Next stop: Cloudbase
Looking back on course
Looking ahead on course
Made it home to São Lourenço
With the excellent forecast, we decided to stay in the mountains for another day.
The morning brought moisture and low cloud, but we were still hopeful. As we sipped on coffee, and ate bananas with honey (from Konrad´s nearby farm), we planned a 100km triangle.
First a leg deep into the high ground... there are places to land there, but you had better be prepared for a night in the jungle and a long hike out. Then a leg out into the lower hills and finally back to goal at the São Lourenço airport.
A slow climb out from launch dampened our enthusiasm. The big clouds across the valley were beginning to overdevelop. I was a little hesitant to go into the high, narrow valleys with clouds like that around, but Konrad was keen so I figured it would be worth a shot.
We kinda skirted the growing monsters, close enough to extract some of the energy without being destroyed by them. I knew that a gust front expelling into the narrow valleys would be a serious problem for us if we were low... a mistake that we would have little time to regret. But the winds stayed light and as I became more confident, I ventured deeper into no-man´s land, where even dirt tracks were rare. Many places to put it down on the high plateaus, but what would you do next?
It was mostly dolphin flying near cloudbase, making sure not to be trapped under a strong towering cumulus. Within 5km were groups of clouds towering to 30,000ft; 20km away I could only see black, rain, and lightning. Took some pics of the landscape hightlights... the dark, ominous sky and sheer isolation filled me with a tingling sense of anticipation.
The last steep cliff gave way to open ground, lower hills and the first turnpoint- Auiruoca. The tension of the high planes passed, and it was back to classic small hill XC flying under scattered cumuli. A low stop over a grass fire, then a banana plantation lead to the final leg to São Lourenço. The shallow tailwind final glide towards the city was calming and a chance to shake my head and smile, reflecting over the intensity of the high plane leg through the Serra da Mantiqueira range.
A 200m ground effect glide to landing at the airport at sunset, in the smoothest air in ages, was the perfect finish to a rewarding day.
Stella reached us before we could pack-up, then it was time for some good food and the chance to talk about how awesome the flying had been.