fried calamari.
  • First time making lemongrass chicken.
  • First time preparing papaya salad.
  • First time drinking Sangsom Manao (rum and lime soda).
  • First time wreck diving.
  • First time driving a truck in 4H in the mud.
  • First time adding minutes to my phone using a scratch-off card.

And that's it... for now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thailand LZs

Our Thailand paragliding tour has come to an end and I have been totally delinquent in posting about our adventures. So, here's a recap of my more memorable landing zones (LZs, for all you non-flying folks). More posts on other topics to come.

EPIC LZ 1: Pineapple Plantation, pre-harvest

My first cross country (XC) flight from Paradise Bay took me north, over two small mountain ranges where I bombed out on the middle of a pineapple plantation. I landed on a narrow dirt road in between fields of pineapple plants. In case you've never seen a pineapple outside of the market, the plant they grow on looks sorta like an aloe plant with spiky leaves that surround a single pineapple growing atop a stock. They stand about 2 feet tall and are planted in rows with just enough space to place a single foot between plants.

So, although I touched down on the dirt lane, my glider settled across four rows of poky pineapple plants. Oh, did I mention it was a slightly downwind landing? Well, it was. And my glider overflew me. Which was particularly sucky because it landed upside down on the pineapples and all my lines got caught up in the spiky leaves.

Once I had extricated myself from my harness and I unclipped my wing, I got to working gently teasing my glider off one row of pineapples, balling it up as I went. Then, on to the next row of pineapples. As you can imagine, standing between two rows of knee-high prickly pineapple plants in shorts as you fish your prized glider out of a Thai plantation is not nearly as fun as flying it.

Four rows later I got free, packed up my kit and then tried to phone my friends for retrieve -- only to find that I had no cell service and could not make a call nor reach them on the radio. Crapity crap. That left only one option: walk to the main road and hope for better cell reception there.

With my glider on my back and fresh cuts on my legs, I headed towards the farm house to ask for directions to the road. There I found a friendly Thai man, who started talking quickly as soon as he saw me. unsure whether he was upset or just overly excited, I tried to give 100 baht as an apology for landing in his plants. He waved my money away, talking to me more slowly in Thai, which was still hopeless as my only Thai phrases are hello, thank you and not spicy. I got smart, grabbed my phone and hit the Google translate app. But what to you know, you need cell coverage for that app to work.

After drawing pictures and pantomiming, the man pointed the way to the nearby golf course, which I figured was a good start. I set off in the direction he pointed, walking down the dirt roads within the plantation, turning left at every intersection as he'd indicated, believing it would lead me easily to the road. By this point, I had connected with Matty via the radio and knew he was on his way to fetch me. The only problem was I couldn't figure out how to get out of the plantation.

I wandered aimlessly in the baking hot sun, carrying my heavy glider until finally the farm man picked me up in his truck and took me out to the main road. Within minutes I was reunited with Matty and on my way back to town. A good first experience landing out in Thailand.


EPIC LZ 2: Rocky vs. Taro

My next XC flight was from a foot-launch site called Phu Am. On this day, I was wearing pants AND long sleeves and was prepared for just about anything. I had even downloaded a new app to my phone called Learn Thai that speaks aloud a bunch of ready-made phrases in Thai using either a girl's or boy's voice, with the corresponding appropriate word choices for each gender.

As I got low over the valley, I started looking for a good LZ. I finally settled on a brown dirt field that from the sky appeared to be relatively flat and crop-free. However, when I got down lower I realized that it was rocky with huge clods of dirt -- a place I'd be lucky to escape without a twisted ankle. To the right of this crummy field was a taro field filled with delicate looking plants. I decided to split the difference and was delighted to find myself landing again on a narrow roadway, this one carpeted in soft dead grass, running between the two not-so-great landing options.

As I packed up my glider, I was annoyed yet again to find that my cell phone lacked service. Deciding it was time to head for the nearest road, I set off again towards the farmers' house and what appeared to be the way out of this plantation. Next thing I knew I was surround by an entire family who was delighted that I had landed at their house and who peppered me with questions I could not understand.

Thankful for my handy new app, I first explained that I couldn't speak Thai and then I asked if I could use their phone. The mother set off and quickly returned with her teenage daughter on a motorbike with two cell phones. (I'm guessing they were on different cell providers?) I dialed Graham's number and the girl held it up to her ear, trying to talk to Graham in Thai. When that didn't work, she handed the phone to me. Luckily Graham hadn't hung up and I was able to report my location.

Then the girl motioned for me to grab my glider bag and join her on the motorbike for a ride out to what I only hoped was the main road. I was in luck! She took me to the main road (notably in the opposite direction from where I thought it was) and deposited me at a roadside outdoor cafe where another nice teenage girl gave me cold water and a tasty bowl of noodle soup.

When the boys rolled up and it was time to leave, I tried to pay for my lunch, but the girls would have nothing of the sort. Another good landing and retrieve thanks to the kindness of others.


EPIC LZ 3: A Trophy for my tummy

On this day, I flew my longest distance in Thailand of the tour: 25km, beating all the other pilots for the day and winning myself a freshly chopped pineapple to prove it! (More on that later)

My landing field this time was a cross between the two previously described ones: part dirt clods, part pineapple field (post-harvest). After a delightfully smooth landing, I was even more pleased to see that my cell phone had reception! I texted Matty to see about a retrieve and sent along the GPS coordinates from my wrist vario. As I packed up my glider, I got a call from Josh asking for more details on my whereabouts. After a few more calls and two more sets of GPS coordinates texted to Matty, they finally figured out that Google Maps wasn't working right on Matty's phone, but that Josh's phone seemed to have a more believable dot on my current location.

Meanwhile, the local farmer had come over to talk with me. With Google Translate up and running, I explained that my friends were on their way and asked for the name of the nearest long road. Unfortunately I couldn't figure out how to get the all to translate the guy's response. So it was back to pantomiming. He agreed to take me to what I hoped was the big road, loading my glider in the side car attached to his motorcycle and indicating that I was to sit off to the side on a little metal shelf.

Pleased to be getting a ride rather than walking in the heat, I was unnerved when he stopped the bike in the shade of a tree and set off across the field. Luckily he returned a few minutes later with a freshly cut pineapple -- my prize for having the longest flight of the day, I decided. Shortly thereafter, the boys found us, still on the dirt road, but a little closer to the highway than before.


So, there you have it -- three great adventures from landing out in Thailand. Complete with friendly faces, free food, and plenty of pantomiming.

The best prize ever!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Driving in Thailand

I have never driven a scooter before. That is, until I got to Thailand and was given one upon arriving in Pak Nam Pran for our paragliding tour. Of course, I picked the red one.

Both nervous and excited, we set out for a short practice lap around the neighborhood and then headed out on the beach-front road for a tour of the area, all four of us newbies following Matty as if we were little ducklings. After learning the location of the local bar and hopping over a dozen speed bumps, we turned onto a busier road.

The thing about driving in Thailand is that most of the roads have just one lane in each direction. But the shoulder functions as a kind of second lane for bicycles, pedestrians, dogs, and slow scooters. It is also a left-side drive country, which is getting less novel to me after spending more than a month in South Africa, but is still a little confusing when it comes to turning.

More than a few times I was passed on the right by faster scooters, motorbikes, motorbikes with side cars, and pickup trucks. The excitement really started though when I passed my first scooter!

Then there was the round-about. It's so weird to go clockwise around a roundabout and to vie for lane space with a bunch of other scooters, motorbikes and trucks all going different speeds. Of course, we succeeded, arriving at the day's farmers market location.

As I searched the roadside for a place to park my scooter, I witnessed a young woman accidentally knock over a row of scooters like dominos as she attempted to park her scooter tightly between two others scooters. Trying not to laugh, I heaved a sigh of relief that I hadn't done that. And then I happily handed over my scooter to Matty to park.


Another day, a week or so later, I did have the new-to-me experience of laying down my scooter as I tried to merge onto the road from a gravel driveway. Luckily I was not injured and my scooty (as I've come to call it) came through as if nothing had happened at all. Still, I was a little shaken and so proceeded to drive the rest of the way home at 25kph. At that pace, it's impressive I made it home at all!


Other interesting facts about driving a scooter:

  • It costs only $5 to fuel up my scooty.
  • If you leave your scooter in the sun, the seat will burn your buttocks through your clothes.
  • Hats like to fly off your head when you go fast.
  • Dogs run in the streets at night, so it is good to drive slow.
  • When I am the first scooter in our group, the song "Leader of the Pack" by the Shangri-Las pops into my head without warning.

And last, but not least:

  • There is an adorable Thai puppy in Pak Nam Pran who loves to ride on scooters. He jumped on my scooty as I was trying to leave the beach today, only to cause me to pick him up in an attempt to evict him, resulting in my scooty falling over yet again and me looking like a total fool. Still, that puppy cuddle was worth it.


Paragliding Thailand, Part 1

A few days ago we met up with some friends from Seattle and the 300 Peaks ( paragliding crew for an awesome adventure in Thailand. Our home base is a small town called Pak Nam Pran, about 2-3 hours south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand:


Our first flying day (Monday), we checked out the Dolphin Bay site. It is a pretty beach with lots of (sharp!) shells. We had breakfast at the hotel across from the beach -- minced pork with chilies over rice and instant coffee. It was delicious!

Graham drove the boat and the boys did tow launches, getting up to some 900m and then flying the coastal mountains (hills?) and fluffy clouds. The winds turned south (parallel to the beach) and got a little stronger, so I tried to do a reverse launch for the tow, but found that my kiting skills were a little rusty. After several failed attempts, I opted to practice my kiting on the beach (shoes required) and enjoy the ocean view.

That night we had dinner at the local beach restuarant and bar: Nids. Again, the food was delicious and the wine was tasty too.


For our second day, we took the boat to Paradise Bay. I finally got on tow, but realized that my towing skills were rusty too! It was much harder to keep the tow line taut than I remembered, but Graham did a good job and I got up to about 500m despite me working against him. Josh and Matty connected with some good thermals under the clouds and went XC (more about that later), but I just headed to the coastal hills for some soaring.

When I hit the first hill, I was just 95 meters high -- basically time to start getting ready to land. But I stuck in there, doing gentle figure-eights until I eventually got up to 200m. A hour into my flight, I decided it to was time to try the next hill to the north (I think -- the ocean is to the east here, which is totally confusing me). I got up on that little hill and topped out around 220m. I was feeling pretty good and even saw a couple monkeys in the trees below.

That's when Graham came on the radio and said something to the effect of, "Michelle, that beach to the north (south?) of launch is a private beach and it would be great if you could land either where you launched or the next beach down the coast. The guy who owns that place is someone really important and I'm not sure what would happen if you land there. Of course, if you need to land there, please do and I'll pick you up. But it would better if you landed somewhere else."

Gulp! I had been looking down at that lovely, pristine beach with its green grassy lawn in the middle graced with a big "H" and thinking it myself, "what a glorious place to land." New plan! The beach one bay away had clear sand for half of it and cute patio umbrellas for the second half, so I could land there. I radioed back to Graham to let him know that (1) there was another beach I could land at and (2) I wasn't intending to land anytime soon. Well, that of course was the magic phrase to ensure that my flight would soon come to end. I flew around a little more and then decided to hop to the next small hill where I found no lift. So I opted for the fourth beach and landed in what I'm guessing what a little fishing village. (There were about a dozen fishing boats docked there.) Graham and David came and fetched me and my glider with the boat, which I reached by wading in the surf up to my shoulders while wearing a cotton skirt and tee shirt. Too bad I didn't think to put on my bikini first!

Another great day in paradise...