Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 - that was it

2011, a year of strong emotions. Friendship and love but also sadness and loneliness. Hectic and fun, yet also hard.

It started on a balcony in Cape Town, looking at the stars and the Table Mountain while sipping on New Years-Champagne and brandy & coke together with my friend Anders a.k.a. Bonen. I was out on a world-spanning journey after moving from Amsterdam and met up with Anders in Cape Town. The following days we freedived with seven-gilled sharks, cage-dived with great white sharks, visited vineyards with a vintage sidecar motorcycle and in general had lots of fun.
Later on, we travelled to Mozambique, checking out the nightlife in Maputo and the diving and beach-life in Tofo. Fun and very relaxing.

I returned to Cape Town and spent some more time there in February, then flew to Sweden and decided that I once again should live in my hometown Malmö. This coincided with me being offered the job as Editor-in-Chief at the Swedish diving magazine DYK. I found myself a temporary flat while looking for something more permanent, and thoroughly enjoyed being back in Sweden with friends and family close at hand.
March was busy with work, meetings in Copenhagen and Stockholm and a quick trip back to Amsterdam and Haarlem.

April ended up being a lovely month, starting with an assignment where I was forced to try out all the best pizzerias in Naples, Italy, the hometown of pizzas. Delicious. From Naples I took the train north to Tuscany, picked up a beautiful Vespa and then proceeded to drive around on the Tuscan countryside, visiting cute villages, small vineyards and delicatessen shops. A long-standing dream come true.
Back in Scandinavia for a great weekend in Copenhagen, then off again to Croatia and the Kvarner islands, also a rather agreeable job.

Now we are writing May and I had the great pleasure of going sailing in the Cyclades archipelago of Greece together with a bunch of Swedish and Dutch friends. When they flew home I stayed on for another article, this time about the quaint and quiet island of Anafi. I like Greece, especially the islands, although I was close to overdosing on Greek salads and calamari.
Back in Sweden I bought myself a car (named Brödrosten, the toaster, by a female friend). I would rather live without a car but need it for the diving and paragliding. And I have to admit it is handy, especially when you are moving and creating a new home from scratch.

The start of June came with a paragliding competition in Åre, Sweden where I managed to come second, beating many of Sweden’s best pilots. OK, so it was only one heat, which means there is a certain element of luck, but anyway J. I did this on a brand new glider, a Nova Mentor 2 (which is an EN B almost novice wing).
I had some more meetings in Stockholm, then flew to Lisbon for a bit of work. In the end of June, the Nordic and Swedish Championships in paragliding was flown in Northern Portugal, I was there and managed to win the class above my own!

1st of July I drove from Portugal to central Spain to witness and write about the World Championships of paragliding in the little town of Piedrahita. Sadly the competition was stopped after only a few days due to two tragic fatal accidents the same day.
Back in Sweden I repacked, this time for a week of diving on a dive cruise ship in the Egyptian Red Sea. This was also my debut as an underwater still photographer with my new professional equipment. Challenging but also lots of fun.
In the very end of July I got the keys to my new and very own flat in Central Malmö! What a relief to have your own place again and to unpack your stuff after living in a suitcase for almost a year.

August, and I had lots of office-based work producing magazines, but managed to squeeze in a weekend in Madrid, writing a bunch of stories in the company of two old friends. To say that we thoroughly researched the nightlife is an understatement, but we also enjoyed several of the world-class art museums this city boasts with.
I also attended the Swedish Championships in underwater photography in Hamburgsund on the Swedish West Coast, not as a competitor but as a jury member and to write about it. It was nice to be back in beautiful Bohuslän and to go diving in Sweden again.

September was another office-based Month, but I did throw a big house-warming party with almost 50 friends from six countries joining the fun. Having so many friends close by really touched me and confirmed that moving back to Malmö was the right thing to do.
In the end of September I flew down to Krakow to visit Polish friends and produce a short story. I really like this old city and was made very welcome by my local friends.

October starts with a wonderful work-weekend in beautiful Pisa together with a friend. I passed through this little ancient Italian city on my way home from the Vespa trip and decided to go back later on. So I did.
Another wonderful trip was my pilgrimage to the beer-brewing trappist monasteries in Belgium and the Netherlands together with Swedish and Dutch friends. These monasteries are very much alive and populated with Cistercian Monks, and truly beautiful and serene places. That the beer is divine goes without saying.
The rest of the autumn was rather tough emotionally, but I did visit Marseilles in the end of October (passing Brussels for lunch with a friend) and Berlin in the beginning of November. End of November saw me migrate south to South Africa for three weeks of well-earned holiday, including two weeks of paragliding. First a training camp then an international competition, where I won my class and the photo competition. I really needed this break and it did wonders for my well-being.

2011 showed me the value of friendship and family. I already new about the beauty – and pain – with love but life gave me a few extra lessons for free just in case. Still, I am a very fortunate man having health, security and freedom. It is important to remind yourself about that now and then.
Celebrating Christmas and New Year in Malmö, I end the year on an up note, having regained my usual happy-go-lucky composture. Now I look forward to a successful and exciting 2012! 

And wherever you are, and whatever you do, I wish you a peaceful year filled of happiness and sweetness. Take care of yourselves and the ones you love. And be gentle and kind to everyone else (or at least try your best).
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 12, 2011

First task in SA Winelands

We flew the first task in the paragliding competition SA Winelands today. The day started very weak but grew as time passed. Take off was at Pampoenfontein and start a 2 kilometer radius around Flyer's lodge in Porterville.
first waypoint was P36 (with an 8 kilometer radius) out on the flatlands West of the ridge, then we crossed over to Citrusdal, passing waypoint 23 in the village Citrusdal. Goal was in Constriction all the way up North in the valley.
Unfortunately, last goal was 16:00 which caught a lot of us still in the air, including me (10 kilometers short of goal). But I still flew almost 68 kilometers so very satisfied with the day.

Results should show up here:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sun, wind and rain

Yesterday was a fine if very windy day. Therefore we launched early and tried to fly a practise task out over the flatlands. For once we had clouds whose shadows created the most fascinating patterns on the ground. Moments like this I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to be – sailing from cloud to cloud hi up in the sky. It is true magic.
But magic seldom lasts and far too early I was standing on the ground. I have hardly flown over flatlands before, I am much more accustomed to mountains and my skills are, lets say, in their infancy. Nevertheless it was a great day.

Today the competition started. With it came the rain. Remember, it is summer down here and we are in a very arid area that never sees rain in the summer. Well, here it is raining like it was winter in southern Sweden. Or Brussels if you prefer. What happened with the weather in the world?
We try to stay positive. At least there is time to read a book and to update the blog. 

Working at cloudbase

Friday, December 09, 2011

Finally some good flying

Today I had another lovely morning walk, saying hello to the pigs and lambs. It’s so rural here, in a very positive way. Already early it was hot and weak winds – good for us paragliding pilots. And the weather did deliver – we got a wonderful flight today. Practising for the coming international competition, we set a task (kind of a heat in a paragliding competition) taking us over to the next valley, poetically named Citrusdal.
I didn’t make it all the way to goal, but still flew 56 kilometers, landing just 12,5 kilometers short. Considering I am the rookie in this elite group and also flying a safer but not so hot wing, I am happy with the result.
This time, I landed far out in the boonies, so no kids. But Magnus, who landed a kilometer or two further, was surrounded by curious and playful children. 

Here is a link to the flight:

Peace of Africa

I had a pretty rough autumn, workwise and otherwise. Therefore I am delighted to find peace during these three weeks of holiday in Africa. Sun, sleep, friends and paragliding does wonders for me.
I left Sweden 1 December and flew via Dubai. Having to spend more than eight hours overnight at the airport waiting for the connecting flight to Cape Town, I took a cab downtown. Very quiet and somewhat boring, but I didn’t see much.

Cape Town is one of my favourite cities, so it was nice to be back again. Just hanged around for two days, enjoying the sun and the city while waiting for the other Swedish paraglider pilots to arrive. Sunday lunch we picked up a rental car and drove to Porterville, three-four hour drives North West of Cape Town. Here, we are nine Swedish pilots attending a one-week training camp to improve our competition flying. The second week will partake in an International paragliding competition.
Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t played ball. Arriving in sizzling 37°C heat Sunday afternoon we had a short evening flight. Monday was too windy so we went wine tasting and dining (always a pleasure) at Fairview and Nederburg.

Tuesday was flyable, just about, so we took off from Klipdas at Porterville and flew South. I landed at Saron after 29 kilometers, some of the other pilots made it into the Tulbagh valley another 15 kilometers. What a lovely feeling to be in the air again! When I landed I was greeted by a whole bunch of little kids that came running from the nearest farm. Although they probably saw paragliders before they were still big-eyed when I a descended soundlessy from the sky only to fold up my flying machine into a neat backpack and walk away. What a wondrous sport this is.
Wednesdat was cold and windy so we drove towards Stellenbosch and had lunch at tasty 96 Winery Road. The wines at Waterford and Dornier were disappointing but Stellenzicht was a very positive surprise with an agreeable Chardonnay and some lovely Shiraz.
Yesterday I woke up early and took a refreshing walk out on the countryside. It is such a beautiful landscape here. Peaceful. Said hello to two kids on a bike and a few pigs along the road.